NPR’s Wits Behind the Scenes and The Comedic Genius of Fred Willard

I did a taping of the NPR show Wits last night, playing bass with Shinyribs.  The other guests on the show were Carrie Rodriguez and legendary comedian Fred Willard.  There were two things that really surprised me:

1.  The first was how much work went into the show.  The show was supposed to begin at 8pm.  We showed up at 1:30 to soundcheck.  Now, that is pretty common in the musical world, to soundcheck hours before a gig.  However, we were the first of many things that needed checking and the staff that was there worked from before we got there to after we had left the theater.  (11pmish)  Now again, for sound guys, roadies, this kind of long hours is normal.  I had never seen it done for a radio show though, just the insanely long hours put in for a one off taping.  Also, once we were done sound checking Carrie Rodriguez had to sound check and then they did a two hour script run-through.  The script run-through was the thing that really surprised me.  Every radio show I’ve been on we show up, set up our gear, right before we play the radio personality enters, and we do the thing.  However, everyone that was on the air got up and did parts of all the script, at times doing whole skits. It again took close to two hours.  Even Fred Willard, who could probably do whatever in his sleep, was game and did the whole run through.  I’m not saying that one could not deduce that an NPR show would be professional, but actually seeing the amount of work put into it was surprising to me for some reason.  This was show business in the sense that it was entertaining and fun, but people were clearly putting in a lot of work to make something as good as they could.

2.  The other thing was how fucking funny Fred Willard is saying just about anything.  I’ve seen stand-up comedy shows, but I’ve never seen anything quite like this, which is partly scripted and partly off the cuff.  He could say just about anything and the crowd laughed.  This wasn’t because he was famous, or because he had writers who gave him part of the script, or because he had spent weeks and months crafting his material like many stand-ups do; he just had great instincts, impeccable timing, and a quick mind.  There is a clearly a reason someone like that has gotten so many roles in comedies.  I’m not saying that when he is in a movie or TV show that good editing might not help him be even funnier, but in the flesh, just shooting things off the top of his head, he had the crowd in the palm of his hand.

On Tour This Week

Tonight I’ll be in Lubbock with Shinyribs.  We play Amarillo tomorrow night and Wichita Falls on Friday.  Saturday and Sunday we’ll be at Old Settlers Festival right outside of Austin.  If you want the full details go here.  That will take you to the Shinyribs show page.

Our new album Okra Candy is coming out this week.  We should have physical copies this weekend and it is available online on the 21st.

Old School Austin Groove Premiere

Today the video for Old School Austin Groove premiered.  It’s a song that is part of the soundtrack for the movie Crazy Carl And His Man-Boobs: An Austin Love Story.  Both were filmed by Beef & Pie Productions and you can stream the movie in full for free here.  The song was written and performed by Shawn Sahm and Kevin “Shinyribs” Russell.  That is Keith Langford, of Shinyribs and the Gourds, holding down the rhythm with myself.  The Crazy Carl movie is actually a really great documentary about Austin, despite its seemingly bizarre subject matter, though the title character himself is an interesting character study with a lot of heart for anyone interested in the strange thing we call humanity in general.  A must see for anyone that has any interest in the city of Austin past, present, or future.

The recording session and the filming of the video were great fun.  If I said any more someone would kill me…

Shinyribs New Album Release

Shinyribs Album Cover

The new Shinyribs album Okra Candy is now officially coming out April 14th.  I played bass on 7 of the 10 tracks and cowrote one of them.  I think this is the best Shinyribs album yet, due to Kev’s writing, great performances, and production that makes the most out of each track.  Stay tuned!

Night of a Thousand Tuesdays – Couch By Couchwest

Night of a Thousand Tuesdays

I just got back from Florida at around 5am this morning from tour.  In the meanwhile here is a clip of myself performing a song called Night of a Thousand Tuesdays for Couch By Couchwest in a Florida hotel room.  Shot by Mr. Kevin Russell.  Just having some fun kids…

Night of a Thousand Tuesdays

No longer scared of ghosts or witches
Of the latter I’ve known a few

No longer scared of death or dying
It comes no matter what you do
No longer root for teenagers
In horror movies on TV
The serial killer in his mask
Is now the only one that speaks to me

I’ve spent too much time in the office
Hearing your senseless voice

It’s the night of a thousand Tuesdays
I could kill without remorse

When we’re young and innocent
We fear what’s hiding under the bed
Now if I met a monster
I’d embrace it and my end

I’ve spent too much time in the office
Hearing your senseless voice

It’s the night of a thousand Tuesdays
I could kill without remorse

Busy work and cold calls
Have stolen my youth
Cubicles and their walls
Have blinded me to the truth
The worst is when you pretend
That we’re a family
It’s turning me into an animal
That wants to see you bleed
That wants to see you bleed…

Spent to much time in the office
Hearing your senseless voice

It’s the night of a thousand Tuesdays
I could kill without remorse

The idea is that when you are an adult, no horror movie is near as scary as working endless days at a meaningless job…

Austin, Allergies, and Other Things

Allergies in Austin have knocked me out of commission the last few days.  For any of you who are thinking coughing and sneezing, I hope you are not asking me to laugh in your face.   It’s more like someone is injecting one with Nyquil, but a brand of it that is actually increasing your cold.  I sometimes wonder if my conspiracy-theory friends are right about the government and chemtrails.  Anyway…

The Walking Dead is the best show on TV right now.  (At least until the return of Mad Men.)  Describing why would take a whole series of posts, but a lot of it has to do with the fact that week after week it pushes the limits of what you can do with characters in long form writing.  Breaking Bad, which I love, took Ned Flanders and turned him into Scarface, but this has done that for almost an entire cast.  Meanwhile, while you knew Walter White was crossing a line that shouldn’t be, with the rules of society gone out the window on The Walking Dead, you don’t know whether the characters are people that should be rooted for or feared.  The show has a moral complexity to it that I find really interesting.  It looks at human nature outside society in the same way that a novel like Lord of the Flies does.  As a bonus, it is flat out entertaining as hell!

I’m watching Better Call Saul right now.  I’m still on the fence about this show.  There is a lot to like in the performances and the details of the writing.  However, the show still feels like it is building towards something, that it hasn’t arrived yet.  I’m going to stick with it as I trust Vince Gilligan, also the creator of Breaking Bad, will pull it all together.

If anyone is interested in South African Music, I can’t recommend the compilation Homeland: The Best of Black South Africa enough.  It’s one of those rare compilations that plays like a really great album.  Every track has a commonality that feels related to the others, but the diversity of artists means that it also never gets boring.  I clearly can’t understand the lyrics, but this is soul music, in the sense that it is uplifting and life-affirming, even if you get the sense that it was created under hardship.

This week I go on the road with Shinyribs to Florida for a festival.  You can get the details here:

Shinyribs Shows

I hope to be back up at my usual posting rate by tomorrow, but if I’m not, you know why.

In the future when all’s well…

Jeff