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The 11 Best Comedian-Musicians

From Russell Brand and Jimmy Fallon to Margaret Cho, this crowd is adept at both joking and singing on stage

Jason Kempin/Getty(Martin), Tim Mosenfelder/Getty (Cho), Douglas Mason/Getty(Black), Randall Michelson/WireImage for Film Independent (Robinson),

Ricky Gervais may be the only superstar comedian who was in a British New Wave band – after college, Gervais and friend Bill Macrae formed Seona Dancing (pronounced “Shawna”), a New Wave group with hints of David Bowie, Wham! and Duran Duran – but he's certainly not the only one to ever burst into song. Here are 11 more comedians who have found that setting their shtick to music can pay off.

By Erika Berlin


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Andy Samberg/Lonely Island

Childhood friends Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone had been making joke songs under the name The Lonely Island since 2001, but the comedy crew hit it big four years later when they got the attention of SNL head Lorne Michaels. All three were asked to join the SNL team, Samberg as a featured player and Schaffer and Taccone as writers. Since then, their star-studded SNL Digital Shorts — featuring everyone from demure Natalie Portman spitting rhymes about "bustin' dudes mouths like Gushers" in "Natalie's Rap" to T-Pain Auto-Tuning the nautical "I'm On a Boat" — have become one of the most popular and viral segments of the show. In 2007 they won an Emmy for "Dick in a Box," an instant hit starring Samberg, Justin Timberlake, bad dance moves, worse facial hair and their junk wrapped in gift boxes.

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Jimmy Fallon

Since taking over Late Night in 2009, Jimmy Fallon has had the perfect stage to showcase some of his best impersonations — famous musicians. His recurring "Neil Young" covers (complete with long hair and harmonica) of ridiculous pop culture phenoms, from "Pants on the Ground" to "Double Rainbow," have inspired Young contemporaries like Bruce Springsteen to join him on stage. Fallon's house band, The Roots, have also gotten in on the fun by helping Fallon illustrate the history of rap with Justin Timberlake and taking on Rebecca Black's "Friday" with Stephen Colbert. Fallon also famously used his 2010 Emmys hosting gig as a chance to show off a mean Springsteen impersonation with a mass-produced "Born to Run" opening number along with the cast of Glee.

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Craig Robinson

Craig Robinson may be best known as "Darryl from the warehouse" on The Office, but those who have seen his stand-up sets know that he's adept at showing off his musical and comedic talents simultaneously. Bringing his keyboard along for early gigs on the comedy festival circuit and Def Comedy Jam, Robinson often accompanies himself while serenading audience members or giving his jokes extra ambiance. His seven-piece band, the Nasty Delicious, has made appearances on an episode of The Office and during the finale of Robinson's hosting gig of last season's Last Comic Standing.

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Conan O’Brien

When his network late-night career went down in flames in early 2010, Conan O'Brien said good-bye to his Tonight Show followers by closing out his final show with a seven-minute jam session of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Free Bird." Acting as resident singer (and cowbell fanatic), Will Ferrell invited O'Brien to "strap on his ax" as he, Beck, Ben Harper, ZZ Top and Max Weinberg and the Tonight Show Band shredded in front of a giant American flag. Conan decided to go rockstar for awhile, growing a beard and launching his "Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television" tour, where he joked about his newly jobless condition and played reworked versions of "I Will Survive" and Radiohead's "Creep."

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Maya Rudolph

Before joining the cast of SNL in 2000, Maya Rudolph spent a couple of years touring as the keyboardist and backing vocalist for Nineties Moog-synthesizer enthusiasts The Rentals. The daughter of a songwriter father and an R&B singer mother, Rudolph had formed a nine-piece funk band called Super Sauce while in college in the early Nineties. She joined the Rentals on the road in 1994, when the band, formed by ex-Weezer bassist Matt Sharp, opened for Alanis Morissette and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. During her seven seasons on SNL, Rudolph used her pipes to channel Beyonce, Whitney Houston and Justin Guarini, among others.

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Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement

Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement started off as just a couple of New Zealanders with a cult following for their "a cappella-rap-funk-comedy folk" music outfit, Flight of the Conchords. After making the comedy and music festival rounds in the mid-2000s and releasing a short SXSW-based documentary, the endearingly deadpan Conchords got their big break when HBO signed them on for a series. During the show's two seasons, McKenzie and Clement wove witty, self-deprecating songs about seeking constructive feedback on their preposterous raps and fighting xenophobia among local fruit stand vendors (who won't "sell an apple to a kiwi") as they bumbled through New York City while trying to make it big.

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