In the pantheon of musical comedy, very few artists have matched the kind of widespread success achieved by Tenacious D. Since starting out in the early Nineties, the hard-rocking duo of Jack Black and Kyle Gass have released a platinum-selling debut album, an acclaimed feature film and a short-lived HBO series. Since their third album Rize of the Fenix last year, Gass and Black have mostly focused on touring – but today, they are thrilled to announce the lineup for their inaugural musical comedy festival, Festival Supreme, set to take place on Saturday, October 19thin Santa Monica. Tenacious D will top the bill, naturally, and they will be joined by such comedic heavy hitters as Zach Galifianakis, Adam Sandler, Sarah Silverman, Fred Armisen, Eric Idle, Hannibal Buress, Will Forte, Demetri Martin, Tim and Eric and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. Black and Gass called RS to give us all the details.
When did you guys first decide to put the festival together? The press release says this has been in the making for quite some time.
JB: We’ve been talking about doing a huge music and comedy festival for years. We wanted to join all of the forces of comedy rock and put it under one big top, so I want to say the early Eighties. When I saw Cheech and Chong, I thought, wouldn’t it be great if we got Cheech and Chong, Martin Mull and The Smothers Brothers together for one big show?
That is a long time. So this idea goes back almost three decades?
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JB: No, I guess it was just a couple years ago that we decided to get everyone together.
KG: And we had a great name for it too.
JB: First, we wanted to call it “Monsters of Comedy Rock,” but we couldn’t take that because someone still owns the name “Monsters of Rock,” which was a festival in the Eighties. Our lawyers advised against using “Monsters of Comedy Rock” because it was too similar.
KG: We thought, what if we spelled Monsters with a Z?
JB: But it’s not really even the “Monsters of Comedy Rock” anymore. It’s more leaning towards the comedy now, but there’s still a good balance of music and comedy.
So who are you guys most excited to see perform?
KG: Well, I’m excited about The Mr. Show Experience.
JB: They didn’t want to be called Mr. Show. They wanted to be called The Mr. Show Experience, because they were going to sort of reinvent themselves in some way. That sounds exciting.
KG: Another huge one for us was The Mighty Boosh.
JB: I don’t even know if they’ve ever performed in the United States, but that’s our favorite television show to come out of the U.K. since Monty Python’s Flying Circus, speaking of which, that’s another one we’re really freaked out about is Eric Idle. I can’t even believe Eric Idle said yes. We asked him thinking, “He’s not gonna do it” – and now he’s doing it.
How did you get him on board?
JB: I just sent him an email or a love letter, basically telling him about my favorite songs that he’s written, and I said this is going to be a special day and a celebration and that there was going to be amusement park rides and good food to eat and that people are going to be kicking out the jams all day and it wouldn’t be complete without him. And he bought it.
You were involved with the TV series Mr. Show. Do you have any idea what The Mr. Show Experience will entail?
JB: Well, I know it will be Bob [Odenkirk] and David [Cross], and I don’t know who else they’re gonna be pulling in from the original cast. But no, I really have no idea. That’s the thing about Bob and David. They always swerve. They bob and weave. You can’t really anticipate what they’re gonna do.
KG: I’m sure they’ll be writing all the way up until the day of the show.
JB: They’ve made their careers out of steering clear of the clichés. I’m also excited to see Tim and Eric. They’re like my favorite insane performance art comedians of all time. They are the David Lynches of the comedy world and anything they do is bound to either expand your mind or leave you in a puddle of diarrhea.
Who are some of the lesser-known artists that people should look out for?
JB: Well, speaking of performance art, there’s a woman on the bill who goes by the name of Dynasty Handbag and she is not to be missed. I saw her in a little club in Chinatown about a year and a half ago and she changed my world. And Neil Hamburger is going to be doing the Neil Hamburger Band, which we anticipate will be painfully funny. Zach Galifianakis has something planned too. I was like, “Dude, come down and tinkle the ivories, please.” And he was like, “I’m not gonna tinkle the ivories, but I will do a musical performance.” So, I don’t think I should give away his thing, but he’s got something special.
KG: We’ve got the great Reggie Watts on there too. He’s amazing.
I was surprised to see Adam Sandler on the lineup – he rarely performs nowadays.
JB: He’s one of the forefathers, you know? He was doing funny songs on SNL long before Tenacious D. That’s for sure. He just said he was going to come down and play and cook up some new jams, so I’m looking forward to seeing what he has in store for us. Every time he writes a jam, it turns into some iconic thing that lasts for years. It’s what we’ve been trying to do!
As far as bridging the gap between music and comedy, is there any sort of underlying motive for the festival? Do you think more people will start to see the connection between the two after this?
KG: Yeah, I mean, that’s kind of our wheelhouse. It seems like they definitely cross over all the time, but there’s never been something like this where you have everyone under one roof.
JB: We always want to do the biggest possible show when we’re doing our concerts and tours, and we also did this thing every once in a while where whenever there would be a big tragedy, we would gather up all the comedians and musicians that we knew and do a little “Tenacious D Presents . . .” It was just always so damn fun, and we thought we should do it on a bigger scale and make it like a festival rather than just a concert.
There’s no real objective here other than to put on the greatest show this town has ever seen. I feel like there’s an empty hole there too. Like why hasn’t there ever been a really kick-ass comedy festival in Los Angeles? I can’t think of one. It’s like a no-brainer. This is where they all are. You don’t even have to fly anybody out.
I forgot to mention the Gregory Brothers. I’m looking forward to seeing what their live show is like, because they’ve got these great songs on the Internet. I’m looking forward to seeing them bust out those jams live. They songify the news and they did that amazing thing about the double rainbow. I might want to sing that with them.
There are a lot of stand-up comedians on the bill, too. Musicians and comedians tell me all the time that the two go together incredibly well. Why is it so difficult to convince the audience of that?
JB: Because stand-up comedy needs to be in smaller tents, I think, and we’re designing the festival that way. The stand-up comedians who are gonna go up, like Sarah Silverman and Hannibal Buress, are going to be in a tent. I think that’s a big part of it. When you’re out in a giant stadium or an arena, you’re just sort of a little mosquito out there. It’s the not the ideal venue for stand-up comedy.
So how many stages will you have at this festival?
JB: Three. Actually, there will be four if we have our way. We’re negotiating with the city to have a fourth stage at the end of the pier. It’s gonna be huge and people will be bummed if they miss it.
In most cases, musical comedy seems to appeal to a very specific type of person. How is it that Tenacious D has managed to break through that barrier and appeal to such a wide audience?
JB: I think we rock harder. What’s the difference between us and the unsuccessful versions of us? I hope it’s that we’re better. I hope it’s not that we sucked more dicks. We try very hard, but you know, we’ve sucked some dicks. Let’s be honest. What’s the difference? Better BJ’s!
I know you’ve been doing a lot of touring since the last album, but have you had a chance to start working on any new material?
JB: Yeah, we’ve got some ideas and we’ve been kicking them around, but we’ve been touring pretty non-stop. We haven’t had time to really get into the rehearsal space and start breaking ground on the new jams, but they’re floating around.
We want to speed up the process, though, because we’ve been putting out records once every six years and at that rate we won’t finish our contract with Sony for 24 more years.
KG: Until 2035.
JB: How old are you in 2035?
KG: I’ll be 85.
JB: So we’ll be 85 and 75. But, hey, I saw Mel Brooks last night in Beverly Hills, and he’s still pretty funny, and he’s 85. But yeah, look for a jam coming from the D in 2014 around this time.