T.J. Shanoff is one half of the writing brilliance behind “Lanyard Skynerd” and he’ll be the first to tell you that this show isn’t for everyone. However, I would argue that there is something for everyone. If you are easily offended, you’d be better off at a more family-friendly show at ComedySportz. But, if you don’t mind a show where everyone gets offended, then saddle up, cowboy, and ride your pony into Martyr’s next Monday night and you will get exactly what you’re asking for.
Lanyard Skynerd is a southern-rock musical parody about a cover band that is getting back together for this one-night reunion show. Throughout this performance they take the audience with them as they travel back through some of their best hits. Now, their best hits might sound an awful lot like some of your favorite rock ‘n roll hits, but the words seem to have been changed to something ludicrous and incredibly politically incorrect. The parodies they wrote were to correspond with the corporate gigs they had performed at in the past. Insert upbeat rock rhythms and melodies with inappropriate lyrics about incest, retirement homes, homosexuality, racism and so much more.
Don’t get me wrong, this show is no joke; the cast and the full band that takes over the stage are insanely talented. This is the equivalent of a full-fledged rock and roll concert; it’s just not suitable for your grandmother or overly conservative friends or relatives. I’d say the target audience for this show is probably 35-50 year old, left-winged men who love old school rock and roll. It’s a foot-stomping, head-bobbing, laugh out loud rock and roll comedy. The talented T.J. Shanoff, Ed Furman and Mick Napier have done exactly what they sought out to do: entertain and appease your shock factor. Success indeed.
I sat down with T.J. last week and asked him a few questions about how this masterpiece came to be. Here’s what he said:
Where did the idea for this show come from?
Eddie [Ed Furman], my writing partner and one of my best friends from Second City, called me up one night and said, “What do you think of this: Lanyard Skynerd?” I said, “Ok, what does it mean?” And he said it would be a corporate southern-rock band – hence “Lanyard” and I said, “Ok, let’s do this.” The initial idea was that we could pitch it to companies as a southern rock parody band and they would write songs related to those companies. Then I suggested we take it one step further – make it a parody of a southern rock band who has already had to write parodies for corporations and show their existence over the last 20-30 years. So we settled on this show that is very offensive and with Mick Napier directing it, we were able to push the boundaries much further than we have been able to with shows in the past.
So how did you bring in Mick and get the cast and everyone together?
We initially wondered if we should pitch it to Second City. Eddie and I have both written dozens of shows for Second City over the years and we’re very close friends with Kelly Leonard (Executive Vice President at The Second City), so we’ve been wondering what would be the next project we work on for them. However, after thinking about how far we wanted to push the boundaries, we decided maybe Second City wasn’t the right place for it. We initially asked our dear friend, Sue Gillan, who is a director, but it was too big of a time commitment. So we asked Mick and right away he said, “Yeah, I’d love to.”
Then we thought about the cast, we knew there was only one guy perfect for the lead – Matt Spiegel, who we had both worked with before and was also the singer in a rock and roll cover band called “Tributosaurus.” Matt said yes and he pulled together this group of amazing, top-flight Chicago musicians for the band. Then we asked our dear friends Karla Beard and Lori McClain who we had worked with during Second City productions and they both said “yes” right away. Lastly, we asked Greg Mills, who is, pound-for-pound, one of the funniest people I’ve ever met and it’s a travesty more people of the younger generations don’t know about him, to play the band manager and he agreed too. There were four people we wanted and they were the only four people we talked to and they all said yes immediately. We took it as such a compliment; it was amazing.
So you got everyone you wanted to work on this show; were there any major challenges?
Oh, there were a ton. I’ve never produced a show before and neither had Eddie. Eddie and I were trying to figure out who’s doing the website, who’s contacting the media, etc. that’s neither of our things. I can do it, but it was a big challenge. The big challenge now, which might seem obvious, but I’ll say it anyway, is to try and get an audience to see a show that’s a parody of a southern rock band at a concert venue, not a theater, on a Monday night in the fall. Driving people to get to the show is a challenge to say the least…