At their core, music videos are meant to sell a song. Whether it’s by featuring attractive people, cool effects or a funny premise, they get you to match visuals to music in your head, not unlike an ad on television. MTV’s cultural dominance has long since passed, but artists keep putting out clips for their songs, often spending lavish amounts to get your attention. But sometimes, you don’t need all that flash — sometimes, a little comedy is all that’s required.
Putting together a list of the 20 all-time funniest music videos was an interesting challenge because it required me to pin down what is (and isn’t) funny in a music video. For instance, groundbreaking artists like Peter Gabriel and Missy Elliott have come up with incredibly inventive clips, but I wouldn’t say those videos are especially hilarious — they’re just immensely clever. Likewise, some bands concoct super-jokey videos — think Weezer — but I don’t find them all that funny. (The shtick is just too much to bear.) Like everything involving humor, what you consider a funny music video is very subjective. But all of my Top 20 make me laugh, and I’m betting they make you laugh, too.
I only had one ground rule: I included just one video per artist — otherwise, certain acts (you know who) would be all over these rankings. But I didn’t limit my list to only one video per director. Spike Jonze has done so many amusing clips that I didn’t want to shortchange him — or, frankly, us.
Twisted Sister, “We’re Not Gonna Take It”
In the 1980s, there were a number of rock videos in which uptight authorities/teachers/parents were depicted as the bad guys. The funniest of the bunch was this Twisted Sister clip in which a no-fun dad is squaring off with the band. The best part? The dad is played by Mark Metcalf, who depending on your age you best know as Douglas C. Neidermeyer from Animal House or as the Maestro in Seinfeld. The poor guy sure takes a beating!
Van Halen, “Hot for Teacher”
The hard rock explosion of the Reagan era was filled with misogyny. However, certain bands knew how to have a sense of humor about the whole thing, making the leering playful instead of creepy. Take Van Halen’s utterly sophomoric, pretty wonderful clip for “Hot for Teacher,” a very profound song about being young and thinking your teacher is attractive. The jokes are so stupid, and the laughs are so plentiful.
Blink-182, “What’s My Age Again?”
“We are exactly the same as kids hanging out in high school or junior high, making fart jokes and talking about girls,” Mark Hoppus said of his band as they were blasting into the mainstream. Combining the newfound popularity of punk with the smart-ass irreverence of early Beastie Boys, Blink-182 wrote lovably snotty tunes about being young and dumb. “What’s My Age Again?” took that ethos to the max, the video depicting the three members running through Los Angeles naked, to the shock of everyone around them. No, they weren’t really nude, but you wouldn’t have put it past these pranksters.
Run-DMC, “It’s Tricky”
You gotta keep your eyes on those Penn & Teller guys.
Pavement, “Cut Your Hair”
After their acclaimed debut, Slanted and Enchanted, Pavement seemed primed to be the next big thing in indie-rock. Their follow-up album’s first single, “Cut Your Hair,” was big and catchy, but the group never entirely embraced the mainstream, which was clear from the video, an intentionally low-key goof that shrugged off the idea that Pavement were going to go multi-platinum. That sarcastic attitude made the deadpan clip so iconic: By showing the band members waiting in line to get their hair cuts, with oddball results, Pavement were flipping the middle finger and having a laugh. They never sold out and remained permanently cool.
Eminem, “Without Me”
“I’m not the first king of controversy,” Eminem reminded the world on the first single off The Eminem Show, which doubled down on the shit-talking and button-pushing that made him a sensation on The Marshall Mathers LP. Em loved playing the court jester in his videos, but “Without Me” was his finest joke, casting himself as Robin to Dre’s Batman when he wasn’t goofing on daytime talk shows and The Real World. He lost a lot of his sense of humor as age and drug addiction took hold, but here he’s at his most impish.
DJ Snake and Lil Jon, “Turn Down for What”
Before they won Oscars for their second feature, Everything Everywhere All at Once, directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, aka Daniels, helmed this video, which showed off their gonzo visual style and cheeky sense of humor. TV-humping, gyrating breasts, uncontrollable boners, manic twerking, mass hysteria: After “Turn Down for What,” Everything Everywhere’s dildo fight scenes hardly seemed that shocking.
Björk, “It’s Oh So Quiet”
Irrepressible Icelandic artist Björk decided to cover a forgotten 1950s tune for her second solo album, Post, hiring director Spike Jonze to craft an amusingly homemade homage to Hollywood musicals that emphasized unsophisticated choreography and lots of spirit. The pure joy of “It’s Oh So Quiet” easily compensated for the lack of polish, paving the way for Björk’s big-screen acting debut Dancer in the Dark, a dark drama about an ordinary woman who fantasizes about escaping her miserable life and becoming the heroine of a romantic musical.
Foo Fighters, “Big Me”
Most would go with “Learn to Fly” as the funniest Foo Fighters video, but I prefer this track from their self-titled debut, which may not be as clever to those who didn’t come of age in the 1990s, when we were assaulted by dopey, super-peppy commercials for Mentos. Dave Grohl took the concept for those ads and made them even more ridiculous, presenting us with silly scenarios as the band members help out regular folks while sporting the goofiest grins on the planet. It’s a short, nerdy blast of ironic 1990s humor.
Skee-Lo, “I Wish”
As hip hop emerged as the dominant musical style at the end of the last century, the braggadocio in the lyrics crossed over into the harder-than-hard videos. That’s why Skee-Lo’s self-deprecating lament for his lack of swag was a refreshing change of pace — he played the ordinary guy who wished he was taller, better at hoops and able to land the prettiest girl in town. The charming “I Wish” made him deeply relatable, and so did this funny video, which was the un-gangster clip of its era, with Skee-Lo being a Charlie Chaplin/Buster Keaton/Forrest Gump-esque comic figure.
Psy, “Gangnam Style”
In the 2010s, few novelty songs were as big as this South Korean import. Most Americans couldn’t understand the lyrics to “Gangnam Style,” but they loved the increasingly wacky things Psy did in the video, including a sequence where he’s hanging out in a horse stable. “When we made this choreography, we called it ‘horse dance,’” Psy explained later. “I told (the director), ‘Hey, this is horse dance, so let’s find some horse place.’ In that way, it can be more cheesy. It can be more ridiculous.” Mission accomplished.
Supergrass, “Pumping on Your Stereo”
Before he directed films like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and the Sing series, Garth Jennings was part of a music-video directing collective known as Hammer & Tongs. “Most of the time it was always a good time,” he recalled in 2021. “We were doing these mad ideas. Somebody let us do them and we were doing it with all our friends on the crew. It doesn’t get better than that.” His favorite was this inventive, zany clip in which the members of Supergrass perform their song “Pumping on Your Stereo,” except they have puppet bodies. Being in a rock ‘n’ roll band has rarely looked so fun.
Electric Six, “Gay Bar”
This Detroit rock group enjoy making madcap videos, and their peak was “Gay Bar,” which imagined a bunch of sexy Abraham Lincolns hanging out at the White House. It also helps that the track itself is so catchy and silly: As frontman Tyler Spencer, aka Dick Valentine, informed his bandmate M, “I think that I have just written the stupidest song that I have ever written in my life.”
OK Go, “Here It Goes Again”
Sometimes, a video can be so clever that, over time, you get tired of its gimmick — especially when the band tries to repeat it later. Most folks soon grew sick of seeing “Here It Goes Again,” in which the members of OK Go did a choreographed dance on a bunch of treadmills — seriously, this video was inescapable in 2006 — but now that we have enough distance from the clip, it’s easier to appreciate the band’s one-take, low-budget ingenuity. OK Go never matched this video’s simple brilliance, but they’ll always be remembered because of it.
Fatboy Slim (featuring Bootsy Collins), “Weapon of Choice”
In one of the most iconic videos ever made, director Spike Jonze simply filmed eccentric character actor Christopher Walken as he shows off his considerable dance moves in an empty hotel. Fatboy Slim’s song featured funk master Bootsy Collins, but everybody now associates this hit with Walken, who demonstrated that, sometimes, the best special effect is a human being just doing cool things. (It’s one of the reasons why I don’t love the video’s flying finale, but that’s a debate for another time.)
“Weird Al” Yankovic, “Amish Paradise”
It wasn’t a question whether Weird Al was going to make this list — it was, which video do you include? “Smells Like Nirvana” is an inspired redo of the iconic “Smells Like Teen Spirit” clip. “Eat It” and “Fat” are beloved favorites. But I’m going with this Coolio parody, in part because it’s hilarious that Yankovic tapped Florence Henderson to play the Michelle Pfeiffer character from the original “Gangster’s Paradise” — which, of course, was taken from the film Dangerous Minds. “I wasn’t sure what to expect, but Al was incredibly professional and prepared,” Henderson later told Billboard. “(He) was nothing like the insane persona.”
Nirvana, “In Bloom”
Many love Weezer’s retro video “Buddy Holly” but, sorry, this Nirvana clip covered that terrain first. Getting tired of being hailed as the voice of a generation, frontman Kurt Cobain decided to take the piss out of people, dressing up his band as straight-laced, good-time early-1960s rockers in a send-up of the cheery Ed Sullivan-style variety shows of the time. You can practically see Cobain rolling his eyes throughout the video, setting the stage for the trio eventually laying waste to their instruments — not to mention the very notion of sanitized mainstream pop music that Nirvana railed against.
Paul Simon, “You Can Call Me Al”
Throughout his career, Paul Simon has written many melancholy, introspective songs, but he can deliver a peppy number when the spirit moves him. A perfect example was this Graceland track — which, ironically is actually about a guy dealing with a midlife crisis — and Simon leaned into the humor by wrangling his Saturday Night Live pal Chevy Chase to be in the video with him. It’s a simple, funny concept: We assume Simon is going to lip-synch his own lyrics but, nope, Chase takes the lead, leaving the singer-songwriter to feel like the sidekick in his own music video. Who knew Chase could be this appealing?
The Lonely Island (featuring Justin Timberlake), “Dick in a Box”
Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone essentially made music videos on Saturday Night Live as the Lonely Island, and although “Dick in a Box” wasn’t the first of them, it remains the most memorable. No matter how deeply lame Justin Timberlake has proven to be since, he’s spot-on alongside Samberg as the worst New Jack Swing duo ever, courting their beautiful ladies by offering the oddest Christmas present imaginable. God bless that amazing facial hair and those tacky-ass outfits.
Beastie Boys, “Sabotage”
“We’d done videos where the production people came up with these elaborate budgets, and it started to feel really awkward on the set,” the late Adam Yauch, aka MCA, recalled of the inspiration behind his band’s greatest video. “So we asked Spike to work with just a couple of people, so we could fit the whole production in one van. Then we just ran around L.A. without any permits and made everything up as we went along.”
Director Spike Jonze’s work on “Sabotage” was the apex of just-having-some-fun music video making. The Beastie Boys channeled their love of junky 1970s pop culture, transforming themselves into the baddest throwback policemen you could imagine, while Jonze nailed every cheesy cop-show trope imaginable, including the obligatory break for donuts. It didn’t hurt that the song was an absolute scorcher, a perfect soundtrack to a tongue-in-cheek action extravaganza. Few videos are as hilarious and cool at the same time.