COMEDY / That Condo moment: Comedy has come a long way since the Grumbleweeds. Or has it? James Rampton meets one of the all-singing, all-dancing Condos

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The Independent Culture
Music and comedy have not always been on first-name terms. Remember the Grumbleweeds? Or the Barron Knights? Now, however, the cabaret circuit has seen something of a rapprochement between the estranged parties. Kit and the Widow, the Doug Anthony Allstars, Fascinating Aida, the Rubber Bishops, Jim Tavare and the splendidly named Draylon Underground are all proving that music can be amusing.

Another band has now emerged which appears to be in tune with this trend, the Condos. The creation of actor-musician Jonathan Kydd, son of Sam, this talented band uses unusual genres - soul, R 'n' B, C & W, gospel - to cover all the usual stand-up subjects: sex, lies and vindaloo.

Relaxing between rehearsals in a Covent Garden cafe, Kydd reflects on the previously Lord Lucan-esque presence of comic music on the circuit. 'What most promoters want is stand- up, because it's easier. All they do is stick one mike up, plug it in, and collect the money. Music is associated with people going to the loo, or getting a pint. They think in terms of music being something at the end of the evening when they move the tables away and have a disco. Music has become Muzak.'

The Condos aim to change all that. Dressed in smart business suits and spectacles, the four musicians (lead singer Kydd, a keyboardist, and two close harmony female backing singers) are a slick spoof. They claim to hail from Scrunton, Pennsylvania and glory in the stage-names of Ezekiel, Charity, Chastity and Donald. Disproving the maxim that the Devil has all the best tunes, they are 'part of one big happy, God-fearing family. A family that practises polygamy and handles snakes to prove their faith. A family whose philosophy is one of creating 'positive vibes' through dance, and if the vibe is right, preventing war.' The Osmonds, anyone?

Kydd, a man who spends too much time watching satellite television, cites inspirations ranging from the Stylistics to Scientology. 'I watch a lot of old Top of the Pops on UK Gold. But you can even watch The Dukes of Hazzard and pick up strange ideas.'

'Confectionery', a sugary love-song about chocolate, was inspired by the 'phallocentricity' of the Flake ad, while the reggae-ish 'I Bark Like a Dog' was influenced by the Scientologist theory of regression. The Condos can dance as well as sing; their surfing routine would not look out of place at a Beach Boys concert.

What chiefly appeals to Kydd is the absurdity of most popular music. This is the root of the Condos' comedy. 'If you analyse most pop songs, they are full of incredible squeaks and ridiculous noises that we just accept,' Kydd muses. 'There is a Blues convention that people wail horribly in the background, and yet nobody's ever said how ridiculous they sound . . . The Condos get at the excesses of the musical world. It's that half-baked quality of pop - where they'll try to rid the world of war in a three- minute song.'

Kydd likens the experience of composing for the Condos to 'writing a sitcom - you have to have a gag every two lines'. He has honed this skill by coming up with more than 20 songs for Brian Conley's television sketch show.

The singer is hopeful that audiences will be lured into venues by the Siren sound of his comedy music. 'People are surprised that music can be funny. I'm not going to give up now.'

So where will it all end? A supporting slot on the next Barbra Streisand tour? Wembley Arena? Kydd smiles.' If Newman and Baddiel can do it . . . '

The Condos are playing the King's Head, 115 Upper St, London N1 (071-226 1916) to 15 May

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