Paul Dennis looks at how making up different words to a famous tune can be a dead ringer for funny.

I remember the car rides to and from church more than I remember the services themselves. My brother would have me in stitches changing the words to hymns with varying degrees of irreverence.

Monty Python’s All Things Dull and Ugly became a fast favourite when I bought their Contractual Obligation Album in the early 80s.

Monty Python parody of All Things Bright and Beautiful also provides some piercing commentary into the bargain.

Now, parody isn’t just one song to the tune of another. As the title of this post suggests, Meat Loaf has had more than his fair share of fun poked at him through the medium of song.

In this excerpt from Alas Smith & Jones, the two former stars of Not The Nine O’ Clock News do exactly that. But the song here is an original piece written in the style of Meat Loaf, rather than singing different words to the tune of Dead Ringer For Love.

Alas Smith and Jones parody the video for Meat Loaf’s Dead Ringer for Love

Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones also chose the title of their BBC show to be similar to that of a very popular TV Western series, “Alias Smith & Jones”. Broadly speaking, that’s parody too.

Okay, so what exactly is a parody?

In very general terms, it is borrowing from one thing to create another and it has been going on for centuries.

Long before The Barron Knights gave us the first in a very long line of Bohemian Rhapsody parodies, the operatic style popular in 1742 was parodied by Johann Sebastian Bach in his Peasant Cantata.

This most recent Bo Rap parody has amassed over 5 million views.

It was, however, much earlier still, in the late 15th century where the borrowing of established musical patterns as springboards for new pieces was first formalised.

Why am I telling you this?

There are many forms of parody, whereas I think most people would only associate the term with parodies like the Queen one above.

Take a familiar song and change the words. Just like my brother used to do.

That’s the kind of parody I’m gonna be looking at over the next few posts. It’s a huge subject: one which I’m looking forward to exploring in the series.

In some cases, a parody might involve just one or two lines of a song, rewritten and incorporated into a stand-up set as the punchline to a spoken set-up. Others are a complete rewrite, as in the Bohemian Rhapsody example above.

I’ll be investigating how they’re made, who’s done good ones and why they do or don’t work, subjectivity notwithstanding.

I’ll be talking to comedians who use parody and get their take.

I’ll also be showing you how to write your own parodies and there will even be a competition where you can flaunt your own parody fu!

For looping out loud

Right now, it’s looping that is all the rage. The technology has become more sophisticated, allowing performers like Ed Sheeran to create complex soundscapes live and alone.

Naturally, comedy has been patrolling that frontier. If it can be done, it can be parodied.

Here’s Tim Hawkins, in a bit of what is essentially quite traditional physical comedy, but using looping technology as his foil.

Notice how he demonstrates effective use of the technique as well as the consequences of getting it wrong. This isn’t just so he can show off what a great musician he is. But, I’ll get into that in a future post.

Tim Hawkins demonstrates how to and how not to use a looper pedal.