Conventional wisdom about writing is conventionally wrong.
Music has never been more competitive. A good music video adds another layer of difficulty–and when you add comedy–the hardest thing of all–then it’s no wonder that truly funny music videos are rare.
Your typical parody video looks cheap and takes easy shots at the artist who made it. Weird Al Yancovic has been the king of parody videos for precisely the opposite reason: he knows poking fun of the singer or band will only go so far, so he takes a song and twists it to make fun of something entirely different, like when he used American Pie to rip on Star Wars.
Comedy is hard because it speaks to painful truths. Cheap, easy laughs aren’t deep. The deeper the pain, the more truth gets revealed.
This video works because the cast of SNL clearly put a lot of time and effort into it. They committed, absolutely, and didn’t hold back.
James Corden did something similar with his Lemonjames video. Take a look:
Corden is making fun of himself, and his industry, more than he’s taking shots at Beyoncé.
The quality of both these videos, in how well they’re shot and edited, may seem like an irrelevant point for comedians. Why waste so much time and effort making the lighting, costumes and settings so perfect.?
Except it’s not a waste of time. Chances are, most people have seen the original video. A cheap knock-off that’s badly shot and uses thrown-together sets and locations will keep dragging you out of it. Instead of noticing the jokes, you’ll get distracting with how amateurish things look compared to the real video–and these days, music videos are expensive affairs, often shot by moonlighting Hollywood professionals. So the bar is high.
These two videos leap over that bar of quality, letting you focus entirely on the comedy.
Well done, SNL and James the Corden–give us more, more, more.
###Bergstrom. Photo by Suhyoon Cho.
Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Represented by Jill Marr of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency.