Julien Neaves, Editor
One of my all-time favourite sketch comedy tv series is 90s staple In Living Color. I previously did a video about the Top 13 original characters (I’ll link that below) but another aspect of the show that always tickled my funny bone was their hilarious music video parodies.
And just a quick caveat—you won’t find any Michael Jackson or Joe Jackson musical parodies here as these have not aged well at all. So without further preamble here are my Top 10 In Living Color Music Video Parodies:
#10 Cook It (Parody of Push It by Salt-N-Pepa)
This one was super silly but T’Keyah Crystal Keymáh and Kim Wayans’ enthusiastic performance as the titular singers and the increasing ridiculousness of Salt-N-Pepa singing about cooking and crafting dishes in the shape of the motherland Africa makes it impossible not to smile. Cook it real good! Honourable mention to Kim Coles as DJ Spinderella. Can’t forget Spinderella.
#9 Career-Aid (Parody of We Are the World by Various Artistes)
In Living Color certainly loved taking shots at celebrities and in this parody of iconic fundraising ensemble video We Are the World they unloaded with a parody machine gun. Instead of singing about the plight of starving children in Africa you have artistes singing about their failed careers and tax problems. The down-on-their-luck singers include Stevie Wonder, Tina Turner and Yoko Ono with David Alan Grier’s Ray Charles, Kelly Coffield Park’s Cindy Lauper, and Jim Carrey’s Willie Nelson being highlights. Not the funniest music parody but the great impressions, costuming and makeup make it worth checking out.
#8 Kiss My Ass (Parody of Save the Best for Last by Vanessa Williams)
First off apologies for the quality of the video but it was the only one I can find on the ‘Tube. But it would be remiss of me not to include Kim Wayans doing her impression of Vanessa Williams. Instead of singing her classic love ballad Save The Best For Last she sang about Williams being stripped of her Miss Universe crown in 1984 after Penthouse magazine published unauthorised nude photos but still rising to fame. And of course she told her critics to “kiss my ass”. The incongruity of the sweet melody with the profanity (which is also sang quite sweetly) makes it so funny.
#7 Baby Got Snacks (Parody of Baby Got Back by Sir Mix-a-Lot)
Years before Nicki Minaj sang Anaconda In Living Color did their own version of Sir Mix-a-Lot’s tribute to big booty Baby Got Back with Baby Got Snacks. Jamie Foxx plays Sir Mix (here “Trail Mix-A-Lot”) who encourages women to eat so much that there is more to hug and when they step back they make the truck reversing noise. He also puts down ladies who are so thin you can see what they’re thinking. Okay, not the most politically correct parody but it is delightfully stupid and the set design and costuming does a great job in recapturing the look of the iconic music video. And the message is not that far off from the song they are skewering.
#6 U Can’t Touch This (Parody of U Can’t Touch This by MC Hammer)
MC Hammer was huge back in the day so In Living Color was not going to leave him out of their celebrity lampooning. And of course they are going to take aim at his most popular song and music video U Can’t Touch This. While some of the parodies have funny lyrical content this one is pure physical comedy directed at Hammer’s ridiculously oversized parachute pants. Tommy Davidson does great work as poor Hammer getting trapped in his outfit and then trying to still perform. It’s quick, simple and effective.
#5 Ain’t Nobody Humpin Around (Parody of Humpin Around by Bobby Brown)
This is Jim Carrey’s first appearance on this list but it will not be the last. The brilliant comedy actor does a superb impression of then President Bill Clinton. Though still some years before the Clinton-Lewinski scandal the 42nd president was facing allegations of infidelity and heat about previously trying marijuana but not inhaling. So Jim as Bill takes R&B singer Bobby Brown’s song Humpin Around in which a man denies his girlfriend’s accusations of infidelity and declares that he “Ain’t Humpin Around” either. From Bill’s lyrics of “no bush or kush” to the hip hop dance moves to the random sax solo this one is a delight and quite the time capsule.
#4 My Songs Are Mindless (Parody of Gypsy Woman <La Da Dee La Da Da> by Crystal Waters)
Some of you young ‘uns may be wondering who Crystal Waters is, so pull up a chair you whippersnapper and let me school you. Okay fine, I barely know about Crystal Waters (Google says she is an American dance music singer, so we can go with that) but I do remember her song Gypsy Woman and the earworm refrain la da dee la da da, la da dee la da da, la da dee la da da, la da dee la da-okay I’ll stop now.
In this parody Kim plays Waters with the central joke being her songs are nonsense and she gets inspiration from the most mundane of sources. By the time she starts singing The Flinstones’ ya ba da ba doo and rattling off cable channel names we have descended into utter ridiculousness and it is glorious. Kim’s caricature of Waters then boasting she will be rich and you will be poor is just the cherry on top of this absurd sketch.
#3 White, White Baby (Parody of Ice Ice Baby by Vanilla Ice)
Carrey returns for the third place spot with his spot-on impression of Vanilla Ice. The hair, the outfit, the voice and awkward dance moves are all pitch perfect. The lyrics are not the funniest but the highlight is the performance itself, including Carrey’s Ice trying to keep up with his backup dancers and then randomly breaking into the worm and actual exercise moves. It is just so funny. Word to your mother.
#2 Imposter (Parody of Informer by Snow)
Now the Vanilla Ice parody was good but Imposter was next level. Carrey takes on Canadian musician Snow and his hit Imposter and the sketch wonderfully mines both his barely comprehensible lyrics (lick who’s bom bom?) and the fact the very white Snow is singing with a very Jamaican accent. Just watching Carrey rapidly flap his tongue is enough for a laugh but then he starts comparing his vocal style to an auctioneer and singing like Popeye and all best are off. The ending with a group of rastas beating the crap out of faux Snow is just perfect.
#1 Mr Ugly Man (Parody of Mr Lover Man by Shabba Ranks)
Maybe it’s my Caribbean side showing or the fact that Jamaican dancehall music was super popular in my home country of Trinidad and Tobago in the 90s, but Mr Ugly Man remains my favourite In Living Color music video parody and I would argue the best. It is a send-up of Shabba Ranks’ Mr Lover Man music video which features the Jamaican dancehall artiste surrounded by various beautiful women in swimsuits who are all hopelessly enamoured with him. Now Shabba is not what you would call “classically handsome” and In Living Color decided to skewer that.
The youngest Wayans brother Marlon plays Shabba and spends the entire time with his face contorted as though he was passing a kidney stone. His ridiculous dancing and growling lyrics like “The girlies be bumpin’ and bumpin’ all around; All of them say I look like an ugly Bobby Brown” are gut-busting, but the highlight is the lyrics sung by T’Keyah Crystal Keymáh which include “He’s even ugly on the phone”, “You look like you lost a fight” and “They say that beauty’s skin deep; But he’s ugly to the bone”. The comedy is only heightened by how accurately the In Living Color team recreated the original video. For it’s great production value and energetic comedy beats throughout Mr Ugly Man beats the competition and gets the gold. SHABBAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!
So which of these In Living Color music video parodies is your favourite? Are there any you think should have made the list? And you can check out more 90s-era nostalgia below:
Julien “Editor Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”. Read more.