He has the hottest viral clip on the Internet, more Hollywood stars at his disposal than Woody Allen, and some of his biggest laughs since he wrote the score for “South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut.” So, why is the creator of the hilarious “Prop 8 – The Musical” fearing for his life?
“I’m scared,” laughed 5-time Oscar nominee Marc Shaiman, reflecting on his red-hot mini movie that uses Jack Black, John C. Reilly, Neil Patrick Harris and other notables to mine laughs from a controversial subject. “[1.3 million views in barely a day] feels good, until I read some of the angrier comments left by some very angry people. Then I think, well, maybe I shouldn’t leave the house. I’ll just stay on Funny or Die.”
Shaiman’s send-up of California’s recent vote to deny gays the right to marry is as hilarious as it is timely. And it all started with an e-mail.
“I wrote this questioning e-mail a few weeks back that caused some controversy, about one man in Sacramento whose public record we saw; he had donated to ‘Yes on 8’,” Shaiman explained of the missive he sent out to his entire address book. “He’s an artistic director at a theater that puts on musical theater, and they had put on “Hairspray” just a few months ago!”
As the composer of that juggernaut theater/movie franchise, Shaiman (who is gay) said he was pushed over the edge by a man he saw as biting the hand that fed him. “For me, that was just very personal…It was kind of a tone-deaf decision on his part.”
Struggling to find opportunity in oppression, Shaiman decided to put on an old-school production that would allow him to channel such thoughts. “One of those people [who got that e- mail] was Adam McKay, who is Will Ferrell’s partner in Funny or Die, and he just gave me the V8 moment by saying, ‘Why don’t you write a song about this?” he explained, citing additional dismay that the “No on 8” movement didn’t think do more things like this before the election. “As I wrote on the credits: ‘Written six weeks too late by Mark Shaiman’. We all were just so lulled by the excitement of Barack Obama’s election; we just clearly never thought that [Yes on 8 winning] could have happened.”
As for the star-studded cast, “No one would have shown up if they didn’t feel strongly about the message, because they wouldn’t want to put themselves [out there] for some of this hate stuff on the Internet right now.”
One of the best parts about the Internet experience, however, was the opportunity to get back to the roots of the theater. “The idea came one day, I wrote it the next day, I recorded a demo, and then Jack Black said “yes” to playing Jesus. We filmed it on a Monday. If you couldn’t be there on Monday from 11-4, you couldn’t be in it,” Shaiman explained. “If we’d done it on Tuesday, it might have had a completely different cast.”
And yes, Shaiman insisted, Jack Black’s line about the shrimp cocktail is based on a real biblical prohibition. “I didn’t make any of that up, and that’s why I had him quote Leviticus. There’s endless lists of stuff like that [in the Bible]. If you wear two kinds of materials in your clothing, it says you should be stoned.”
Now, as millions are forwarding Shaiman’s clip to each other, perhaps the veteran composer is opening a few eyes by putting a spoonful of sugar in his “Prop 8” message. And if he has to deal with a few death threats, well, Shaiman said that the battle has only just begun.
“We were having so much fun; I kept saying ‘Gee, I’d go see this!’” he laughed. “John C. Reilly said: ‘Marc, why don’t you just write ‘Gay – The Musical?’”
How do you feel about “Prop 8 – The Musical”? Funniest viral video of the year, or does it go too far? And please, kids: Keep your comments classy, okay?