Zappa’s virtuosity and legacy is well documented and you can hear traits of his work in many musicians today but many people seem to forget that his lyrics, whilst often close to the bone, were satirical and often incredibly hilarious. I remember listening to my first Zappa album, Sheik Yerbouti for the first time, thinking ‘are you even allowed to say that on a record?’ whilst simultaneously laughing so hard my face hurt! I was hooked on his music instantly but I was also intrigued to find out what the man behind the guitar was like. So I trailed through hours of interviews that I’d found on Youtube and came to the conclusion that he didn’t care what people thought of him or his often controversial lyrics, he saw how ridiculous life could be so sought out to satirise it through his music and that is why he had such a huge impact on my decision to start a stand-up career.
So why hasn’t Frank Zappa influenced more comedians? Well, in truth, he probably has, but unless a comedian says something it’s going to be very difficult to tell. There could be many reasons as to why, maybe it’s because the lyrical content of many of his songs were immature, ‘Broken Hearts Are for Assholes’ for example, tells the story of a man who gets dumped, so faced with the daunting prospect of being single, experiments sexually with other men.
With references to rimming, prostitution and BDSM, you can sort of see why people would want to steer clear of referencing Zappa’s influence. One thing I’m certain about though is that it’s difficult for these influences to cross mediums. Whilst Zappa’s music and words were funny, they often lacked the subtlety and suggestiveness that many comics employ in their routines, therefore you aren’t likely to pick up on the influences unless they are directly addressed by the performer.
‘So who are these Zappa-esque comedians?’ you say. As mentioned before that’s difficult to say. There are many comics out there who say some very controversial things but that’s not necessarily down to a love of Zappa’s music and opinions. In all honesty I don’t know of any comic who has openly talked about Frank Zappa’s influence or comedic legacy but he played a massive role in my pursuit of my dream and as is often the case where one person has been influenced by someone, chances are others have too, and the recent resurgence of interest in Zappa’s music will no doubt quietly inspire the performers and comedians of the next generation to spring up and perhaps completely change the face and our perceptions of entertainment. What a legacy that would be!