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The Internet is for porn — and novelty songs! 

The Web's golden age of musical jokes has hatched

CHAIN YANKER: Weird Al Yankovic was born to perform this way.

SONY MUSIC

CHAIN YANKER: Weird Al Yankovic was born to perform this way.

In the past few months, pop music parodists have spoofed Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" from top to bottom.

First, longtime musical wisecracker Weird Al Yankovic concocted "Perform This Way" as a tongue-in-cheek tribute to the club diva's attention-seeking antics. You might recall the minor pop feud that erupted when Gaga's camp refused to approve Weird Al's parody version, so the Elvis of silly hit singles released the track online, and Gaga swiftly relented.

A different riff on "Born This Way" came out of nowhere thanks to YouTube. The week after the release of the superhero film X-Men: First Class, a young man with a guitar put on a homemade Magneto costume and recorded an acoustic riff on Lady Gaga's tolerance anthem, only with super-powered mutation taking the place of gender orientation.

The Internet's ability to share gloriously nutty ideas has ushered in a golden age of the novelty tune. Comedic songs seldom find the respect they deserve, but the good ones provide the musical equivalent to a shot of espresso and can lift your spirits higher than a weepy love ballad or cocky rock track.

Comedy and music have overlapped going back to the days of ye olde court jesters, and their more contemporary equivalents, from Spike Jones to Tenacious D, goof around at the margins of the music industry. The tricky part has been finding them. The likes of country novelty singer Ray Stevens could get radio play, but if you hungered for a greater variety of jokey music, like "Disco Duck" or "They're Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!" you'd have to seek out Dr. Demento's radio show, if stations even carried it in your area.

Now funny songs are just a mouse click away, but you don't have to go looking for them. They'll come to you via email, Twitter, etc. Parry Gripp may be the master of the inane but irresistible music video, with a body of work that includes "Cat Flushing a Toilet" and "Chimpanzee Riding on a Segway." His tunes are so catchy he could conquer the world if he used them for evil. The Internet's ability to create communities has cultivated such sub-sub-genres as filk and nerdcore, which use folk music and hip-hop, respectively, to celebrate geeky subject matter like Joss Whedon's television shows like "Serenity." Overall, the renewed popularity of musicals on the big and small screen has led to hilarious albums from the likes of "Phineas & Ferb" and "Spongebob Squarepants."

In 2005, "Saturday Night Live's" digital short "Lazy Sunday" became a milestone of viral culture that helped make YouTube its own entertainment venue. The joke of white guys bombastically rapping about trivial topics like cupcakes and The Chronic (–what?) cles of Narnia never seems to grow stale. "Lazy Sunday" launched the music careers of Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer as the Lonely Island, who released their second studio album, Turtleneck & Chain, in May.

From "Dick in a Box" to "Jizz in My Pants," the Lonely Island seems to have a limitless supply of uproarious punchlines. Because Samberg, Taccone and Schaffer work so closely with "SNL," their songs feel like extensions of their music videos, rather than the other way around, and their humor doesn't always have much to offer beyond the initial shock value.

The New Zealand folk-rock parody duo Flight of the Conchords takes a more deadpan approach to sexual misadventure and other quirks of behavior. The would-be seductive "Business Time" follows a long-time couple into the bedroom, where they're going to make love. "Know how I know? Cause it's Wednesday, and Wednesday's the night we usually make love." The Conchords show a breadth of knowledge of musical styles and awkward relationships. Too bad they discontinued their HBO series.

The zeitgeist of the mid-2000s gave Weird Al Yankovic his biggest hit. He'd been a fixture in music ever since 1979, when he took his accordion into a men's room and recorded the "My Sharona" spoof "My Bologna." His Chamillionaire spoof "White and Nerdy" in 2006 gave Weird Al his first Billboard Top 10 single and platinum single. Compared to the Lonely Island's balls-out raunch, Weird Al takes a milder, Mad magazine approach. When he parodies a song directly, sometimes the joke gets old before the song's even over.

Weird Al's stylistic satires and more ambitious recordings can really hold up, however. A highlight of his June 21 release Alpocalypse is "CNR," which is, all at once, a pastiche of the White Stripes' abrasive rock 'n' roll, a spoof the familiar meme of the super-macho Chuck Norris and a surprising tribute to the late, flamboyant TV personality Charles Nelson Reilly. On earlier albums, his epic-length jokefests "Albuquerque" and "Genius in France" each clock in at around 10 minutes.

The 2011 comedy crown jewel — or maybe the giant foam "We're #1!" finger — is the original cast album of The Book of Mormon musical from Trey Parker and Matt Stone. The creators of "South Park" teamed with Robert Lopez of Avenue Q, Broadway's "Sesame Street" satire that found viral hits with show tunes like "The Internet is for Porn." The Book of Mormon follows naïve Mormon missionaries in problem-plagued Uganda, inspiring unbelievably profane but feel-good lampoons of The Lion King.

The Book of Mormon set an iTunes sales record for a Broadway album following its release in May, and instantly connected to fans of "South Park" and Broadway show tunes alike. The Book of Mormon manages to be even dirtier than the Lonely Island, but with bigger ambitions. When fresh-faced protagonist Elder Price affirms his faith in the stirring "I Believe," he validates some of the odder tenets of Mormonism: "I believe that God lives on a planet called Kolob!" Rather than simply ridicule religion, however, Parker, Stone and Lopez celebrate faith's ability to bring comfort to the oppressed.

And if humor, like religion, makes people feel better, then funny songs such as the Lonely Island's "I Just Had Sex," Weird Al's "Trapped in the Drive-Thru" and Barnes and Barnes' "Fish Heads" are the hymns. Eat them up, yum.

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