This is episode 2 of The Dialogue, in which we sit down and interview Paul & Storm, whose new show Learning Town is coming soon on Geek & Sundry. Here’s a transcript of the interview: CSICON: Welcome back to another episode of The Dialogue, my name is Breki Tomasson. I’m joined today by Paul & Storm; hello. Thank you very much for taking the time to join us here today.
Thanks for having us!
CSICON: My pleasure; my pleasure. So; Learning Town is a new show, launching in just a little bit – when is it launching, by the way?
CSICON: Okay, so just over a month away. What can you tell us about the basic premise of the show?
Basically, it’s about a moderately successful music comedy duo named Paul and Storm – creatively named – who end up taking an old school American kids’ show – a fictional kids’ show – called Learning Town and it turns out they’re completely incompetent at the job. They enlist the help of people who know what they’re doing, but despite that; puppets end up catching fire and all sorts of mayhem ensues.
CSICON: You say you’ve got plenty of people joining you, does that mean famous co-stars?
A few! But also … There’s a character named Teddy who’s played by a friend of ours named Mike Phirman, who plays a Paul & Storm superfan, who becomes the head puppeteer on the show – except he’s not any good at it and tends to be disaster prone. Also there’s an actress named Bresha Webb, who plays a character named Cookie Tuesdays, who used to work for the rival show called Hickie Burr, which is sort of a Yo Gabba Gabba! hipster randomness fest. She leaves that show to come be a producer on our show and tries to, sort of, retain her sanity while she tries to get us to put on something resembling an actual show. There are some folks, some cast members that people with familiar with. James Urbaniak, who is a seasoned character actor, who is probably best known for his voice work as Doctor Venture on The Venture Bros.. He also tends to be on every American police procedural show as the kind of creepy guy who early on you think might be the guy who did the crime and turns out he didn’t.
CSICON: Is he playing the same kind of role on your show?
He plays a creepy guy; he actually does! Although there’s no murder involved. It may be implied, but there’s no actual murder involved in the show. Certainly not with his character!
CSICON: How did the idea for the show come about?
We were going to be working with Kim Evey, our producer, who’s now Geek and Sundry, on an office-based musical. This was a few years ago and it never quite panned out. And then, when Geek and Sundry formed about a year ago with Felicia Day and Kim Evey, we sort of brought it back to life and said “Well, we should do something!”, and a friend of ours suggested why not make it like a kids’ show. Not for kids, but something where you guys take over this kids’ show. It really caught fire from there. Did we mention, by the way, that this is a musical?
CSICON: Of course it is. Do you have any musical stars showing up as guests?
We have a special secret surprise which I guess I’m not allowed to reveal yet, otherwise I would happily tell you who it is, but a very recognizable face and name appears at a certain point in the show.
CSICON: Is it Michael Jackson?
That would be pretty awesome! We have a holographic Michael Jackson! He’s our co-star.
CSICON: I have a hunch of who it might be [Ed. Note: Weird Al], but let’s leave it at that.
We’re not going to confirm nor deny, except that it’s not Michael Jackson! Other than that; you’re probably right, but certainly there are other folks who sing, Bresha Webb, who plays Cookie Tuesdays, the producer who we bring in, is an incredible singer and has a terrific number. Of course, we have Mike Phirman singing as well, and every episode has, basically, a music video in the middle of it, sort of like Flight of the Conchords.
CSICON: I’m looking forward to seeing it; and it’s just over a month away. I want to ask you a couple of other questions, not really regarding Learning Town, but more regarding your music and your careers. One of the things that I’ve enjoyed on your website and other places is your “weekly” podcast, as it’s called on the website. It’s not at all weekly, though. Do you have any plans to increase the tempo here or anything like that?
We do. It had been weekly for an awful long time, just we got so caught up, in great part putting together Learning Town, which has been a lot of fun, but a lot of fun work, but that’s definitely something we want to get into more consistently again. Actually, maybe we’ll just take this interview and relabel it as one of our podcasts.
CSICON: You’re free to do so! Also; tell me about Wootstock; how did that get started and where is it going?
Wootstock is, for those unfamiliar, a sort of geeky variety show, that’s cohosted by us and Wil Wheaton from Star Trek: The Next Generation and Stand by Me and many other things and Adam Savage from MythBusters. We had been friends with both of those guys, just having gone through the various geeky circles over the years. Storm and I had wanted to do some shows on the west coast, and we thought maybe we could do a show with Wil, because we’d occasionally performed with him at a convention or something, we’d sit in during one of his panels and play some background music for a story or what have you. We thought, Maybe we could do a show with Wil, and that very quickly evolved into, well; we’re going to be in San Francisco where Adam is, maybe we could make it sort of a bigger thing with Adam as well, and from there it turned into this event where you bring in other guests as well. It just turned into this three-to-five hour lengthy variety show. It’s not 100% particularly nerdish content per se as much as it’s very nerd friendly, I guess I’d say. And it’s just turned into this wonderful thing that we bring around every so often that’s been a lot fun for us to do. We’ve met a bunch of great people. At this point, the problem is getting everybody’s schedules to coalesce to be able to do something like that. Lately, just about the only place we’ve been able to do it for sure is ComicCon in San Diego, and we do expect to have another one in this coming year, in 2013, and we’re also going to have, hopefully, one in February, although I don’t know if I’m allowed to say when and where yet, but we’re trying to have one in February of 2013 as well.
CSICON: I can imagine that East Coast or Europe are attractive destinations.
We would love to bring it there again, as much as anything. Adam and Wil are actual celebrities who have very busy schedules, and it’s very tough to get them to do one in their own home towns, much less bring them anywhere else. It is not for a lack of wanting to do so, we would absolutely love to bring Wootstock over to Europe, Australia, Asia, we’ll take it to Mars! We’d love to be the first variety show on Mars! Maybe if Learning Town is successful enough, we’ll be able to buy out Wil and Adam and just do it wherever we want and whenever we want.
CSICON: I’m very interested in the creative process. I’ve been a creative person all my life, making art, music, writing and making podcast, so I’ve got to ask. Even though it’s bound to differ from song to song, how does the average song come about for you guys, from idea to finished song? How long does it take and what kind of work is involved?
It’s really all over the place. Sometimes one of us will have an idea and it comes very quickly and the other one might come in just on the music or just offer some tweaks here and there. Other times it will be something that could be a year or more from when we have the initial idea to when it finally pans out. The main thing is that when you strike an idea that seems good to not force it. If there’s only 20 seconds worth of humor there, then that’s all it’s going to be. There are songs where it’s clear that it could be a full song, but we just haven’t found the right angle for it yet, so I don’t think we could really say there’s an average length of time.
CSCION: Which one of your songs are your favorites, independently?
They vary a lot depending on which ones we’re sick of performing. Not so much sick, but when we perform them a lot, they lose a lot of their freshness. I’m actually, not to give a cheesy answer, really excited about some of the songs that we’ve written for Learning Town, a couple of them in particular, I’m very excited with how they turned out. I look at them and say “Wow, did we actually write that?” on occasion. So those are nice. I’m also a big fan of a song we did last year called Write Like the Wind, a song asking George R.R. Martin to please write faster.
CSICON: It’s one of your more popular songs.
It was! There was a video that has done really well.
CSICON: Sure! With Vork … Jeff Lewis.
Yes, we’re very excited to have him! He’s just so funny. He’s just a funny person, just to hang around. But I really enjoy playing that; I still have a great time performing that song in concert as well, no matter how many times we’ve done it. Yeah; the energy that we feel when we have a new song and – in this case we have over a dozen new songs we get to spring on people – is just the best feeling. The thing about the songs for Learning Town is that they’re certainly Paul & Storm songs and they’ll be recognized as such, but also because they’re part of this show and are part of the plot and story, the relistenability will be phenomenal. Like most of our songs, they’re joke songs, novelty songs. Once you know the joke, some of the charm wears off. You’re still going to enjoy it because the music is good and it’s interesting, but that joke is gone. With most of the Learning Town songs, it’s much more like a song you would hear in a musical or Flight of the Conchords, It’ll really become a lot more enjoyable with repeat listening – we hope.
CSICON: Is Learning Town a weekly show?
It is, yes. It starts on January 15th and then comes out every week until it’s done, ten episodes later.
CSICON: Ten episodes. Are you aiming for a second season or just trying out the first.
We would love it, but a lot of it depends on how well the first season does. Just like on regular television, I suppose. We’d certainly love the opportunity to play in this world more, because we had such a good time doing it this time around. It’s up to you, Breki! Get everybody to watch it and then we’re on. If not, we’re without jobs. We’re totally blaming you!
CSICON: Oh, I will. I’ll make sure to pimp the hell out of you. Also, you take a very liberal approach to the way your songs are distributed, by the way. You hardly have to pay for any of your songs if you don’t want to. What prompted this approach? Do you have a Pirate Party philosophy in the background or anything like that?
It’s reality. The fact is that if someone wants your music and they don’t to pay, they’re going to be able to get it. But yeah; also, the idea that eventually, that person who finds your music somewhere or that you give it to more than likely they’re going to pay it back at some point, either by coming to a show or buying the CD layer when they’re not a poor student. We want people to hear our music because that’s what’s going to make us grow and it makes us happy.
CSICON: I like that approach. Last thing; I have a little bit of a quiz for you guys, inspired by a tweet that one of you sent a couple of days ago.
Real question: there was either a website list or hashtag game of "NPR reporter or Jedi/Star Wars character." Can't find it. Help?
— Paul and Storm (@paulandstorm) December 4, 2012
CSICON: I’m going to name six people, and they’re either Star Wars character or NPR personalities. Your job, of course is to discover which is which, starting off with Ina Jaffe.
That’s an NPR personality!
CSICON: Ding! Ina Jaffe is an NPR Correspondent at the national desk. Next up, The Kitchen Sisters!
CSICON: Ding! NPR Producers, you’re right! Next up, Momaw Nadon.
Ooh, I’m going to have to guess that’s a Star Wars character.
CSICON: Ding! Yes, he’s the bug-eyed alien in the Cantina in Star Wars: A New Hope.
Of course he is! … Or she!
CSICON: Of course. Soraya Sarhaddi?
CSICON: Ding! Yes; NPR Foreign Correspondent in Cairo! Two more. Derek Klivian, AKA “Hobbie”?
Ooh. Star Wars character!
CSICON: Ding! Yes he is! He’s the rogue squadron pilot in Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back. Last one; Gavin Sykes!
Oh, boy. Wow; that’s a deep cut if it’s NPR, so I’m going with Star Wars!
CSICON: Ding! Yes he is! Star Wars lieutenant in the Royal Naboo Security Force during the invasion of Naboo! Good work; six out of six, I’m very impressed! Yes, we rock the NPR and the Stars Wars! CSICON: Yes you do! I just want to thank you guys for joining us! This was great and I’m really looking forward to Learning Town and hoping to talk to you after the first season, maybe?
Thank you, we’re excited too! Thank you.