You guys watching This American Life now that it’s a full-blooded television show on Showtime? Last week’s premiere was a great start to the series, and one of the segments chronicled the infamous gag pulled by comedic chaos-creators Improv Everywhere back in October of ’04. You may know the story, but if not…
The troupe’s idea was to “pick a struggling rock band and turn their small gig into the best show of their lives.” The IE kids chose Ghosts Of Pasha, (a new band with two gigs to their name) as their target, downloaded and memorized their music, made tee shirts, and minutes before they hit the Mercury Lounge stage for an 11PM set, flooded the venue and proceeded to sing along and dance as enthusiastically and realistically as possible. Improv Everywhere’s intention were pure, but when the band discovered it was a rouse (three days later), they were paranoid and confused. Can’t blame ‘em! But years later, all’s been forgiven. And that’s storytime for today, kids. You can catch a clip from the TAL segment here.
Interesting side note: Music licensing rights for television are expensive! So expensive that This American Life couldn’t even get Ghosts Of Pasha songs for the Ghosts Of Pasha segment.
Even Ghosts of Pasha, a band we really like and whose story we tell in Act Two of the show, wanted a full 20 times the budget we had for individual tracks. We ended up licensing the songs the band plays live in the video clips, but sadly, couldn’t afford to use them to score their own story.
The production crew for the show write about their transition to television here. They discuss how they’ve managed to soundtrack the show on a budget — but come now, Ghosts … no Friends Of Pasha free publicity discount?
Update: Ghosts of Pasha wrote in to say, “Just so you know, this is not true…“