I hearken back to something that was said to me a long time ago by a trumpet player who worked in the studios. He said to me, “You can’t vaudeville vaudeville.” The reason for that particular directive is that he said if you wanted to make something funny, you don’t use funny music to go there. You use music that is extremely serious.
Clausen expands on that with his interview on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross:
GROSS: When you’re writing a song parody are you trying to write it as if it were serious, as if it were really a Broadway show or really a movie theme?
CLAUSEN: Absolutely, not only in creating the songs, but in creating the underscore music for “The Simpsons” and trying to give credence to the emotional content of what the characters are saying. I’m always extremely serious, and I think what happens is that the the listener and observer gets pulled into the situation more effectively once the music is serious, so that when the gag finally comes, the gag then becomes twice as funny.
I think about the musical underscore for shows a lot, how they ham it up during emotional moments to further draw you in. It works.
David Marchese: Is it fair to say you’re not interested in revisiting a late-night talk show? David Letterman: My interest has shifted. When I’m talking about things to do now, it’s not like, God-dang, let’s get right back into comedy. Let’s call the Butterball hotline on Thanksgiving. But bring in Donald Trump or Mike Pence or somebody, and let me smother them with my ignorance. I’ll tell you what really got up my nose — do you have a minute? — was the John Lewis thing. Congressman John Lewis. Do I have the name right?
DL: So he announces he’s boycotting the inauguration. Trump hops on his Twitter device and describes John Lewis as just another all-talk, no-action congressman, so sad.
DM: It turns out John Lewis has been involved in a fair bit of action. DL: Holy God. First of all, because I’m always thinking about myself, I think, I was about John Lewis’s age when he marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Would I have had the guts to do that? The all-talk John Lewis goes down there and gets a goddamned skull fracture. I mean, Trumpy will never have to worry about a skull fracture because of the hair. Thank you! How do you know if Donald Trump is lying? His lips are moving. Thank you! But in addition to every other thing that’s wrong with the Trump, he’s ignorant in a way that’s insulting to the office, insulting to America, insulting to human rights, insulting to civil rights, insulting to John Lewis. Trump saying that broke my heart. I thought, You stupid son of a bitch. You ought to have known better than that.
If I told you that there was a TV show coming out, and it was based on a podcast, you might suspect it to be awful. You would be wrong, the McElroy’s first episode of their new TV show is very funny. It’s supposed to be an advice show. Nobody should follow their advice.