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Thank You Very Much: Inside Bleachers' Secret Public-Access TV Show

"The whole thing is completely fucking bizarre," Jack Antonoff says of his band's faux telethon

July 16, 2014 11:40 AM ET
Jack Antonoff Bleachers
Jack Antonoff of Bleachers.
Courtesy of Bleachers

Jack Antonoff's latest bit of Bleachers anti-promotion was born late one night, over a bowl. Of cereal.

"I was home in New York, it was two in the morning and I was having cereal, just flipping through the channels," he explains. "I landed on a public-access show with this bizarre choir singing a song that seems like it never should have been written. I was transfixed. And I realized I loved the idea of someone discovering more of my music that way."

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That was the humble origin of Thank You Very Much, a no-budget, 30-minute TV show that premiered earlier this week on public-access channels in New York, Nashville, San Jose and Albuquerque with no advance notice. In theory, it was meant to promote Bleachers' Strange Desire album, but, like most things Antonoff's done lately – Craigslist ads, hotlines, faux AOL chatrooms – you probably wouldn't know it.

"It's kind of a fake telethon, a benefit for a benefit, and we're in the last half-hour of a 24-hour broadcast where everything's falling apart," Antonoff says with a laugh. "The whole thing is completely fucking bizarre. It kind of snowballed."

It sure did. Featuring musical performances, battling clowns and cameos from George Wendt, Alia Shawkat and Eastbound & Down's Steve Little (as a guitar instructor attempting to sully the good name of Candlebox's Peter Klett), Thank You Very Much takes its cues from the acute awkwardness of Between Two Ferns and Tim and Eric, to be certain, but also dusty TV gems like The Music of Nilsson, a BBC special that aired in the early Seventies. It's part art project, part dumpster-dive decoupage and all-out weird — which was precisely the point.

"We decided to make it as bizarre and real as possible. We tried to match the strange energy of public-access access television," Antonoff said. "Everyone rallied together and made it work. My agent, Mike, plays my dickhead sidekick. My sister Rachel is in it. Our crew did all the sound. Ben Berman, who directed, called in a lot of favors, the whole set is handmade. We literally created a cable-access show."

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And after RCA Records lined up a string of channels across the country to premiere Thank You, the show made its broadcast debut earlier this week. It will air again on various cable-access stations over the next few days (uh, check your local listings) and then, well, who knows? To be honest, Antonoff's not all that interested in figuring it out.

"If you look at the way most albums are announced, or promoted, it's not real interesting. You post something and then people reply to you on Twitter like 'Follow me, it's my birthday,'" he says. "With stuff like this, it fosters really interesting ideas and possibilities. After we made the Hotline, we did a call-in show, and it led to me talking with high-school kids about anxiety and depression. I feel like that's way more exciting and intimate. You can go much deeper."

And, at the very least, now Antonoff can say he's officially joined the public-access ranks. Which, really, was kind of the goal from the very beginning.

"If you just look up public access TV on YouTube you can get lost for days. We found some shit from New Zealand that would just blow your head off," he laughs. "Like people making toast in the woods, terrible songs, weird things. A lot of the stuff, you can't write it…which is why we didn't try to write it."

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