Over the last week I have had the first official feedback from Ashgate on the Zappa book. It has been very positive – so with look the book is target for a 2012 release. Chapter 5 is by Nick Awde – and focuses on the relationship of Zappa and Comedy. So – five chapters down – Seven to go
Humour is a driving force throughout the oeuvre of Frank Zappa, a unifying element integral to his lyrical and instrumental music, films and corporate image. Indeed, while comedy is a genre that does not always travel beyond national or even the narrowest of social circles, Zappa’s humour proved no obstacle in helping his work transcend international boundaries,finding ready partners in the art, protest and civil rights movements that grew out of post-war society in North America and Europe. Humour, specifically satire, was the force that propelled Frank Zappa from conceptual comedian to social commentator to ‘perverse’ politician.
The vast majority of Zappa’s tracks stand up to scrutiny in this respect – even across a recorded repertoire of more than 60 official albums it is remarkably hard to identify ‘duds’ since context shifts with time and one must constantly revise appreciation of any given track.This chapter intends to provide an overview of Zappa’s humour and, identifying the principal satirical elements therein, to offer pointers towards placing him within the American comedy spectrum. It shall also note formative effects of his upbringing, the socio-historical context of comedy in post-war popular music, comic influences, and the changing effects of the times in which Zappa worked and his ability to adapt to them. Collectively, these will contribute towards a preliminary definition of his legacy.