Esopus CD #25: Jokes


“The thing is, everyone knows what’s funny…to them. The hard part is figuring out what’s funny to other people. That’s much more mysterious. I’m constantly learning about what’s funny to other people, and I’m still surprised by how often my guesses are wrong. And while I’ve never written a good song, I imagine making music that moves people is a similarly mysterious process.”—Demetri Martin 

For our 25th audio compilation, we invited 11 musicians—Ak'chamel, Lauren Balthrop, Ian Drennan, The Hazy Rhythm Wonder Band, Lonnie Holley, Joseph Keckler, Lucas Oswald, Jake Schrock, Peter Silberman, Katie Von Schleicher, and Alicia Walter—to select a joke to use as inspiration for a song. We could think of no one more perfect than comedian Demetri Martin to introduce the fantastic songs they created. Also included here: a series of new jokes inspired by music that were written by Martin especially for the issue. 


Actor, comedian, artist, and author Demetri Martin contributed to The Daily Show and Late Night with Conan O’Brien (2004–2006) and produced his own Comedy Central show, Important Things with Demetri Martin (2009–2010). Martin starred in Ang Lee’s Taking Woodstock in 2009 and wrote and directed the film Dean in 2016. His books include This Is a Book (2011), Point Your Face at This (2013), and If It’s Not Funny It’s Art (2017). In 2023, he embarked on the Joke Machine Tour across the U.S.

Lonnie Holley
Why Did the Man Talk to a Horse Off in the Bar?

Artist and musician Lonnie Holley was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama. His artwork has been the subject of numerous one-person exhibitions, including Lonnie Holley: I Snuck off the Slave Ship at Atlanta Contemporary Art Center (2017); Thumbs Up for the Mother Ship (with Dawn DeDeaux) at MASS MoCA, North Adams, Massachusetts (2017); Do We Think Too Much? I Don’t Think We Can Ever Stop: Lonnie Holley, A 25-Year Survey at the Birmingham Museum of Art (2003); and several shows at James Fuentes Gallery, New York, which represents the artist. His work is in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, among others. Holley, who has collaborated musically with Dirty Projectors and Animal Collective, debuted his first solo album, Keeping a Record of It, on the Dust-to-Digital label in 2013; his second LP will be released by Jagjaguwar Records in the fall of 2018. 

Vocals: Lonnie Holley, Courtney Hartman, Elizabeth LaPrelle, Anna Roberts-Gevalt. Fiddle: Anna Roberts-Gevalt, Zosha Warpeha. Produced by Matt Arnett, Philip Weinrobe, and Lonnie Holley. Recorded and mixed by Philip Weinrobe at Figure 8 Recording, Brooklyn, NY. © 2018 Lonnie Holley. Courtesy of Jagjaguwar Records

Lonnie Holley
Why Did the Man Talk to a Horse Off in the Bar?
Lucas Oswald
Just a Joke
Alicia Walter
Cosmic Joke
Joseph Keckler/Train with No Name
Jake Schrock
Lauren Balthrop
Never As We Wished It
Peter Silberman
Why the Long Face?
Katie Von Schleicher
Strangest Thing
Hazy Rhythm Wonder Band
Reflections of Reality
Ak'chamel, the Ecstatic Brotherhood of Anima Mundi
Why Did the Taliban Burn 10,000 copies of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon in a Public Square?
Ian Drennan
Traditional Dime
Faith Soloway
My Dad Is Dating My Best Friend...and I Like It! (Theme Song)