Make 'Em Laugh

  (Redirected from Make 'Em Laugh (song))

"Make 'Em Laugh" is a song first featured in the 1952 film Singin' in the Rain, frenetically performed by Donald O'Connor. Written by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed, the song is based on Cole Porter's "Be a Clown".[1] It finished at #49 in AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs survey of top tunes in American cinema.

O'Connor's song-and-dance routine in Singin' in the Rain is noted for its extreme physical difficulty, featuring dozens of jumps, pratfalls, and two backflips. Hollywood legend states that O'Connor, though only 27 years old at the time and a chain-smoker, was bedridden for several days after filming the sequence. This high degree of difficulty has made the original routine a tour de force in physical comedy.

Song structureEdit

According to Cecil Adams in response to a 1976 letter addressed to the Chicago Reader, songwriter and producer Arthur Freed used his own library of songs for the musical Singin' in the Rain. During filming, Freed realized that Donald O'Connor needed a number all his own; but could not find anything suitable for his character within his collection. Director Stanley Donen referenced the Cole Porter tune "Be a Clown" from the film The Pirate, and further suggested that the writing team of Nacio Herb Brown and Freed compose a song using this as their inspiration. Donen recalls, "It was 100% plagiarism."[2] Both music and lyrics of "Make 'Em Laugh" bear almost exact similarities in form and style to "Be a Clown".[3] Although Cole Porter had unchallenged reason to bring suit, he never sued for copyright infringement.[4][5]

Notable performancesEdit

"Make 'Em Laugh" was later performed by Tim Curry, Kathy Najimy, and Mara Wilson at the 67th Annual Academy Awards in 1995.

The song was featured in the Disney video, Mickey's Fun Songs: Let's Go to the Circus, albeit with altered lyrics, among visuals of performing clowns at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

A parody of this song was featured on an episode of the TV series Family Guy titled "Peterotica". It was sung by Glenn Quagmire while visiting a sex shop with Peter, Cleveland, and Joe.

The song title was used for a six-hour documentary, Make 'Em Laugh: The Funny Business of America, which aired on PBS in January 2009.[6]

The song was performed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt on Saturday Night Live on November 21, 2009.

It was also performed by Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison) on the Glee episode "The Substitute" on November 16, 2010.[7]

It also had a new original rendition in the 2015 movie Minions, in Minionese.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Adams, Cecil. "Aren't the show tunes "Be a Clown" and "Make 'Em Laugh" suspiciously similar?". The Straight Dope. Retrieved 2009-02-11.
  2. ^ "Aren’t the show tunes “Be a Clown” and “Make ‘Em Laugh” suspiciously similar?" June 4, 1976. Adams, Cecil. The Chicago Reader.
  3. ^ Funcage. "Top 5 Examples of Plagiarism". 5. Singin' in the Rain.
  4. ^ Song Facts. Donald O'Connor. "Make 'Em Laugh". 1952.
  5. ^ "Be A Clown" and "Make 'Em Laugh:" Comic Timing, Rhythm, and Donald O'Connor's Face. Westover, Jonas. "Sounding Funny: Music, Sound, and Comedy Cinema" Ed. Mark Evans, Ed. London: Equinox, 2016. Pg 122-47
  6. ^ "Make 'Em Laugh". PBS. 2009. Retrieved 2009-02-11.
  7. ^ "Glee - "The Substitute"". Cultural Learnings. 2010-11-16.

External linksEdit