A Marx fan might figure the hook here would have to be Harry Ruby, Groucho's favorite song lyricist. No. The lyrics were written by Raymond Abrashkin, and the music by Peter Gordon (not Peter & Gordon!). Abrashkin, who wrote a kiddie comic strip called "Timmy" and a series of young adult sci-fi books with "Danny Dunn" the main character, would score a major success scripting the Oscar-nominated film "Little Fugitive." His "Danny Dunn" series slowed as Lou Gherig's Disease took control of his body and mind, and he died at the age of 49 on August 24, 1960.
The head of Young People's Records, Horace Grenell, catalogued the song as a "pre-school-age tolerance record," which certainly would've been a nice gift for pre-age Melinda Marx. Maybe she even owned his "Young People's Records Folk Song Book," also published in 1949.
In his inimitable New York accent, Groucho has a monkey trying to write the funniest song "in the woild." He makes fun of a giraffe, who isn't amused, offends a bear, and bounces gags off a kangaroo, who has a "kanga-rooish face." (It was always easy to tell in the animal world which ones were roo-ish). Typical of human nature more than animal nature, each annoyed beast points a finger and suggests…making fun of someone else!
Is it possible to be funny without being hurtful? Yes, but it ain't easy. Most every comedian I've ever known from the hacks to the greats, believes the laughs come from hostility, from tragedy, from some kind of puncture or fracture or violent surprise. Mel Brooks said that comedy is like a rubber ball, and it's liveliest when it smacks against something hard and unyielding, like the brick wall of authority. Joey Adams told me comedy must "devastate," which was why he was famous (at one time) as an insult comic.
Groucho, along with Edward Lear, Spike Milligan and some others, did dabble in "nonsense" once in a while…bullets flying up in the air instead of at a target. And so the lesson kiddies, is in the last verses of the song where Groucho goes off on a wonderful ride not too far removed from something out of W.S. Gilbert's lyric book. And let's not forget the last lines which, unlike today's passive entertainment, promote exploration and creativity.
I wasn't around in 1949. But by the time I was a precocious child listening to what I thought were kiddie records (like "Heartaches" by The Marcels and "Gypsy Cried" by Lou Christie as well as "The Chipmunk Song") "The Funniest Song in the World" was part of my treasured collection. Despite "Lydia" and even the wonderfully cynical and accurate "Dr. Hackenbush" (recorded for Decca years after this kiddie disc), this remains my sentimental and favorite "funniest song" from THE ONE, THE ONLY…Groucho.
Is this the Funniest Song in the WOILD? Rat Rat Tea!