The title track of Father John Misty's third album, this was released as the record's first single on January 23, 2017, along with a video directed by Matthew Daniel Siskin. Misty had previously debuted the song during a benefit concert for the Seattle Children's Hospital on December 3, 2016.
Father John Misty wrote most of the Pure Comedy album in 2015 and this song's first verse is an almost direct paraphrase of a brief rant he delivered during a performance at WXPN's XPNONENTIAL Festival in July 2016. The verse introduces a theme running throughout the record about how humans are born without knowledge and we're consequently at the mercy of others to educate us.
The comedy of man starts like this:
Our brains are way too big for our mothers' hips
And so nature, she divines this alternative:
We emerge half-formed and hope whoever greets us on the other end
Is kind enough to fill us in
And babies, that's pretty much how it's been ever since
Misty explained: "Pure Comedy is the story of a species born with a half-formed brain. The species' only hope for survival, finding itself on a cruel, unpredictable rock surrounded by other species who seem far more adept at this whole thing (and to whom they are delicious), is the reliance on other, slightly older, half-formed brains. This reliance takes on a few different names as their story unfolds, like 'love,' 'culture,' 'family,' etc."
Father John Misty was given a Steinway piano for his 36th birthday by his wife, Emma, Pure Comedy producer Jonathan Wilson, songwriter pal Emile Haynie, a friend and a couple of people from his UK label. He told Uncut: "Pure Comedy was the first song I ever wrote on piano, and it was the weirdest thing,. Just finding the right notes."
"No I didn't take lessons," he added. "If you hear music in your head it's not that hard to learn."