Comedy music is a hard thing to pull off. It is just one of those things that, if done right, can be really incredible, but that’s the trick. It HAS to be done right. For every comedy song that is done right, there are about 1,000 painstakingly awful comedy songs to go right along with it. Luckily for us, Trevor Moore, of The Whitest Kids U Know fame, is one of the good ones.
The Story of Our Times, Trevor’s second Comedy Central special and his third album, finds Trevor in the midst of a never-ending, excruciating brunch. In the middle of this brunch, there seems to be an endless array of stupid stuff said. This stupid stuff sends Trevor off into songs that are not just very well written, and not just funny, but also very poignant with a clear theme and message weaved throughout them.
Anybody can write a song and label it as funny (whether or not it actually is remains to be seen). But the true art is having a song that is funny, but also has something to say. And that’s the brilliance of Trevor Moore here, and something he pulls off so effortlessly.
We recently spoke to Trevor about his new special, the importance of music in musical comedy, his upbringing, and yes, The Whitest Kids U Know.
The structure for this special is a lot different than what I’ve seen before. What was the inspiration for the structure of this special?
Well this was something I kind of wanted to do. I brought it up for my last special, and then we decided to go a more traditional route. But then when we were talking about doing a second special, then I kind of brought it up again. I think I kind of want to make it like a movie almost. Kind of like Pink Floyd’s The Wall or something like that. They used to do like an album, but then actually have it be one semi-cohesive story. So then I just started writing this idea about all of these different topics that we were talking about, all things that could be brought up at this brunch. My girlfriend takes me to brunch with her friends and I’m just in hell. That was basically the idea. I was originally going to call the album Suicide and Cesar Salad, and at the end of the brunch I just blew my own head off.
The songs in this one are all really funny of course, but there also seems to be a clear message and theme behind them. Did you need to have songs like that to go hand in hand with having a cohesive story line?
When this album started to come together, I realized all these songs were in some way related, or the tone or what they were saying. There were a lot of connections between these two things. On other albums, it was almost like a variety show. Like all over the place. “Here’s a silly song, Here’s this.” But this one was a lot more opinionated I guess. When I was writing it, it became more obvious that this was kind of a statement about the times. Hence the name of the album. And it kind of lent itself very easily to that format I had been wanting to do of the kind of short movie.
And the statements are very bold, but a lot of them are all stuff that I have thought about as well, and so I’m glad that someone is out there talking about them in this way.
We ventured into it. Everybody talks about it. We’ve gotten into this crazy sort of zone where everything is so politicized and everything is so hyperbolic. Each side is just kind of basically speaking to the choir and just demonizing the other side. And so I kind of wanted to do this special that was sort of my feeling of somebody caught in the middle of all this, like “What is going on?” Hence that ending song [Shut the F*ck Up].
And even though the songs tackle a variety of current issues, it’s not something that is really too topical that I imagine it will be dating itself in the future. Like with the Kardashian’s song.
Yeah, I just put out a music video about the Kardashians, and I usually don’t do that type of thing. A song about pop culture. But the point of the song is that this has been around long enough that this is what people are going to remember us as. We’ve been paying attention to that family for a decade. That is a major part of our lives and so future generations will kind of look back at us as a Kardashian sort of decade and we’ve done that to ourselves.
How much research did you have to do for the song?
The idea was I would watch all of the episodes so I could summarize it, and then I was like “No, I’m just going to go read Wikipedia.” I read an episode synopsis for every single episode they’ve ever done. But I didn’t actually sit and watch every episode. I started, but then I’m like “I can’t do this.” I’ll do a 24 hour live stream, but I can’t do that to myself.
In the special, there is essentially a “brunch from hell.” What is the worst brunch that you have ever had?
It’s funny. I have a rule where I won’t go to eat with anybody if it’s more than 3 people. So it’s a rule I’ve always had because I hate big dinners and I hate going to brunch and stuff like that. So if we get invited to something, my wife will literally ask how many people will be there. And they’ll be like “5 or 6 people.” She will say “Trevor won’t go.” I kind of have a little rule for myself. I can’t stand going to eat.
Now you come from a family that is very musical, with both of your parents being Christian folk rock singers. How do they take the songs that you write, which are obviously very different?
Well my parents are super supportive. I think they’re proud that I’ve been able to make a career doing this. They hate the stuff that I do. They really don’t like the songs that I’m putting out and stuff. Whenever the new album comes out, it’s always a little dicey. But then after a while, things go back to normal. I haven’t talked to them for a little bit, for a couple days. I’m going to lay low until all this stuff blows over.
So they haven’t heard any of it yet?
I think I played them a couple of the tracks, because they came to visit me and I played them a couple of the tracks because they were curious. They were kind of quiet. I think they like it musically. They said musically it’s good, but they just don’t like the content.
What kind of stuff did you grow up watching?
I grew up watching a lot of Monty Python. My house was very conservative, so there was a lot I wasn’t allowed to watch. Like if a show had two swear words in it, I’d have to turn it off. So I could watch maybe 10 minutes of Saturday Night Live. But for some reason my parents were fine with Monty Python. So I watched a lot of Monty Python. When I was a kid, I watched a lot of David Letterman, the NBC late night one. Those were my big two things that I would watch.
I imagine you’d have to sneak a lot of stuff as well after they went off to bed.
Yeah. The big thing that I had to keep from my parents was that Adam Sandler CD that came out, They’re All Gonna Laugh at You. That album I thought was the funniest thing in the world. I always had to hide it because if my parents found it, I’d be grounded.
How important is the music to you, as opposed to the song just being funny?
The music is very important to me. Music has always been a major part of my life. I think the first person I realized was a comedian for a living was probably Weird Al. I was like “Oh, you can do that? That’s a job you can have?” I’ve always gravitated towards musical comedy. Even in Whitest Kids…, every season I would do two or three songs. About the first thing that went viral for us was this “Hitler Rap” I did as a student film in college. So the music is really important to me. My goal is that it just sounds like an album that’s also funny. The lyrics are a thing, but then all of the music is just really good. My producers, I’ve been working with them for almost 10 years now, Chris Maxwell and Phil Hernandez, their producing name is called Elegant Too. They’re just such great musicians and they sit in there and make it sound as good as possible. I want people to like it because it’s funny. Comedy is always the first priority. But I want people to listen to it a lot of times, and that happens if the music is also good.
What can viewers expect from the 24 hour live stream on Comedy Central’s Facebook this Thursday? Do you have anything planned as of yet?
It’s still coming together as we speak [on Tuesday]. My overall goal is that I’ve got 24 hours here, and I’m going to try to solve all the world’s problems in 24 hours. So every hour we’re going to take a different topic. The first hour we will get into the Middle East and see if we can solve that problem that’s been going for 70-80 years. And then we’re going to go into Star Wars. How can we fix the Star Wars movies? And then we’ll go into racism. How do we solve racism? Basically every hour we’ll take a different topic and we’ll have a different guest for every hour. We’re going to have big comedians coming in. We’re going to have a big array of different guests. And then we’ll also have open phone lines. I have an 800 number and anybody across the country can call in and debate stuff. And also I put up an ad for an open mic. So we’re going to have people coming in off the street, playing songs they’ve written, doing stand up, juggling. It’s going to be loosely controlled chaos. We basically set up a bunch of bombs, we’re lighting a bunch of fuses, and we’re just going to see what happens.
Let’s jump around a bit. What musical comedians do you like these days?
The honest truth is, and this is kind of embarrassing, I don’t watch a lot of comedy. So I’m a little behind when it comes to that stuff. But I think the stuff I’ve seen of Bo Burnham has been great. I think the stuff I’ve seen of Little Dickie has been great. There’s a lot of people who are really doing great stuff in the comedy music space. On one of my songs I had it produced by Mike Diva, I don’t know if you know him. He’s been doing really great music stuff on YouTube. He did the graphics for “My Computer Just Became Self Aware. He did the beat and the graphics for that.
Do you still enjoy touring?
Oh yeah. I play different comedy clubs around the country, and I usually bring Sam and Darren with me. So my shows are a lot of music, I’m excited to go out and tour the new album, but then I show some videos that we weren’t allowed to show of Whitest Kids… on the air. And then Sam, Darren, and I always do a couple of our Whitest Kids… sketches. So it’s kind of a variety show.
And finally, what’s the status of the Whitest Kids
So we finished the script. It’s our favorite thing we’ve ever written. And we’re just trying to pull together the funding for it right now. There’s just so many ways to do it that we’re just looking at. We don’t need a ton of money to make it, but we are just trying to figure that out. And also figure out our schedule. Our schedules have been a little difficult. Like Zack is on that show ‘Wrecked’, and they shoot in Fuji, so he’s in Fuji for a couple months out of the year. And then I showrun a Disney show, so I’m in production for a good chunk of the year. So we’re trying to figure it out. It’s something we hope we’re going to do in the next year.
Trevor Moore’s new special Story of Our Time premieres on Comedy Central on April 20th at Midnight.