Music Interviews
4:25 pm
Sun October 13, 2013

A Comedy Woodstock, Courtesy Of Tenacious D

Originally published on Tue October 15, 2013 9:08 am

Woodstock didn't just bring together some of the most important musical acts of the late 1960s: It showed that a music festival could be a truly historic event.

These days, leave any pasture open long enough and someone will start setting up amps and concession stands. The outdoor music festival is ubiquitous in 2013. But so far, there has been no Woodstock for comedy.

Well, two intrepid organizers are trying to change that. Their names? Kyle Gass and Jack Black — or, as you might know them, Tenacious D. The acoustic duo, known for its absurdist delivery and reverence of all things metal, is the organizing force behind Festival Supreme, which will take over the Santa Monica Pier in California next weekend.

On the bill are some comedy legends — Eric Idle of Monty Python, Bob Odenkirk and David Cross of Mr. Show — as well as some of the performers known for incorporating music into comedy, such as Adam Sandler and Reggie Watts.

Jack Black and Kyle Gass recently joined weekends on All Things Considered host Arun Rath in the studios of NPR West in Culver City, and brought along their acoustic guitars. Hear their conversation and performance at the audio link.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ARUN RATH, HOST:

If you're just joining us, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR West. I'm Arun Rath.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

RATH: Woodstock, of course, brought together some of the most important musical acts of the late 1960s, and it turned music festivals into historic events. These days, though, if you leave any pasture open long enough, some hipster will start setting up amps and concession stands. The outdoor musical festival is everywhere. But so far, there's been no Woodstock of comedy. Well, two intrepid young organizers are trying to change all that, their names, Kyle Gass and Jack Black. You might know them as...

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

JACK BLACK: (Singing) Tenacious D.

RATH: Tenacious D has organized an all-star comedy festival for next weekend at the Santa Monica Pier here in California. It's called Festival Supreme. And I'm proud to welcome Jack Black and Kyle Gass into the studio. Welcome.

BLACK: Hey, you bet. You've got thousands of people here. No, it's just Kyle.

KYLE GASS: To-do-do.

BLACK: Thank you. That was a tremendous introduction. Thank you.

RATH: Wow. It's intense, the raw animal metal energy in this room. I don't know if NPR's ever experienced this before.

GASS: You could cut it with a spoon.

BLACK: I also appreciate you comparing our little festival to Woodstock. That is what we were going for.

RATH: Well, let's start. How - is that a fair comparison, the Woodstock comparison?

GASS: Well, it's funny. We almost named our festival Woodcomedy.

BLACK: No, we didn't. But it is fair in that it's the first of its kind, in our opinion. There hasn't been a real great comedy music festival that I know of, ever, not even a bad one. Forget great one.

GASS: I think there's been some great musical comedy festivals.

BLACK: Yeah, that's different. That's why we say comedy music.

GASS: Ah.

BLACK: Not to be - there will be no, you know, Oklahoma songs that I know of.

GASS: Yeah. Right.

BLACK: Although we didn't tell any of the artists what to do. They may break into some musical theater.

RATH: And it's an insane lineup of some brilliantly funny people. I mean, I can't even read them all off. Tim and Eric will be there, the Mr. Show experience, Sarah Silverman, Zach Galifianakis, Adam Sandler is - he doesn't really perform much anymore, right?

BLACK: No. But, you know, he's one of the forefathers of comedy music. He wrote some incredibly funny songs on "Saturday Night Live," so we invited him. And he - we too are surprised. He was like, yeah, I'm game.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE HANUKKAH SONG")

ADAM SANDLER: (Singing) You don't need "Deck the Halls" or "Jingle Bell Rock" because you can spin the dreidel with Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock, both Jewish. Put on your yarmulke, it's time for Hanukkah...

RATH: Think we'll hear anything new from him?

BLACK: He did say that he was going to be working up some new jams. We'll see. Our policy was just invite the geniuses and don't tell them what to do. Just tell them how long they have. But it's a four-stage event. There's going to be an open-air stage where all the rock bands and the big band things will happen. Like Maya Rudolph is going to be there with her band Princess, which is all Prince covers but done really hilariously.

RATH: Right. They do a great Darling Nikki.

BLACK: You know.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DARLING NIKKI")

PRINCESS: (Singing) Woke up the next morning Nikki wasn't there. I looked all over and all I found was a phone number on the stairs. It said, thank you for a funky time. Call me up whenever you want to grind.

RATH: What one brilliant person who sings that I - there's just one name that jumps out of this list, I was amazed you were able to get...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALWAYS LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SIDE OF LIFE")

MONTY PYTHON: (Singing) Always look on the bright side of life.

RATH: ...Eric Idle.

GASS: Yeah.

RATH: We should say for people who are cave dwellers, possibly, Eric Idle from Monty Python...

BLACK: Yes.

RATH: ...responsible for some of the best songs...

BLACK: That's right.

RATH: ...created "Spamalot."

BLACK: That's right.

RATH: How did that happen?

BLACK: That was a huge get. I sent him an email and just basically told him that he was my hero and that we loved him and that we were doing this thing. And I made it sound as attractive as possible. You know, there's going to be delicious foods. There's going to be, you know, the greatest comedians in the world there. And it wouldn't be complete without him because he has definitely written some of the funniest songs in the history of comedy. And he responded with a positive. He was like, yeah, let's do this, to my shock.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALWAYS LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SIDE OF LIFE")

PYTHON: (Singing) For life is quite absurd and death's the final word. You must always face the curtain with a bow.

GASS: The power of Jack's emails cannot be underestimated.

BLACK: I do have a very seductive power with my emails. I can get anyone to do almost anything.

RATH: Maybe you can write an email for us. We can get President Obama on the show. We could use you as a - you could be a great booker, Jack Black. You're wasting it on rock and comedy.

BLACK: You really want to get Barack - you want to get Barack Obama on the - has that been something you've been trying to do for a long time?

RATH: Can you do that for us?

BLACK: I can get that done.

GASS: Yeah, Barry, he's an old pal.

RATH: What you do, though, I mean, this is - like I said, this is an insane lineup. You...

GASS: It's a veritable who's who.

RATH: How much have you guys - I mean, is it you guys working the phones, or how did you pull it together?

GASS: I wasn't joking about the emails.

BLACK: We emailed everyone. And basically, the trick is you tell everyone everyone else is already in. It's a dirty trick. And then they say: Oh, well, if they're doing it, I want to do it too.

(LAUGHTER)

BLACK: I don't know if that's entirely kosher, but you do what you got to do.

RATH: So you're playing competitive comics off of each other and - yeah.

GASS: Hey, well you're making it sound worse than it might be.

RATH: So this is a comedy and music festival. And I believe you, gentlemen, have your guitars with you.

GASS: What?

RATH: Yeah.

GASS: Do we happen to have our guitars?

RATH: Happen to.

BLACK: You want a taste? But this is a song we're going to play for you now. It's kind of a departure from some of our other work. It's "The Ballad of Hollywood Jack and the Rage Kage."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE BALLAD OF HOLLYWOOD JACK AND THE RAGE KAGE")

TENACIOUS D: (Singing) This is the ballad of Hollywood Jack and the Rage Kage. Nothing could stop them when Jables and Rage hit the stage. Then Hollywood Jack hit the big time and went to make movies. Rage Kage was left far behind in the dust of his dreams.

And he grumbled and growled and watched Hollywood Jack on Jay Leno. He bellowed and said he'd be nothing without him from Kage. He burnt up the photos of Jables and Kage from the old days. Forget him, I don't need no Hollywood Jack anyway. So Hollywood Jack lived up high on a hill in a bubble. Rage Kage lived deep in the broiling valley below.

Yes the Rage Kage bubbled with rage. He looked at the ground and he looked on the stage. The lava was bubbling and growing in savvy old rage. And Hollywood Jack climbed the ladder of stardom before him. He watched as his indie credentials flew right out the door. He'd make millions and then he'd go out and he'd make even more millions. He'd screen KG's calls and he'd party with Zsa Zsa Gabor.

No one respected him, they just rejected him no one would represent Kage. Lost on the streets of his dreams he would cry and he'd rage, for the stage ahahaaa.

RATH: That's Jack Black and Kyle Gass. They are Tenacious D, and they've organized an all-star comedy festival for next weekend in Santa Monica, California. It's called Festival Supreme. You can hear the full version of this performance without me talking over Kyle's lovely recorder solo at nprmusic.org.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE BALLAD OF HOLLYWOOD JACK AND THE RAGE KAGE")

D: (Singing) So Hollywood Jack got a message that Kage was in trouble. They took Kage away 'cause he had gone completely insane. So Hollywood Jack jumped upon a jet plane and flew all that night through the rain to be with his friend and see what remained of his brain. Yeah, Hollywood Jack told the doctors, you've got to retrieve him. You've got the technology, use the techniques of your trade. He grabbed their lapels and he screamed, by God, you must save him.

RATH: And for Sunday, that's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Arun Rath. Check out our weekly podcast. Search for WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED on iTunes. You can follow us on Twitter @nprwatc. Also, check out the NPR app. We're back again next weekend. Until then, thanks for listening and have a great week. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.