Imagine a future in which aliens threaten the Earth, only to have the President of the United States in 2776 and the first president, George Washington, travel through the centuries to show the aliens why America and the planet are worth saving.
And our first and future presidents are voiced by Paul F. Tompkins and Will Forte, respectively.
It’s the makings of “2776: A Millennium of American Asskickery,” a new all-star satirical album assembled and written by Rob Kutner (Conan, The Daily Show) and the Levinson Brothers, Stephen and Joel Moss Levinson (Tonight Show, Comedy Central).
For 2776, the guys rounded up the likes of:
Ed Helms, Yo La Tengo, Aimee Mann, Andrew W.K., Eugene Mirman, The Rebirth Brass Band, Aubrey Plaza, Patton Oswalt, Ira Glass, Maria Bamford, Martha Plimpton, Ashanti, Andy Richter, The Sklar Brothers, Horatio Sanz, 3/5ths of the Kids In The Hall, Paul F. Tompkins, Margaret Cho, Reggie Watts, Will Forte, Neko Case, Robert Smigel & Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, Jonathan Katz, Guitar god Eric Johnson, Mike Mills, Sergio Mendoza Y La Orkesta, Right Said Fred, Mayim Bialik, Dave Hill, Dick Cavett, Bobcat Goldthwait, Sally Timms, Dick Gregory, k.d.lang, Will Arnett, Alex Trebek, Samantha Bee, Joe Franklin, Nina Totenberg, Al Jaffee, Paul Myers, Kelly Hogan, Dahlia Lithwick, Cobie Smulders and more.
It’s all for a charitable cause, with benefits supporting OneKid OneWorld, which builds schools in impoverished parts of Kenya and El Salvador.
The guys crossed the country to bring the talent together with local musicians and volunteers.
How’d they do it?
Why’d they do it?
The Comic’s Comic asked Kutner and Joel Moss Levinson about the genesis of 2776.
ROB KUTNER: “None of us pitched it. What we all agreed was, we wanted some way to make jokes about robots, zombies, American history, and every single other nerd-passion of ours. We bashed all kinds of ideas around, until we ultimately decided on a sci-fi epic ABOUT American history. Or as some might say, ‘We never decided.'”
Was it born from your own apocalyptic visions, then, Rob, (as set forth in your previous literature!) and a desire to forge a new future from them?
ROB: “As you know from my books (Apocalypse How and The Future According to Me), I do look at everything through apocalypse-colored glasses. And indeed, we’ve counted no less than 5 apocalypses described on the “Future” side of our album. But we tried to counterbalance our relentless comic pessimism by making the album a benefit for children and education. MAN, I hope those kids don’t get educated, or all my apocalypse-planning goes out the window!”
Kutner added that several comedians who didn’t even participate in the recording helped promote the album’s July 4 release through Twitter.
“AND, also, OneKid OneWorld is headed by American Dad (and other stuff) writer Josh Bycel and Kimmel producer Jill Leiderman, who put on two big-name comedy shows in NYC and LA as fundraisers. We chose a charity with comedy in its DNA so we could do whatever the f**k we wanted – including saying the word “f**k.”
I remember seeing posts — Facebook, as I recall, but maybe also Twitter — earlier this year during production on the CD as you traveled to various cities and went hunting for people to help in various ways. But before I ask about that, let me ask this: Since there were three of you working on it, how did you divide up the duties? Not just music/lyrics but also the sheer logistics of it. I mean, you didn’t have to travel across America to record in multiple cities. Or did you?
JOEL MOSS LEVINSON: “Lyrically, in some cases the duties were kind of divided up by who came up with the idea for each song, or honestly, who had a few free minutes to move things forward. We all kind of had our babies that it was our job to drive forward.”
“Musically, basically everything fell on my shoulders so a lot of times I became the bottle neck because I’d have 2, 3 or 4 songs that needed to be scored/written/recorded/arranged, etc.”
“And yes! We DID have to record in multiple cities in America (and Canada) but we weren’t all there for every recording. In the beginning, all we really cared about was how exciting it was to work with these people, so we were totally flying for everything — When Aimee Mann came to L.A. to record, Stephen flew in from New York because he’s a massive fan and wasn’t going to miss it for the world. But when it turned into this monstrous album with 28 tracks (plus probably another 15-30 that didn’t make it past my garage) we realized we couldn’t be spending on being there in person for everything.”
“For me the big realization came from being at the Triumph and Rebirth Brass Band session which I flew in to New York for. It was an incredibly thrill to be in the same room as these folks and working with them, but also, they are MUCH better at what they do than I am. What was I going to tell Rebirth about how to do with their horns that they haven’t known since they were 9? What could I tell Triumph about insulting immigrants that he hasn’t been doing for 20 years? On top of that, we had some truly incredible engineers running things at our various studios who just knew how to get things done. (Chris Davies was the one doing that Triumph/Rebirth recording at Pulse, Eban Schletter in Netherota Studios here in LA) So when you have people of that caliber lending their time to the project, it really freed us up to focus on writing the comedy and standing back while our idols knocked it out of the park.”
Here is Triumph The Insult Comic Dog with the Rebirth Brass Band!
For “The Future of Dating” with Will Forte and Aubrey Plaza, they improvised the recordings in Los Angeles after working on a couple of other tracks.
This is the music video for “These Aren’t the Droids,” vocals by Neko Case and Kelly Hogan, lyrics by Case, Hogan, Rachel Axler and Tamara Federici. And starring Ellie Kemper.
Earlier this year, they released the video for “I’m Cured” through My Damn Channel, with a performance by Aimee Mann and appearances by David Wain, Dave Foley and Fred Melamed.
Buy 2776 via iTunes:
You can listen to more samples from 2776 via Soundcloud.
SIDE 1 (“Past & Present”)
- America, We’re Good – The US President in the year 2776 Will Forte sings a “State of the Union” about America’s countless greatnesses
- I’m Cured – Aimee Mann sings a bittersweet “breakup song” from the POV of the common cold virus to humanity, after we’ve cured it
- Mt. Rushmore – Audio sketch starring Dick Cavett, Dick Gregory, Joe Franklin, Margaret Cho and Al Jaffee, playing the presidential heads atop Mt. Rushmore squabbling amongst themselves and bitching about the 1st Asian-American lesbian president head being carved beside them.
- Farewell California – Beach Boys-style ode to a (near) future California covered by risen ocean waters
- 187 On a Newspaper – Hardcore rap assailing the death of the newspapers’ comic strip characters
- God Blessed America – In this blues track played by Muddy Waters guitarist Bob Margolin, Patton Oswalt is the voice of God, telling America he’s tired of blessing it and is moving on.
- Time Machine Joy Ride – A time-travel pop song about 1990s nostalgia featuring Reggie Watts, Right Said Fred, and a rapping Mayim Bialik
- Welcome to America – In this ragtime song, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog plays an early 20th century Ellis Island official shitting on each arriving immigrant group
- Escape From New York – Andy Richter and JB Smoove rap about the apocalyptic destruction of New York… by gentrification.
- Therapy Secession – To the dueling tunes of “Dixie” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” Maria Bamford sings the parts of both the pre-Civil-War North AND South in a therapy session moderated by Jonathan Katz century Ellis Island official shitting on each arriving immigrant group
- Forget the Alamo – Horatio Sanz joins Tucson mambo kings Sergio Mendoza y La Orkesta for this “remix” of Davy Crockett vs. Santa Anna
SIDE 2 (“Future”)
- These Aren’t the Droids – Neko Case and Dum Dum Girls call for a sci-fi future as envisioned by women, not exclusively teenage fanboys.
- Party on Your Grave – Andrew WK plays a heavy-metal biker gang describing the perfect etiquette of a post-apocalyptic party
- Bunker Bunker, Burning Love – Ed Helms sing this bluegrass love song about the one other resident of his post-nuclear-war bunker… whom he loves but can’t work up the courage to talk to.
- Commencement Speech (to the Class of 2156) – Upbeat “you can do it” speech to college grads in an unspeakably horrific figure.
- I Can Do It – Martha Plimpton sings this Broadway-esque “Impossible Dream” ballad about an alien resolving to find the guts to destroy the Earth
- Take a Nap – A Ramones-style punk song about a future where napping is illegal, and one sleepy rebel’s defiance of The Man.
- Toymageddon – Yo La Tengo plays this rock anthem about a future Christmas when the toys came to life and destroyed/enslaved their masters (featuring Ira Glass and Eugene Mirman)
- Mole Lotta Love – Bobcat Goldthwait and TBD sing this duet about a freakish subterranean dweller and a human lamenting their lost love
- 28 vs. 18 – Conan’s “Basic Cable Band” plays this swing tune in which Will Forte and Paul F. Tompkins compare the 18th and 28th centuries
- US vs Rock and Roll – NPR’s Nina Totenberg gives a report – in song!- of the Supreme Court deliberation over the banning of rock and roll in a dystopic future
- Ooh I Love That Girl – A boy band-style song from the POV of a zombie to the love he “craves”
- Not What the Founders Intended – Paul F. Tompkins plays George Washington, laying out his indictment of how bad America has gotten by the year 2776
- Canada – Back On Top Again – A variety of Canadian comics and singers (Kids in the Hall, Dave Thomas, Sam Bee, et al) brag about every single tiny thing Canada has done for the world… which ultimately impresses the Aliens enough to spare the Earth. OH, THE IRONY!