It’s been chanted on football terraces, featured in numerous TV montages of disgraced celebrities and been sung at hapless colleagues by a thousand office wits. So it seems only fair that ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’ has been voted the nation’s favourite comedy song.
The Monty Python tune, first sung by Eric Idle at the end of The Life of Brian,
was the clear winner of the YouGov poll. Only the Scottish gave another song
more votes – the patriotic choice of Billy Connolly’s “D.I.V.O.R.C.E.”.
Male and female voting was similar, but there were stark differences among
the age groups. ‘Spider Pig’ from The Simpsons Movie was the top choice among the under 34s – even though it’s only 30 seconds long – while ‘Tribute’ by Jack Black’s faux rock group Tenacious D was most popular among the under- 24s. Strong showings for the likes of Flight of the Conchords, Bill Bailey and South Park also reveal a new, vibrant generation of musical comedy talent.
The comedy pop song has had a rich and varied history – from Shakespeare to music-hall, Monty Python to Reeves and Mortimer – and has managed to remain a dominant tradition in British culture. In recent years, musical comedy has developed notable credibility, particularly amongst the younger generations with the arrival of surrealist Noel Fielding, the originator of the unique singing style ‘crimping’ which features regularly in the acclaimed British comedy The Mighty Boosh, and New Zealand comedy duo Flight of the Conchords, whose Grammy award-winning self-titled music comedy series has gained world-wide cult following.
“There’s a generation of comics who grew up wanting to be in bands who, nevertheless, see how ludicrous the music world and its neverending recycling has become,” says British comedian, Adam Buxton of Adam and Joe. He adds, “the answer for people like Bill Bailey, Flight of the Conchords and The Mighty Boosh’s Noel Fielding – who even looks like a pop star – is to have their cake and eat it, making music they love and making fun of it.”
The Top 20
1 “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” Monty Python
2 “Ernie (The Fastest Milkman in the West)” Benny Hill
3 “The Lumberjack Song” Monty Python
4 “The Combine Harvester” The Wurzels
5 “Jake the Peg” Rolf Harris
6 “D.I.V.O.R.C.E.” Billy Connolly
7 “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh” Allan Sherman
8 “Let’s Do It” Victoria Wood
9 “The Chicken Song” Spitting Image
10 “The Ying Tong Song” The Goons
11 “Star Trekkin’ ” The Firm
12 “Rabbit” Chas & Dave
13 “Every Sperm is Sacred” Monty Python
14 “Goodness Gracious Me” Sophia Loren & Peter Sellers
15 “Funky Gibbon” The Goodies
16 “Spider Pig” The Simpsons Movie
17 “Donald Where’s Your Troosers?” Andy Stewart
18 “Chocolate Salty Balls” Chef, South Park
19 “Living Doll” Cliff Richard & The
20 = “My Brother” Terry Scott
“Tribute” Tenacious D
“I’m Walking Backwards for Christmas” The Goons
The full article by music journalist, writer and broadcaster David Quantick is available in the August special comedy issue of Reader’s Digest magazine, on stands, 30 July.