Today, comedy-rock stalwarts Tenacious D have released the first episode of Post-Apocalypto, a six-part YouTube series that marks their first project in six years. The hand-drawn series features the duo — Jack Black and Kyle Gass — getting into a series of vulgar, twisted, occasionally political antics after the nuclear apocalypse. Every frame of Post-Apocalypto is hand-drawn by Black himself and all voices are by the pair. With a new episode dropping every Friday, the series culminates on November 2nd with the final chapter and the release of the soundtrack album, the group’s fourth LP. The album’s drums will, once again, be provided by Dave Grohl — or as Black says, “He crushes it with thunderskins.”
The D is making a full return with a North American tour in November and December. We caught up with Black and Gass to talk about cartoon blowjobs.
“This is the cover of the Rolling Stone, am I right?” says Black. “It’s the last thing on our bucket list, so I’m glad we’re finally gonna get it.”
When exactly did you guys start thinking about the apocalypse?
Jack Black: If you’re asking when did we start to think we needed to do a post-apocalyptic movie, the answer is: As soon as Donald Trump came down that fuckin’ escalator. We were like, “Ohhhhh boy! We’re going to Hell.”
Did it influence the series, now that it does feel closer to an actual apocalypse?
Kyle Gass: Well, it’s not something that you root for. You hope it’s always kind of ironic. But it’s kind of in the air.
Jack Black: I mean, yes, our piece is definitely influenced by current events, but we finished it … a couple months ago now, Kage?
Black: There’s no Bob Mueller updates in the current cut of the film. Have you see the film?
I saw the first episode.
Black: Oh man! You’ve only seen just the tip!
Gass: It gets better, stay with it.
Black: There’s so many more penises. You know that opening credit sequence, when the theme song is playing and you see all the snapshots of things that are gonna be coming soon? … I think we pretty much made good on all of those images that you see in the opening theme song credit sequence. So there’s gonna be a lot of monsters, there’s gonna be a lot of adventures, there’s gonna be a lot of rad music and sex and violence and … and politics. It’s all in there, bro.
Gass: Yeah, all the fun things.
What came first: The music, the drawings or the story?
Black: On this one, I think, the story. We kind of hit the beginning, middle and end of each episode and then would write music kind of like on assignment to speak to that particular episode. And then the drawing come last. After we got the radio play for an episode in place then we’d get all the drawings together.
This is kind of like a radio play. Was there any influence from that medium?
Black: It ain’t no Lake Wobegon! Ho ho! … What radio plays have you ever listened to, K.G.? Listen to any radio plays?
Gass: Well … uh. No.
Black: Any books on tape?
Black: I can’t say that I’m a fan of radio plays, it was just a launching [point].
Gass: I’ve read that they’re really great, though. I think Mamet, he wrote [about] how great they were. Mamet, I’m going with him.
You said in 2012 that the movie studio didn’t want to do another Tenacious D movie but you “found a loophole with the Internet and animated shorts.” Is that partially why this series is appearing on YouTube?
Black: I think they closed that loophole, though. I don’t think the Internet is any longer like a safe haven. But our parent company [Sony Music] doesn’t care if we do a six-episode mini-web series that they don’t have to spend a penny on. That’s OK with them. … I think they would have a say in the soundtrack, which is fine with us. Every season would have to have a soundtrack and that’s where our record company comes in. Let’s hope we get to that bridge, ’cause that’ll be a Celebration Bridge when we get to it.
Did YouTube tell you there were any things you couldn’t do?
Gass: Obviously not.
Black: Amazingly, no. Amazingly, no one has tried to stop us in any way.
Gass: It’s pretty pure.
Black: Well, my wife did push back on one sequence. And we edited that part out and I’m glad she did because it would have been a mistake. Let’s just say there were one too many blowjobs in Post-Apocalypto.
So, Jack, you drew every panel of this?
Gass: Quite honestly, there was concern that Jack would not be able to physically do it. It was a lot of drawing and thought we’d have to outsource.
Black: There were hundreds of hours of drawing involved. It was my serious job. I was doing it all the time. I was 9-to-5in’ it. I have to say, I really enjoyed the process. And I hope that this thing is a gigantic success and we have to do another season because I’m digging it. I think I like it more than acting.
Gass: And there was a lot of drawings that we didn’t use.
Black: I got a big pile of rejects at my house. We might have to put out a book of rejected drawings.
Do you listen to music when you draw?
Black: No, honestly, I just listen to the radio play. I listen to [the] radio play over and over and draw to the emotions of the words.
What do you consider your influences as an artist?
Black: Beavis and Butt-Head, first and foremost. You can say that those were bad drawings, but they were also brilliant in their badness. There’s nothing ever as funny as a drawn character as Beavis or Butt-head, those guys were a revelation. And so we were trying to get to that magical spot that Mike Judge found.
Gass: And I would say Pee-kah-so
Black: Oh, yeah, Pee-kah-so, a little Pee-kah-so. Maybe there’s a little Pee-kah-so influence as well. Love me some Pee-kah-so. Let me just say the first episode was rough. As the series went on, over the months and months, my drawing actually got a little better. And by the end there’s some, like, detail to the landscapes.
I noticed you draw all five fingers on your characters.
Black: Do some people not? Like The Simpsons, they only do three or something.
The Simpsons have got four fingers, Mickey Mouse has got four fingers
Black: You know, the thing is, I just wanted to be one finger better than Walt Disney. But I do have a little OCD, so I’m a stickler for the right amount of digits.
In the very first episode, you guys literally jump a shark.
Black: And nuke a fridge, if we’re gonna talk about that. “Nuke the fridge” is not as popular as “jumping the shark,” but it’s every bit as relevant. I think the idea was everything’s been done, we’ve done it all, it was time to jump the shark in one last desperate bid for celebrity.
Gass: Well, first we had to pay the rent!
Black: Paying the rent! That’s the biggest cliché in the history of storytelling. Let’s go with that and then we jump the shark right out of the gates and then the nuke is dropped and we have to nuke the fridge to survive. It’s kind of a way to clean the slate and start from scratch a new beginning. And it was the perfect sort of landscape for a thrilling, rip-snorting action-adventure-musical-comedy. … In this day and age of sequels and prequels, there is nothing new under the sun and it was time to nuke the fridge and jump the shark. But since the jump of the shark on the Happy Days, there’s been a lot of talk of jumping the shark but has anyone really jumped the shark since then? I think we may be the first shark jump since the Fonz. They said it should never be done again.
Gass: No, especially when you have a sidecar. Very, very dangerous.
Black: It’s twice as hard. It might be thrice as hard as what Fonzie did. He didn’t have a fuckin’ side car.
Dave Grohl plays drums again on this record. Is it hard to tell someone as esteemed as him what to do musically?
Gass: Well, it kinda is at first, until you realize it’s your album and you want it to be right.
Black: Now, let me just say, every time we make a new album, we ask Dave Grohl if he would be available/interested in throwin’ down on the new Tenacious D record. And we always assume this is the year that he’s gonna say, “Sorry, guys, I’m a little busy.” But he fuckin’ comes through. Again, he comes through. Unfathomable. I don’t know why, I don’t how, but we got him again. And he crushes it. He crushes it with thunderskins. Do you give him notes? First you wanna hear what’s he gonna do, and there’s always minds blown. He’s the greatest living drummer, what are you gonna do?
Gass: Go in there and say “Hey, Dave, can you hit a little harder? Come on, bro?”
Are you guys considering Post-Apocalypto your second movie?
Black: Well, yeah. But you can also consider it our second round of short episodes, ’cause we started off on HBO with these short little episodes. … It’s almost identical to the format of this project ’cause we got six shorts, about the same length as the episodes on HBO. … It seems like we have not really matured since the very beginning. That’s our comfort zone. But I will say, I feel very proud of this one, I think it is our best work in a lot of ways.
Can you expand on that a little bit?
Black: Well, there was no governor. There was no boss up above telling us what to do. … I guess it’s more like the movie in that it’s a narrative that goes throughout, it’s gotta real arc similar to Pick of Destiny. But this one was all ours. There was no one else in there, and it feels more personal. It’s more our baby, if you will, than anything we’ve done before.