Here’s the new video for They Might Be Giants’ new song, “Can’t Keep Johnny Down,” which features 80-year-old Rip Torn bare-knuckle boxing some young shirtless punk. Hold on, let me get this straight, They Might Be Giants… Rip Torn… shirtless guys boxing… My God, this is relevant to ALL of my interests.
We called TMBG’s John Flansburgh to explain this odd collaboration.
“In this video, we were trying to figure out how to complement the idea of the song without illustrating the idea of the song. The Johnny character is this very uncivilized dude. There were a lot of different scenarios about how to make him a badass guy, but once it was clear that the character was going to be played by Rip Torn, it seemed like it was easy to connect the dots for the rest of it. You don’t need a lot of other ideas when you’ve got Rip Torn street-fighting at the age of 80.
“We actually were on The Larry Sanders Show years ago. I met Rip then, and he was hilarious — exactly as you would imagine. He was very present. It was like he was made of electricity. But because of the way the scheduling worked, I didn’t get to meet him again this time. It sounds like he’s more eccentric now. Did you ever see that video of a young Rip Torn with Norman Mailer? It’s very hard to tell what is real and what’s super-real. Basically, Rip Torn comes over some grassy knoll in Italy somewhere and starts attacking Norman Mailer. With a hammer. And at some point, Norman Mailer does a Mike Tyson and bites his ear. It’s all just very strange. It makes you realize that with Rip Torn, there are no rules.”
“The hot sauce, the hand gesture — that’s all him. Basically, Brian [Palmer, who co-directed with Brad Palmer] just interviewed him and they talked about street fighting, and that was his improvisational spark. He’s a very physical dude. And as you can see in the video, he’s in really good shape! I think it would take me a number of years just to get to where he is now.”
I think it goes without saying that Rip Torn is the greatest man who ever lived, but I could’ve told you that after he robbed a bank and fell asleep there because he thought it was his house. Rip Torn on Larry Sanders is probably the best character in TV history. Sometimes I dream about what it’d be like to hang out at Rip Torn’s house. Just throwing cans of creamed corn off the balcony while Rip shoots them with his boot pistol. Then we’d holler for a while, drink some whiskey and reminisce about our favorite whores. You know, if someone ever has to shoot me in the back of the head like the retard in Of Mice and Men, that’s the fantasy world I’d want to be thinking about when it happens.
“Yessiree, that ol’ One-Eyed Sally from El Salvador, now that whore could take a punch. (*shoots pigeon*) More whiskey?”