I have a particular soft spot for well-made novelty albums. Albums with songs that are clever, well-written, and capture (and sometimes challenge) the zeitgeist at that particular moment. There are a lot of great comedic albums out there, but there is a ton more filler as well. For me, it sometimes isn’t enough to just be silly for the sake of being silly. I appreciate a level of silliness that has character, charm, and isn’t afraid to challenge people or authority. Those reasons are why I absolutely adore Miss Julie Brown.
Julie Brown, for me, is my favorite out of all the MTV icons. Smart, funny, and gorgeous, she was a comedic hurricane of satire and parody. Brown’s career in entertainment started in 1980 doing a bit part during an episode of Happy Days and the Clint Eastwood film Any Which Way You Can. Since then, she has maintained a consistent career in television and film playing cameo and supporting roles. At times, she also wrote and produced programs including the cult comedy television series Strip Mall that aired way too briefly on Comedy Central.
Brown’s best and most iconic work were during her days on MTV. During the late 80s and early 90s, Brown starred in a comedy show called Just Say Julie that featured music videos with intermittent sketch comedy bits. In this role, Brown played a narcissistic, spoiled Valley Girl type character who was obsessed with Madonna and lampooned popular recording artists of the day. During that time, MTV still played a lot of music videos. Since its launch in 1981, MTV new and interesting ways to keep music videos in heavy rotation were being developed. Programming like Just Say Julie were clever vehicles to keep showing music videos but also diversify the appeal of MTV. We all know what MTV eventually turned in to, but there was a time when it could do no wrong.
The character Brown played on her show did not originate there. For years, Brown worked as a comedienne and developed her act as a ditzy, shallow girl obsessed with money, celebrities and cute boys. Prior to the MTV show, Brown was a recording artist performing songs in that character while lampooning Valley Girls and southern California culture. In 1984, she released an EP entitled Goddess in Progress which featured signature tracks like “The Homecoming Queen’s Got a Gun,” a fun doo-wop inspired song about a murderous rampage at a homecoming dance; “I Like ‘Em Big and Stupid,” an ode to dumb, good-looking men; and “’Cause I’m a Blonde,” a comedic anthem about stupid blonde women and how little they have to do in life. Goddess in Progress was the launching point of Brown’s music career. She went out on her best foot with a solid collection of witty satire.
In 1987, Brown released her first full-length stupid album. Trapped in the Body of a White Girl is one of the finest comedic records ever produced and where Brown truly shines a strong comedienne. The titular track is my personal favorite. “Trapped in the Body of a White Girl” is a funky synth-pop jam about breaking free from monotony. The song is cleverly written and showcases Brown’s talent at identifying humor in social constructs and hierarchy. Despite playing a ditzy character throughout the 1980s, Brown is an incredibly smart women and quite skilled at her craft.
Unfortunately, Brown’s musical career was short. Since the release of Trapped in the Body of a White Girl, she had a few sparse singles released included parodies of Kesha’s “Tik Tok” (“Another Drunk Chick”) and Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” (“Big Clown Pants”). However, what little she has put out is solid gold. Brown was the perfect MTV personality; funny, sardonic, and not afraid to challenge authority. With her great outfits and eye-catching red hair, Brown deserves more credit as a cultural 80s icon.