The 10 Greatest Musical Comedians

Musical comedy can be a hard thing to pull off. Not only do you have to be funny, but you also have to be a good singer capable of playing an instrument and writing songs that are worth listening to over and over again. Somehow, though, the comedians on this list make it look easy.

of 10

Bo Burnham

Bo Burnham

The Syndicate

One of the youngest stand-up comedians ever to make it big, Bo Burnham was performing at festivals and signing record deals when he was barely out of high school—all because he uploaded a few hilarious songs to Youtube.

Inspired by legendary comics like ​George Carlin and ​Richard Pryor, Burnham performs satirical and very politically incorrect songs about race, gender, and sexuality. For some of the best examples, check out his self-titled debut album.

Though propelled to fame by internet videos, Burnham has become a regular on the club and festival circuit, and his songs have made him a hit with college crowds. He has produced several comedy specials and wrote and directed the film "Eighth Grade."

of 10

Jon Lajoie

Comedian Jon Lajoie
Comedian Jon Lajoie performs his show "Live as Fuck" at the Lakeshore Theater as part of the 2009 Just for Laughs Chicago festival.

Barry Brecheisen/Getty Images

Like Bo Burnham, Canadian comedian and musician Jon Lajoie created his own celebrity with a series of hugely popular internet videos for songs with titles like "High as F*ck" and "Everyday Normal Guy."

Though his videos are very funny, the songs stand on their own—as evidenced by Lajoie's first album, 2009's "You Want Some of This?" His tunes often have an edgy sound, mixing rock with rap while covering mundane topics such as normalcy, stay-at-home dads, and, of course, recreational drug use.

A starring role on the FX comedy "The League" suggests that Lajoie is poised to break out to bigger and better things, but it's the comedian's songs that will keep his fans coming back.

of 10

Rodney Carrington

Comedian Rodney Carrington performs during the Bud Light Presents Wild West Comedy Festival
Jason Davis/Getty Images

Blue-collar comedian Rodney Carrington might be more successful as a musician than a comedian, but he's still one of the top touring acts in the U.S., with six successful comedy albums under his belt.

In addition to being the star of his own short-lived ABC sitcom "Rodney" and the co-star of Toby Keith's movie "Beer for My Horses," Carrington regularly appears on Country Music Television, where music videos for his comedic country songs are constantly playing.

of 10

Jimmy Fallon

Comedian Jimmy Fallon
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

If not from "The Tonight Show," most people probably recognize Jimmy Fallon from his days as a cast member on "Saturday Night Live," where he first made a name for himself as a musical comedian by performing parody songs on an acoustic guitar.

Singing and songwriting became the cornerstone of Fallon's comedy, later being incorporated into his stand-up act and his first comedy album, "The Bathroom Wall." Though Fallon's original songs aren't terribly strong, his signature bit—a mash-up of '80s songs performed on the guitar—is amusing, energetic, and more than a little eager to please. Just like Fallon himself.

of 10

Zach Galifianakis

Zach Galifianakis at a premiere

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Comedian, writer, and actor Zach Galifianakis is probably best known for his full, bushy beard, but to place the focus entirely on his abundant facial hair would be to miss one of the sharpest, oddest musical talents working today. Galifianakis is a master of the absurd, creating characters and conceptual bits in the place of traditional joke-telling.

An accomplished pianist, he often incorporates music into his act—sometimes even bringing full choirs out near the end of a performance. He doesn't write funny songs necessarily but uses music to support his out-there humor. What may seem "odd" to the uninitiated audience is actually inventive, daring, and often brilliant comedy.

of 10

Tom Lehrer

Portrait of Tom Lehrer

 Music Theatre International


Tom Lehrer was one of the founding fathers of musical comedy. Though he created the majority of his work in the 1950s and '60s—after which he basically retired from musical comedy until the late 1990s—the classically trained Lehrer was and remains an influential figure for both musical and political comedians, infusing all of his work with razor-sharp intelligence and a dark, sick sense of humor.

Perhaps the most famous of his songs, "The Elements," was recently performed by Daniel Radcliffe. This track, like many of his others, mixes science and math with humor in a comical tune about the chemical elements on the periodic table.

of 10

Stephen Lynch

Portrait of Stephen Lynch with a Guitar

A self-described "musician trapped in the body of a comedian," Stephen Lynch uses comedic songs to satirize the tedium of everyday life. He has released five albums as well as a DVD.

All of these recordings provide evidence of Lynch's commitment to not only the melody but the humor of his bits. He takes his music career very seriously and was even nominated for a Tony for his performance in the Broadway adaptation of "The Wedding Singer." Unlike some other comedians on this list, Lynch doesn't just dabble in music as part of his stand-up act. He's all about the music—and it shows.

of 10

Steve Martin

Comedian Steve Martin

Glulio Marcocchi/Getty Images

The first stand-up comedian to sell out stadiums and achieve a rock star-like celebrity, Steve Martin is the guy who made musical comedy cool. Whether it was performing a number of banjo songs in his live act or singing "King Tut" on "Saturday Night Live," Martin brought musical comedy to the masses and proved that it was possible to achieve mainstream success as a musical comic.

Martin gave up stand-up in the early 1980s and since 2010 has practically abandoned comedy altogether to pursue a legitimate career as a bluegrass musician. This feat could only be accomplished by someone like Martin, who has dedicated his career to establishing himself as one of the all-time greats.

of 10

Nick Thune

Nick Thune at the 2009 Just for Laughs Chicago festival.
Edward M. Pio Roda/Getty Images

Like the comedians who inspired him—including Steve Martin and Mitch Hedberg—musical jokester Nick Thune prefers the deadpan, absurdist one-liner.

Strumming a guitar as he delivers one joke after another, Thune isn't always a musical comedian in the traditional sense as much as one who uses music to accompany his comedy—though he does perform several '80s-inspired songs on his debut album "Thick Noon." 

The guitar may seem a little like a gimmick, but it's helped Thune carve out a niche for himself—he's the guitar comic, or "that guy with the guitar." The fact that he has really funny material doesn't hurt, either.

of 10

Reggie Watts

Comedian Reggie Watts
Noah Kalina/courtesy Right On

Rather than writing songs that will become a staple of his live act, musical comedian Reggie Watts creates improvisational music using only a looping machine, his voice, and his absurd, stream-of-conscious wit. Watts' unique, unclassifiable talents are on display on his albums "Simplified," "Pot Cookies," and ​"Why Shit So Crazy?"

Watts wrote the theme songs for "Louie" and "Comedy Death-Ray" as well as the opening music for Conan O'Brien on his "Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television" tour. He's as odd as he is creative and as unpredictable as he is funny. Watts truly defies description.