People are talking about "We Are The World" again... so I thought this would be a good time to bust out a list I've been researching for quite a while now: The all-time funniest parodies of "We are the World".
My only criteria was that it was clearly a "We are the World" parody -- i.e. a star-studded group, on risers, singing into mics, for a cause. Just an ensemble wouldn't do, which is why I reluctantly have to exclude the brilliant "Sesame Street" song "Put Down the Duckie". I also excluded Weird Al's "Don't Download This Song" since it's not a group thing.
And now, the best parody versions of "We are the World" ever. (Ethical debate about parodying a charity song not included, by the way.) In no particular order...
"In Living Color" - Career Aid (1992) - The theme here was artists who performed in the original "We are the World" (plus Yoko Ono)... who've since gotten to a point where they need a benefit song to help them.
With 18 years of retrospect, two things stand out. One, like in mots "In Living Color" sketches, Jim Carrey somehow manages to be the best of the crew even with only a few lines as Willie Nelson. And two: David Alan Grier plays the part of Ray Charles... with Jamie Foxx standing right next to him, with the much smaller part of Lionel Richie. Think David Alan Grier was remembering that 13 years later when Jamie Foxx won an Oscar on the strength of his own Ray Charles impression?
"30 Rock" - Kidney Now (2009) - This was from last season's finale of "30 Rock" and brought together, pretty much, the most all-star group of musicians that any TV show every could've brought together. They're all singing to try to find a kidney for Alec Baldwin's character's father... but, with lyrics like, "Just give a kidney to a father or a man" and "Only three of us are drunk" -- they're clearly doing it full-on parody style. (Even though the money raised by selling the song online did go toward kidney disease research.)
Elvis Costello is the star of the thing, although Michael McDonald, Cyndi Lauper and Adam Levine are pretty strong too... and the rap interlude with Talib Kweli and two of the Beastie Boys is laugh-out-loud funny.
The best line of all, though, as in every episode of "30 Rock", is Alec Baldwin's. When Tina Fey says to him, mid-song, "We sure had quite a year!" and he responds, perfectly, "What are you talking about? It's May." The way he delivers that line -- and just that line -- is worth an Emmy. Seriously.
Japanese karaoke game show (year unknown) - From time to time on this website, I say "There are no words." This is another one of those cases. There are no words. Just do yourself a favor and watch this video -- if you only watch one video from this list, make it this one, and watch out for the Bruce Springsteen guy.
"Jimmy Kimmel Live" - I'm F*cking Ben Affleck (2008) - During that first week of "Jimmy Kimmel Live" -- when the only guests he could get were Adam Carolla and a D-list ventriloquist -- who would've guessed that five years later he'd get Brad Pitt, Don Cheadle, Harrison Ford, Joan Jett, Meat Loaf, Huey Lewis, Josh Groban, Cameron Diaz, Robin Williams and about 500 other legit celebrities to do a "We are the World" parody about he and Ben Affleck having a gay love affair?
Josh Groban's definitely the highlight of this one -- showing a level of self-parody that I didn't realize Josh Groban had in him. Harrison Ford's cameo is also incredibly unexpected. (And the audience at "JKL" gets credit too -- the fact that they're wailing over this the way an "Oprah" audience wails about getting FREE UGG BOOTS! makes it seem even funnier.)
"The Simpsons" - Sending Our Love Down The Well (1992) - It's not necessarily the funniest on this list, but it's one of the first -- and all of the dialogue with Krusty the Clown, Kent Brockman and Sting really does a great job satirizing the concept of charity songs. "The Simpsons" gathered Sting, plus all of Springfield's biggest celebrities, to sing a song to benefit Bart after he fell down a well -- and then, Krusty says, after they recoup expenses, they'll take whatever money's left over and "throw it down the well."
"Dickie Roberts, Former Child Star" - We Love Being Child Stars (2003) - It's funny -- when I started writing this list earlier this week, Corey Haim was still alive. Kinda gives it a different, heavier connotation right now.
If you've never seen "Dickie Roberts" -- and I'm gonna go out on a limb and say you haven't -- this is a shockingly catchy song that features about two dozen real former child stars singing a song about how much they love being ex-child stars. The cast includes Maureen McCormick, Todd Bridges, Fred Berry (dancing up an absolute STORM just a few months before he would pass away), Gary Coleman, and, yes, the Coreys.
The Westboro Baptist Church - God Hates the World (2009) - This is the only one not from TV or movies -- this one is from the hate group that protests at gay people's funerals. It features about 20 white people... each uglier than the one before... singing about how we're all going to hell. In some ways, it's the best parody of all because it's so absurdly, unintentionally over-the-top... even more than the Japanese karaoke singers' version. In other ways, it's a good reminder of why you should wake up every day thanking YOUR God (not the God they're envisioning) for letting you be born with an IQ above 32 and access to a dentist.
"Saturday Night Live" - Musicians For Free Range Chickens (1991) - This clip was brutally hard to track down -- it's from an episode of "SNL" that they'd rather you forget. That episode is the one and only that was hosted by Steven Seagal -- who was so unfunny and so difficult to work with that he was subsequently banned for life from the show.
He doesn't appear in this skit, which features Michael Bolton, plus the early '90s "SNL" cast doing impressions of famous musicians, all gathering to sing a song on behalf of free-range chickens.
Chris Farley as Carnie Wilson from Wilson Phillips is the undisputed highlight; Tim Meadows, who I normally love, doesn't really do a good Lenny Kravitz, and Mike Myers isn't that strong as Mick Jagger either.
The song concept itself is one of the funnier parodies on this list, though, and the number of future stars is just ridiculous. Even Chris Rock, who has a three-second cameo... just like he does in all of the "SNL" sketches from his time there.
(YouTube won't let me embed, hopefully this link will work for you.)
If you're not a "South Park" person, I can't even begin to explain why they have a "We are the World" parody song called "Queef Free". That's just "South Park" and you're either on board or you're not.
"Married With Children" - Old Aid (1992) - As the "Married With Children" laugh track emits the mix of laughter and worship that only the "Married With Children" laugh track has ever perfected, Al "Axl" Bundy joins with guys like Richie Havens, Robbie Krieger from The Doors, Peter Noone from Herman's Hermits and more ex-rock stars to sing about being old.
It has an incredibly casual vibe to it -- you'd never see something on a network sitcom today that feels this casual and low budget -- but this song doesn't need any more polish than that.
"We Are The World 2" (2010) - Last month, more than 60 stars gathered to do a comedic remake of "We are the World" to benefit Haiti... a video that, for the sake of charity, viciously lampoons today's music industry trends like auto-tune, never taking off your sunglasses indoors, Enrique Iglesias's absurd breathy style, mediocre teen stars like Justin Bieber and the Jonas Brothers being put on the same level as real stars, Fergie's singing voice compared to Celine Dion's, Kanye's ego demanding to perform separate from the rap montage, celebrities like Vince Vaughn randomly showing up -- wait... what? This wasn't a parody. Oh... oh my. Wow. Ouch.
(You can replace the last one with the "SNL" parody of it here, lest you feel that I actually did a 10-item list making me a coward.)
This post was originally published on Friday, March 12, 2010 at 10:45:00 AM under the category Music.