Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Random Rules: Alex Borstein

Illustration for article titled Random Rules: Alex Borstein

In Random Rules, The A.V. Club asks some of its favorite people to set their MP3 players to shuffle and comment on the first few tracks that come up—no cheating or skipping embarrassing tracks allowed.


The shuffler: Alex Borstein is a writer, producer, and voice actor on The Family Guy (she plays Lois), though sketch-comedy fans also know her from her long stint on Mad TV. Fox Home Entertainment just released her comedy special Drop Dead Gorgeous (In A Down-To-Earth Bombshell Sort Of Way) on DVD; Borstein warns, "It's filthy, so if you have children, don't watch it. And if your wife doesn't like the C-word, make sure she's not in the house."

The A.V. Club: All right, hit "play."

Alex Borstein: Come on, "party shuffle." Sorry. I'm clicking, I'm clicking… Oooh, it's kind of a dirty one.

AVC: That's okay.

AB: Are you allowed to play dirty songs?

AVC: Absolutely.

AB: It's really filthy. I'm going to come off as just a very filthy girl. It's a song by Peaches. Are you familiar with Peaches?

Peaches, "Fuck The Pain Away"

AB: It's listed on my iTunes as "F**k The Pain Away." We all can't handle the word "fuck." And it comes up marked "explicit," which is nice. And it's a filthy little song. And one of my favorite moments on it isn't even a lyric; it's when she just goes "Huh? What? Yeah." So there you go.


Bettye LaVette, "Joy"

AB: What is she, like, 500? She's like a thousand-year-old black woman.

AVC: And she's having kind of a career renaissance these days.

AB: I don't know too much about her. I heard about her from Bust magazine. Ever heard of Bust? I'm a huge Bust fan. I have a bust and I read Bust. I read about this Bettye LaVette woman in Bust magazine and checked it out on iTunes and fell in love with her voice. It's incredible. It sounds like… It's like Tina Turner's mother, if that's possible.


AVC: Anything about that song in particular that you like?

AB: It's called "Joy." If memory serves, most of the song, she's talking about, like, you best not get up in her fucking face and take her joy. And I think that's a model for all of us. And I think that's a new model for the new government we have. We've got Democrats reigning supreme and Nancy Pelosi as Speaker Of The House, and I will quote Miss Bettye LaVette, "Nobody better take my joy."


Air Supply, "Every Woman In The World"

AB: This is an embarrassing one. Air Supply. You've got to have at least one Air Supply song in your repertoire. "You're my fantasy, you're my reality." Uhhhhh, yeah. That's the one where it's like, "I've been out, I've been doing drugs and rocking the town, I've got to tell you—I'm ready to settle down, and you're it. You're every woman in the world."


AVC: Was that something you listened to growing up?

AB: Air Supply was definitely a pleasure growing up. And now it's a guilty pleasure. And you know what? If they make rounds through Los Angeles, I would go see them. If for no other reason than it's just fun to watch people age, and it's fun to watch what happened to '80s hairdos and outfits, and what they look like now. I recently saw one of my favorites, Pat Benatar. Which will undoubtedly come up on one of these, because she's most of my iPod. But I recently saw her at a little club, and there's just nothing like seeing the… It's like comfort food.


Christopher Cross, "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)"

AB: I today still hold Arthur as being one of the great comedies. And as a woman who's not a looker, I see Liza Minnelli and go, "Hey!" How incredible that they let Liza Minnelli be a lead in a romantic comedy.


AVC: She was considered a looker in her day, wasn't she?

AB: No. She was always odd-looking, but she had great legs. She always kind of looked a little like a drag queen.


AVC: Dudley Moore isn't the most traditionally handsome male lead, either.

AB: That's true. But that never matters. Guys can look like pigs. The girl always has to be a looker. Look at most TV shows: According To Jim—pig and a looker. Still Standing—pig and a looker. Ralph Kramden [on The Honeymooners]—pig and a looker. Family Guy—pig and a looker. It's a theme.


AVC: Do you have a lot of Christopher Cross on there, or is that it?

AB: No, there's also "Ride Like The Wind."

Björk, "Human Behavior"

AB: This is from Debut. And do you know what my favorite thing about it is? It uses the drums. [Makes drumming sound.] You know that one? It's one of few songs that uses percussion as the melody. How interesting. It's kind of a different, interesting thing.


AVC: You do Björk as a character, don't you?

AB: I have done Björk as a character, yes.

AVC: Does that change your relationship with the music, actually interpreting it yourself?


AVC: A little bit. Usually, impersonations come out of something you dig, because you're listening to it over and over. And you kind of start developing… You're really trying to emulate them, then you realize, "I sound ridiculous doing this. Oh, hey, maybe this is a funny impersonation." There was a Family Guy gag once… It was this game show, Guess What Voice That Was. And you heard a guttural scream, and you had to guess whether it was Björk or Bobcat Goldthwait. She has a very unusual sound that I appreciate.

AVC: What does it take to get into the character of Björk?

AB: It's actually kind of like a chicken. She has kind of chicken-like head movements. Kind of cocky and moving around the… It's just like being a little girl. She seems to have reckless abandon. She kind of runs around, doesn't really care if she… Never really putting on sexuality or trying to be hot, you know? She's kind of like an 8-year-old, 12-year-old little girl, which is kind of cool.


Billy Paul, "Me And Mrs. Jones"

AB: That's a great song. I have a love affair with most songs celebrating infidelity, because I find it hilarious. "Me And Mrs. Jones" is one of them. It's like, "We're having an affair. Poor us. Gosh, if only it were easier." The other one is [sings] "Secret Lovers." I don't even know who sings it [Atlantic Starr. —ed.], but it's the same thing. "How could something so wrong feel so right?" is a lyric. And we're supposed to feel sorry for them while they're fucking their loved ones over.


AVC: Destroying somebody's lives, but not their own.

AB: Exactly! There's like children and other people at home, and they're like… [Sings.] "But I miss you, let's meet at the restaurant." So that kind of makes me giggle.


Cyndi Lauper, "Feels Like Christmas"

AB: I think this is one of the greatest, most unsung albums ever. It's Cyndi Lauper, and it's called Hat Full Of Stars. She's so underrated. Her voice is amazing. Every single song on this album is great. Honestly. Every single one is great and different. "Feels Like Christmas," even though I'm a Jew, I can still enjoy and revel in the joyous time of Christmas. I understand what someone means when they say something feels as good as Christmas.