It takes guts to get up onstage and make a total jerk of yourself for the sake of comedy, so it stands to reason that many of the best comedians honed their performance skills before making it big on Saturday Night Live or Comedy Central. Considering how strenuous the comedy field is, it’s doubly incredible that so many of these funny entertainers are talented in other areas as well. The comedians on this list play the following instruments: piano, guitar, banjo, uke, harmonica, tambourine, glockenspiel, and the accordion. Whether they primarily create comedic musical albums or they simply incorporate music into their straight stand-up, these are some of the best, multi-talented comedians around.
10. Jimmy Fallon: While other kids were caring for their pet rocks and gazing into lava lamps, this top comedian spent his childhood watching the golden age of 1970s and ‘80s Saturday Night Live and dreaming of becoming a featured entertainer himself. Along with entering comedy shows and imitating his favorite sketches in the mirror, Fallon honed another skill: playing the guitar. Now an established comedian and late-night host, he’s known for his hilarious and spot-on impersonations of musical icons. From Neil Young singing the intro to “Fresh Prince of Bel Air” to Jim Morrison’s version of the “Reading Rainbow” theme, Fallon’s musical impressions are comedic gold.
9. Flight of the Conchords: With such insightful lyrics as “I’m a motherflippin’ rhymenocerous, my beats are phat and the birds are on my back,” this musical duo has developed a massive cult following worldwide. Hailing from New Zealand, Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement started as college flatmates who knew a combined three chords on the guitar. They went on to land a BBC radio show, an HBO comedy series, film cameos, and various awards, forging their way as one of the top comedian teams of all time.
8. Garfunkel and Oates: Although they named their band in honor of “two famous rock-and-roll second bananas,” Kate Micucci and Riki Lindhome are anything but.. They both have prolific careers outside of their musical comedy fame (you probably recognize the actresses from their many television cameos and roles, from “Gilmore Girls” to “The Big Bang Theory”). Together, they’ve become an enormous success for their guitar/banjo skills and witty observational humor, touching on such important themes as “Pregnant Women are Smug” and“Sex with Ducks.”
7. Adam Sandler: Before his prolific ‘90s film career, Sandler started off the way most aspiring comic actors do: performing stand-up in college. He incorporated guitar and vocal skills into his comedic acts, eventually defining his Saturday Night Live career with his musical sketches. His first album, “They’re All Gonna Laugh at You!” featured the song below, one of his most iconic. Hits from later albums include “Gay Robot,” “The Goat Song” and, of course, everyone’s holiday favorite, “The Chanukah Song.” Now considered one of the best stand-up and film comedians ever, Sandler’s roots as a musical entertainer have remained an integral part of his Hollywood persona.
6. Demitri Martin: Probably the most musically versatile comedian on this list, Martin’s instrumental skills are impressive, to say the least. They include the following: guitar, harmonica, keyboard, glockenspiel, piano, ukulele and tambourine. He also graduated from Yale University and attended New York University School of Law on full scholarship, in case you were wondering. But aside from his undeniable talents, Martin is known for being funny for funny’s sake; his deceptively simple one-liners and deadpan delivery make him one of the most unique, and best, comedians today.
5. Steve Martin: At the tender age of 17, a raven-haired Martin picked up a banjo for the first time. He honed his musical skills alongside his comedic talents, bringing his beloved instrument along as he moved from stand-up to Saturday Night Live cameos to film. Unlike many on this list, Martin has established a musical career separate from his comedic career. He has numerous straight music albums and even founded the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass. One of the greatest comedians of all time, Matin’s banjo is as iconic as his unique comedic style.
4. Lonely Island: Akiva Schaffer, Adam Samberg and Jorma Toccone have been funny guys together since junior high school, but their big break wasn’t until they started creating prerecorded musical skits for Saturday Night Live in 2005. Since then, they’ve become Internet and television sensations, with such memorable classics as “Like a Boss,” “Dick in a Box” and “I Just Had Sex,” to name a few. The musical trio stands out not only because they make fantastic comedy, but because they’ve undoubtedly collaborated with more mainstream entertainers than anyone else on this list. Their music has featured Justin Timberlake, Michael Bolton, Natalie Portman, Nicki Manaj, and many more. So whether they’re considered YouTube prodigies or three of the best comedians of all time, they’re undeniably some of the most popular.
3. Stephen Lynch: Never without his trusty guitar, Lynch is notable because he considers himself a musician first, comedian second. His career as an entertainer began with small shows and radio appearances, and he gained bigshot status after becoming one of the highest rated performers on “Comedy Central Presents” in 2000. His catchy acts often verge on shocking and crude, including “Kill a Kitten” and “In Defence of a Peepshow Girl,” but he has also gained notoriety for his impeccable music skills. He’s probably the only performer on this list to have performed at Carnegie Hall, making him of the most musically talented comedians of all time.
2. Bo Burhnam: The youngest comedian on this list, Burnham has proven that with a bit of talent and luck, YouTube dreams can come true. What began as a few politically incorrect recordings he made for fun quickly catapulted the then-high schooler into Internet stardom. In five short years, he’s released four albums, appeared on Comedy Central Presents, performed on stages nationwide, and garnered numerous awards. Although he’s ignited some controversy for his subject matter, which often addresses blatantly taboo subjects, he’s certainly one of the best young comedians today.
1. Weird Al Yankovic: With more than 150 parodies under his belt, three Grammy awards and two top-ten albums, Yankovic is an undeniable comedic master. Since 1976, he’s been acclaimed for recording parody covers of popular songs, from “Another One Bites the Dust” (“Another One Rides the Bus”) to “Ridin” (“White and Nerdy”). Musical artists either respect him for his satire and wit or hate him for upending popular tunes. He’s established an enormous fan following that’s so devout, they’ve petitioned to get him on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and onstage as the halftime Super Bowl performer. To say he’s one of the best comedians of all time is putting it lightly.