Speaking of monkeys, Jesse David Fox has a great interview with some of the people behind the fantastic Planet of the Apes musical episode from way back in the Simpsons’ 7th season. The Simpsons’ musical composer, Alf Clausen, discusses how he tries to bring some seriousness to the show:
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.
Fresh Air recently recompiled their old interviews with Simpsons creators and you can read the rest of that episode’s transcript, but really you should listen to it. Here’s the Overcast link for the episode.