Producer Marc Shaiman on Prop 8 – the Musical (With Video!)

The musical itself is the brainchild of Marc Shaiman, the composer of the film and stage musical “Hairspray,” as well as some of the filthier songs in “South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut.”

By Dave Itzkoff / December 4, 2008

In just one day of online existence, the Funny Or Die video “Prop 8­ — The Musical” has received more than 1.2 million hits. The comedic song-and-dance diatribe about the California ballot initiative to define marriage as existing only between a man and a woman stars a cast of dozens, including John C. Reilly, Neil Patrick Harris, Maya Rudolph, and Jack Black as Jesus Christ.

Assembled in a week, it’s also the result of a process that began when Mr. Shaiman, who splits his time between New York and Los Angeles, alerted his friends and colleagues that Scott Eckern, the musical director of Sacramento’s California Musical Theater, had donated money to a Yes-on-Prop 8 campaign. The proposition has already passed, and Mr. Eckern has since resigned, so what has Mr. Shaiman gained from this video? He discusses the creation of “Prop 8­–The Musical” in a Q&A below.

How did your mass e-mail message about Scott Eckern and the California Musical Theater end up spawning this video?

I sent an e-mail to a lot of people, anyone who’s in my phone book, and said, “Can you believe this guy?” I’d rather almost not talk about him and that situation anymore, because he’s certainly gone through enough. But that e-mail, one of the people it went to was Adam McKay [a co-founder of FunnyOrDie.com]. He wrote me back, basically, just saying, “Why don’t you write a song about it for Funny Or Die?” Which was like, the slapping-my-head moment. Oh yeah, why didn’t I think of that? Or why didn’t I do that in the first place?

It took a few weeks to calm down enough to be able to find the humor in it all. So once he planted that seed in my head, I basically went the next day to the piano and started to write – a week later we were filming it.

Is this the first time you’ve created a viral video for the Internet?

I’m so old, I can’t remember. To this extent, certainly. I have done things that have ended up on the Internet. Luckily, nothing sexual. Yet. But the night is still young.

How do you feel, given that it took the passage of Proposition 8 to motivate you to create a video opposing it?

In my credit, it says, “Written (six weeks too late) by Marc Shaiman.” I mean, yeah, it’s totally bittersweet. Barack Obama’s ascension just had us all so giddy. We were thinking of how to film it, and I said, “Well, maybe that first section should be all of us on a hill, with poppies, and it snows and we’re put to sleep, and then the Proposition 8 people are looking through the crystal ball, like the Wicked Witch of the West in ‘The Wizard of Oz.’” Because that’s what happened. We stupidly allowed ourselves to be lulled into a sense of, everything’s fantastic now, look – everything’s changing. And this couldn’t possibly be voted into law. This is just like some little pesky thing that we’re swatting at, and it will go away immediately.

How did you react to the news that Mr. Eckern had resigned from the theater?

There’s certainly nothing joyous about being partially responsible for a man resigning from his job. I mean, I did not ask for his resignation, nor would it be my place to ask for someone’s resignation. He resigned, though, and I was part of that, and that is a very heavy weight, and I don’t take it lightly. But it has certainly opened up our eyes, and made me get off the couch and out on the street with a picket sign, for the first time in my life. And it felt fantastic.

So this experience has made you more of an activist?

Yeah, I was marching in New York, and that was just the greatest experience. And of course this video is just a viral picket sign. And hopefully funny. I hope that doesn’t get lost. I hope that’s what most people get out of it.

Source / Arts Beat / The New York Times

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