This segment (beginning at around 18:23 in the link) from an episode of Mr. Show with Bob and David, a mid-Nineties sketch comedy series for HBO created by David Cross (Tobias Fünke in Arrested Development) and Bob Odenkirk (Saul Goodman in Breaking Bad and its spinoff Better Call Saul), presents an extended, playful, surprisingly faithful tribute, both musically and stylistically, to the 1973 film, concerning a reluctant slacker messiah who “plays video golf and gets high all the time.” The spoof is spot-on, especially regarding Norman Jewison’s filmmaking techniques and Yvonne Blake’s costume designs. There is also a surprising amount of attention to detail in the music. Jack Black played the title role before his success, solo and with Tenacious D (and, incidentally, a cameo as Herod alongside the film’s stars in a celebrated concert version in 2006). Look out for Sarah Silverman as the girl in sunglasses who gets hit by the ricochet of “the first stone”; according to Black, she improvised her fall after the fake rock bounced off her, a sign of the comic instinct that later led her to stardom.
Writer/comedian Matt Berry (Laszlo in What We Do in the Shadows and the title role in Toast of London, among other well-known parts) has made no secret of his being a fan of JCS, devoting a segment of The Culture Show to it in 2010 and more recently contributing an essay to the hardcover book included in the concept album’s 50th-anniversary “deluxe edition” 3-CD box set. Thus, it doesn’t seem surprising that he and Richard Ayoade (Maurice in The I.T. Crowd and frequent British panel show guest) teamed up to create AD/BC, which debuted in 2004 on BBC Three. Another affectionate and highly specific jape, this time a rock retelling of Christ’s birth from the innkeeper’s point of view, complete with Ian Gillan-worthy high notes sustained for absurdly long durations and juxtaposition of period-perfect ‘70s music, clothes, language, choreography, and products against the ancient Middle Eastern setting. The cast is a bumper crop of 21st-century British comedy royalty, including Julian Barratt, Julia Davis, Noel Fielding, Rich Fulcher, Matt Lucas, and Berry and Ayoade.
This is the most recent entry and perhaps the most beloved by a specific subset of fans. Back in 2014, Canadian songwriter and film/drama student Christo Graham spent a couple of nights recording a special Easter presentation for Internet release: a 9-track E.P. of songs from JCS… as performed by The Muppets (well, Graham himself in character as all of The Muppets). That’s right, folks… Kermit the Frog is Jesus, Miss Piggy is Mary Magdalene, The Great Gonzo is Judas, Fozzie Bear is Simon Zealotes, Pepe the Prawn is Pilate, Rowlf is King Herod, and the background vocals are ostensibly performed by The Electric Mayhem and Gonzo’s chickens. It is unquestionably goofy, and some impressions are better than others, but it’s also hard to call it a true parody when many of the songs are played straight, with maybe a word swapped out here and there (“if you strip away the myth from the frog,” for example). The E.P. is only about a half-hour long, which is as palatable as it gets; the laughs might have run thin if the whole score were attempted. Ultimately, MCS is a bizarre but loving tribute to both the words and music of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber and the creativity and legacy of Jim Henson, well worth the listen for Kermit’s memorable delivery of “Gethsemane” if nothing else.