Outside of the self-proclaimed title, "The Greatest Band On Earth," it's difficult to describe Tenacious D. Composed of actors, writers, and musicians Kyle Gass and Jack Black (who can also be seen in such films as The Cable Guy, Mars Attacks!, and I Still Know What You Did Last Summer), Tenacious D's acoustic-guitar-driven music generally consists of power chords and lyrics that touch on such time-honored rock cliches as sex, Satan, and why Tenacious D rocks harder than other bands. And, oddly enough, it does. One reason the joke doesn't get old, aside from it being a very funny joke, is that Gass and Black have the musical chops to back it up. Aside from an appearance in Bio-Dome and another on Saturday Night Live, Tenacious D was first seen in two short films chronicling the group's adventures on and off the stage that aired following HBO's brilliant Mr. Show. Two more half-hour installments popped up this year, and Tenacious D has subsequently taken its act on the road, pausing to give a phone interview to The Onion.
The Onion: So, how are you doing?
Kyle Gass: Good!
Jack Black: Fantastic.
O: I'll throw you a big, fat, easy first question: What can audiences expect from Tenacious D in concert?
KG: Heads exploding.
JB: Fannies will be torched.
KG: And a whole lot of fun. It's fun.
O: You guys are going to be doing a lot of songs from the show, I take it?
KG: Well, we have to. We have a limited repertoire, and we had to draw on that for the show.
JB: Just remember this: The TV show came from the live show, not the other way around like in olden times, like The Monkees and some of these created bands.
O: So, "Sasquatch" was written, and then you made a Sasquatch-themed episode around that song?
KG: That's right.
JB: Oh, yeah. And those naysayers out there who think we are some construct of HBO… blast your eyes.
O: So, how did Tenacious D begin, then?
KG: Oh, gosh. A story oft-told.
O: Do you mind telling it again?
[Speaking at the same time]
JB: Kyle, I saw him…
KG: …a diamond in the rough. I took him under my wing, polished him up.
JB: I was only 16. A very, very good-looking boy. We were in a theater troupe called the Actors Gang, Los Angeles-based, and Kyle taught me how to play guitar.
KG: And I said, "Wow, you really sing good. We should get together."
JB: It was definitely my idea.
JB: We started playing tiny clubs around the Los Angeles area.
KG: Sort of like the open-mic nights you might see.
JB: And we're opening for bands, and the kids realized… It was like a shock wave was sent throughout the underground…
KG: Community? Is that the word you're looking for?
KG: And David Cross [of Mr. Show] saw us.
JB: He was there at one of our first shows.
KG: He asked us to be part of a sort of alternative-comedy cabaret show, if you will. We started moving into a sort of…
JB: We rubbed elbows.
O: You were ushered into the comedy underworld?
JB: That's right. A very exciting time in alternative comedy.
KG: Which meant comedians with binder paper, was really what it meant.
O: Was this '95 or so?
KG: Our first gig was '94.
O: And your first widespread public appearance was in Bio-Dome.
JB: Does that really count?
JB: They only showed us for a couple of seconds.
O: Friends of mine have rented it just to see Tenacious D, so I think it would have to count, for their sake.
KG: I feel really bad for those people.
JB: 'Cause they didn't get much of the D.
KG: It was hard to compete with all the comedy in that movie.
O: Was there a lot of pressure on the set of Bio-Dome to live up to the public's expectations of the next Pauly Shore movie?
KG: I've never seen a Pauly Shore movie.
JB: I haven't either. I'm completely out of the Pauly Shore loop. Except I sense that he sucks ass.
KG: What's the one where he goes to the farm?
KG: That looked really good.
O: I think that's the best-reviewed Pauly Shore movie.
KG: I auditioned for the one… What's the one where he plays a juror?
O: I think it's… I don't remember. [It's Jury Duty.] I think they may have had a few O.J. jokes in that, however.
KG: Yeah, they added them at the last minute.
O: Every review I see of Tenacious D has some lame comparison, like, "It's so-and-so meets so-and-so." If you were to write your own, what would it be?
KG: Metallica meets Rupert Pupkin.
JB: Not Metallica.
KG: Umm… Ozzy meets…
JB: Come on… Cheech & Chong meet…
JB: We sing a little and we fight a little. We talk a little. We're dumb a little.
O: Are you doing any more episodes for HBO?
KG: I think the word on the street is…
JB: It's not official, but the word on the street is… Tell 'em, Kage. Tell 'em, Kage.
KG: I do have a calendar here in front of me that says we're going to shoot 10 half-hours. And we're going to move from 10 minutes, unofficially, to a half-hour format.
O: Can I print this?
O: Have you cooked up any plots, or songs that you're really looking forward to putting out there?
JB: Now, that's top-secret, as you know. You lay one of those out on the griddle, you'll see three of them come mornin'.
KG: I'll tell you what, though. I see a Sasquatch trilogy and a prequel. I see an episode where maybe Lee [Tenacious D's fan and website manager] gets a band together.
O: I noticed in the song you do with Lee that there's tension coming from you, Jack, that's never really resolved in the episode itself.
JB: You're right. That's an example of the song being written before the episode, and then we never changed the song. Some of the things about it were left as is, even though they didn't fit the episode.
KG: We get a little precious about the lyrics.
O: You don't do a lot of covers, but you do a cover of Queen's theme song to Flash Gordon. Why that one?
KG: Well, Jack really liked the song and learned it. I thought the chords were really cool, and I think it's good song.
O: There's an album in your future, right?
JB: Well, we hope so. There are a couple of offers on the table, but we're wary of getting involved in the big-label runaround where they pay you a chunk of change up front and then fuck your fanny hard.
KG: I don't want to be on heavy rotation with Matchbox 20. That's always my biggest fear.
O: You could end up having one hit novelty song that would mess things up for you in the future.
JB: The main thing is we don't want someone telling us what's funny and what songs can be on the album and no fucking control and then bullshit people that are like father figures touching our privates behind closed doors.
O: How long have you both been playing, separately?
KG: Well, I always played instruments growing up.
O: So, you really did teach Jack to play, then?
KG: Jack was a very accomplished singer, but he was very shy… [Phone clicks.] Hold on a second. [Gass clicks off.]
JB: Now we can talk seriously and frankly. The side project is to begin immediately: The Jack Black Experience. And the sooner the better. [Gass clicks back on.]
KG: Were you talking behind my back again? Was he talking solo project? Did he mention The Jack Black Experience? Did I bust you?
O: Just to continue that train of thought, what would The Jack Black Experience involve? Is your creativity being stifled?
KG: We always get the Smothers Brothers, but, you know, they're pretty folky. I don't think they really rock too hard.
JB: Yeah, but the similarities are there.
O: That's true. You do have kind of the same dynamic.
JB: Market research has shown that the ladies love the JB/KG combo. Why would I mess with that chemistry?
KG: I always think of The Jack Black Experience as maybe scenes from your movie and stuff.
JB: The Jack Black Experience is a whole higher thing. It's not for everybody.
KG: You hire a bunch of crack session men…
JB: If you want indie cred, you go to The Jack Black Experience. If you want the crowd-pleaser, you go to the D.
O: Video golf pops up a lot in Tenacious D. Has it played a big role in your lives?
JB: We have an ongoing competition.
KG: There's actually a Millennium Cup where we keep track of all the games won and lost. It's a big time-waster.
O: Who's winning?
KG: I think I am.
JB: The truth of the matter is that it's not just me against Kyle. In the battle of me and Kyle, I'm actually winning. But if you break it down to our partners, Jason Reid and Bob White, they're ahead.
KG: The golf was primarily used as a creative tool. We were blocked creatively and we'd say, "Jog the brain," and we'd sit down and play.
O: And you found that that helped?
KG: No. But it was a great procrastination device.
JB: And it also created pleasures… untold pleasures, of the mind.
O: Any parting words?
KG: Don't miss the new Thomas Harris book.
O: Have you read it yet?
KG: No. It's not out, is it?
JB: Here goes a parting shot: "Don't forget to shred."