The Annotated “Husbands and Knives” — Part II

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Continuing a breakdown of interesting (to me) nerdy tidbits about the “new comic book store” plot of The Simpsons episode, “Husbands and Knives.”

Let’s talk about Jack Black. We’ve had a lot of amazing guest stars on The Simpsons. But Jack Black deserves a special place in the pantheon, for going above and beyond the call of voice-over. Here’s why. Jack signed on to play the part of Milo, the hip, friendly owner of Coolsville — the polar opposite of the unhip, unfriendly Comic Book Guy. Jack threw himself into the character with explosive Jack Black energy. He did take after take, peppering the character with hilarious ad-libs. (Jack’s a bit of comic book dork, as well as a Meltdown Comics shopper, and knew every reference in the script, as well as adding a few of his own.)

To show how quirky and hip Milo was, his character was to sing a funny, Korean cover version of a 1960s pop song. The Korean pop song cover in the first draft of the script was “Goldfinger.” It took Jack over an hour to perfectly sing the phonetically-translated lyrics to “Goldfinger” in Korean, doing take after take to nail both the tune and the unfamiliar language. Amazing.

Four months later, the rough black and white animation came back, and the scene was superb. But there was a problem. “Goldfinger,” as we say in TV land, did not “clear.” The owners of the song would not allow us to use it on our show. Was this something we should have known before making Jack Black imitate a Korean Shirley Bassey for over an hour? Big time. Oopsie. We begged the owners of “Goldfinger’s” music rights to approve the song. We even overnighted them a copy of the rough animation of Jack Black’s character hilariously singing “their” song. How could they say no to that? Very easily. They hated it. Never would they allow us to denigrate their precious song with our cartoon puffery. Dead end. So what to do? Pick another song, MAKE SURE WE HAVE THE RIGHTS TO USE IT, call Jack Black, and beseech him to sing a second phonetically-translated 1960 Korean pop cover.

Did he do it? Of course he did. He’s Jack Black. A few weeks later, Jack was in a Fox soundstage recording “What’s New Pussycat” (which, I would argue, is a funnier song in Korean than “Goldfinger”) with his trademark Tsunami-level gusto. For a second time, he did dozens of takes of every line, never happy until he felt he had nailed the melody and the Korean. For a second time, he wanted the song to be outstanding. Did he complain about having to sing another song? No. He thought it was funny that “Goldfinger” didn’t clear. He was a joy and an inspiration. He even improvised a set of lyrics about Pinkberry frozen yogurt not being actual yogurt that someday will make a sweet DVD extra. If you watch the show, Jack sings the entirety of Korean “What’s New Pussycat” over the closing credits, with a funny ad-lib at the end. It’s just great.

That’s why, when people ask me who is my favorite guest star I’ve met on The Simpsons, the answer is always Thomas Pynchon. THEN, Jack Black.

STAY TUNED! MORE SELF-INDULGENCE TO COME…

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