If you’re reading this on the day it publishes, then you can hop over to Trevor Moore‘s 24-hour Facebook Live marathon before the clock strikes midnight. Unlike his clean shaven-appearance in his new Comedy Central special The Story of Our Times, which premieres once the Facebook Live event ends, the Whitest Kids U’Know veteran is now displaying a bit of unkempt stubble. He’s also quite tired, which makes complete sense given the circumstances. “I’ve stayed awake for 24 hours before, but I’ve never hosted anything for 24 hours straight,” he told me before the festivities started. “I think my pain will be funny.”
Those who agree will not only get a kick out of Moore’s 24-hour marathon, but they will undoubtedly enjoy his new special, which operates much like a spiritual sequel to 2015’s High in Church. Unlike its predecessor, The Story of Our Times does not put the sketch and musical comedian in front of a live audience, instead giving him the complete freedom to connect several new music videos (for songs to be released on an accompanying album) with a loose narrative, not unlike Pink Floyd: The Wall. Except with way more drugs. Moore spoke to me about the creative process behind the special, as well as when we’re finally going to see that long-promised Whitest Kids U’Know movie.
This seems obvious but what comes first, the bigger idea for the special or the individual music videos?
There was really no first or second. I mean, I did have ideas for the song first, but the songs that would be included would change all the way up until like a week before we shot. The idea for the overall special was kind of permanent. The first special I did, I kind of pitched something like this, but we ended up doing more of a traditional thing. Me in front of an audience. But I always wanted to do something almost like a Pink Floyd: The Wall, something where it’s just wall-to-wall music but there’s this storyline that threads it all together. That was the concept.
Considering the special’s drug-fueled opener, the Pink Floyd comparison is apt.
Yes, exactly. Though we do more drugs in this hour than Pink Floyd did in The Wall. And it’s coming out on 4/20, of course. But it was really fun to do that kind of format. I realized all of these issues are something that could be brought up at a brunch. So I had the idea of my long-time girlfriend making me go to brunch and I’m in hell. It’s just my thought process while trying to listen to her and her friends talk about the social issues du jour.
This is by no means traditional stand-up, but then again, I imagine audience input is still important during the creative process. Will you test your songs out before live audiences?
I do a little bit. I’ll do songs kind of leading up to an album, but by that point I’ve usually produced them a good amount. I usually use friends of mine as sounding boards to get the album together. As we were getting ready to do the special, I would take the songs out with me when I did live shows to see which ones got a reaction and which ones didn’t. That helped me decide if they stayed on the album.
All in all, about how much time did you spend putting this together?
It takes me a bit. I’ll work on it for like a year. In this case, I had an album too. I changed a lot of the songs that were on it once Donald Trump won the election. The national mood changed and there was some topics that I didn’t think were as funny when that happened. So I changed those songs. I think the mood of the nation had changed and I just wasn’t sure about including some of the material at that point. It really depends on the time that you put something out. There are some things on this album that I’m like, “We’ll see how this goes.” Things have changed even since we shot the music videos.
True. I have to admit, are were a few videos that made me think, “I can see people complaining about this.” Things like the “Bullies” song.
Sure. Or even, I did a music video at the very end of the special called “There’s a Meteor Coming” that might do something similar. My point there is, everybody has become so hyperbolic on each side. Everybody is just arguing. No one is listening to anyone else anymore. We’re all just kind of speaking to our own little choirs, so that was the idea behind the video. But since we shot it, protesting has become more relevant and powerful. I think the country has really gotten behind the Parkland kids, and now everybody is going out. So the song might have a different connotation for them. People might take a little more offense to that music video in this climate, even though that’s not what it’s about at all, because it was filmed months ago. There’s always that question, “How is the world going to change between me filming this and the time it comes out? How is that going to affect people’s level of outrage towards it?”
Obviously, it’s impossible to predict people’s reactions, especially with so much change. But do you ever consider what those reactions might be when you’re writing or filming something?
I try not to think about it. As long as I believe what I’m saying or that I can justify it, I try not to worry too much about what people will think during the writing process. Now, I do start to worry a little bit when I start putting the albums together as a whole. When I’m trying to see what the sum of all these parts look and feel like. I don’t want to feel preachy. I don’t want to be too soap-boxy. I just want everything to have some sort of viewpoint.
I did take a song out of this album that I thought was going to be much funnier since I, like everybody else, thought Hillary Clinton was going to win. But in the wake of her losing, I realized the song seemed a little mean. So I decided to take it out altogether. At the same time I didn’t want to do a lot of Trump stuff because doing that feels like kicking a dead horse. Everyone is doing it and there’s so much fatigue about it. All of these things shaped the album, which is kind of a middle-of-the-road kind thing. Maybe not quite middle-of-the-road, but definitely politically frustrated and asking everyone to just calm down for a second.
This sort of dovetails into something else I wanted to ask you. Between this special and your work with the Whitest Kids U’Know, your comedy is quite surreal most of the time, but it also tends to have a message of some kind. Is that your intent?
The funniest stuff to me always has a point of view. It has a message. I like balancing the silliness and the absurdity of everything with that message because I don’t like it when it seems too soap-boxy. When it’s just political then it’s not as interesting to me. This was actually something that we discussed when we were doing Whitest Kids, that we wanted to do incredibly stupid stuff and then try to do something that would make people think. The funniest thing to us was the idea that people were like, “Wait a minute. Did this philosophical sketch come right after the five-minute sketch where they were just naming strip club names?” That kind of thing. This show is almost schizophrenic. It’s wallowing in ignorance but hopefully making some very smart points.
There’s a strength to that. It allows the audience to engage while avoiding the Bill Hicks move of just yelling at an audience.
This is almost trickery. Hopefully you get them laughing, and then you throw something in there and they won’t even know that you did it at first.
You almost have to do that now since, as you said, Trump jokes are a dead horse. Audiences both expect and hope to avoid blunt political commentary in comedy.
Seriously. How do you satirize this stuff when reality is what it is? It’s so fast-paced now, too. The news cycle has moved up so fast that it’s like, unless you’re doing a show that comes out every day, you can’t keep up. I’ve always tried to stay away from putting too much current events stuff in my act. I like to talk about issues or themes, but I try not to do a lot of pop culture, with the exception of the Kardashian music video in this special. Even then, the point of that is that we have paid attention to them for way too long now, to the point that they are representatives of our entire generation to future onlookers. They’re representatives of an entire decade. They’ve almost transcended pop culture now and it’s all our fault.
I have to ask, but you posted an Instagram just over a year about claiming to have finished a Whitest Kids movie script. What happened?
The script is done. We have it and we’re just trying to pull together funding for it now. I know it’s frustrating to people because I just put it on my Instagram without realizing that it would explode. Somebody put it on Reddit and then it got to the top of the website. Once I saw that, I called the guys, and I was like, “This is at the top of Reddit now.” And they said, “Now we’ve got a ticking clock to get this thing done.” So we’re trying to figure out the funding. We don’t need a whole lot of money. There are so many different ways for pulling it together now that we’re just kind of exploring what the best options are.
We’re also trying to work around our schedules. Zach Cregger does the show Wrecked on TBS, so he’s shooting in Fiji for a couple of months out of the year. Then I sold a show to the Disney Channel about three years ago, and I’ve been running that production a couple months out of the year. We’re just trying to get everything to line up and get the funding together, but we love the script. It’s our favorite thing that we’ve ever written and we’re excited to do it. We’re hoping to do it in the next year.
Between trying to figure that out and the Stripes series you guys are developing, it doesn’t sound like free time is readily available.
Yeah, the Stripes show is another thing. We focused our time and energy on that for a bit, which delayed the movie for some time. I think CBS has passed on that now and it’s not going to series, but we’re still shopping it around on cable and elsewhere. But we’re mostly bringing our collective focus back to the film. We love the script. It’s a thing that we worked on for a very long time. Several years, at least. Now we’re at the point where it’s like, “All right, it’s done. Now let’s get it made.”
Trevor More: The Story of Our Times premieres April 20th at Midnight on Comedy Central. His 24-hour Facebook Live marathon is happening here.