By Alessandra Rizzotti
It’s not often you’ll find a better urban dance tale than You Got Served, but Matt Besser has crafted just that in his musical stage show, Freak Dance: The Forbidden Dirty Boogaloo. Staged at Los Angeles’ UCB Theater every Friday night, Freak Dance is about the heroic efforts to save a rundown dance center from the hands of a city building inspector and an evil rival dance studio. Combining iconic moments straight out of Flashdance, Footloose, Save the Last Dance as well as You Got Served, Besser has put together a well-choreographed show, replete with dance bulge codpieces, a Jewish wedding number and a choice ditty that involves a pig carcass. Heeb recently spoke to Besser about Freak Dance and some other stuff.
You’ve done tons of stage and sketch shows, but never a musical. What was the inspiration?
I started writing Freak Dance years ago when our UCB theater in New York got shut down. It reminded me of the Boogaloo movies in which a community center gets shut down by the city and they’ve got to have a dance contest to save it. So, that was the original inspiration. I’ve always been a fan of dance movies – Fame, Footloose—the modern ones are even funnier – You Got Served, Stomp the Yard and Step Up. I have now officially seen every dance movie and I can tell you they’re pretty much all the same with different steps. So we took all the greatest archetypes of all those movies and put them together and that became the script.
The trailer for the show involved 100 people dancing through the streets of Los Angeles. How did you go about choreographing it?
The video is based on the Miley Cyrus videos. Kathryn Burns and Jennifer Li did most of the choreography and we have a lot of talented dancers in the cast that gave great ideas. I formed some of the jokes for the choreography and wrote a lot of lyrics. The music was by Brian Fountain and Jake Anthony.
How did you get the Bad Newz Bear Crew involved?
I didn’t want the joke of the show to be how bad of dancers we were. That gets kinda old after a while – hey look how funny and bad we are at break dancing—so I wanted real break dancers in the show. I just started looking around the local L.A. B-boy scene and contacted a few of them through Myspace.
You are half-Jewish, half-Christian, but you identify as an atheist.
I’m from Little Rock, Arkansas. I’ve been to temple five times – someone was dead every time, so I didn’t get to know my Jewish side much growing up. But the Christian side of the family—my mother’s side – my grandparents really pushed Christianity hard on me and were not into my Jewish father and pushed so hard that they made me reject Christianity big time…. I went to an Evangelical summer camp and had bad experiences there. I think I was 12 when I first started hating religion, but I haven’t really had Jews push religion on me. I’ve had Jews be mean to me at the B&H in New York City when I tried to buy video tapes, but beyond that…
Your one man show, Woo Pig Sooie, is about your battles with God—can you share some of those battles with us?
Most recently, the most irritating person to me would have to be Palin and to think that there’s people out there who–that the whole reason McCain had to get Palin is that he wasn’t Christian enough for that part of the Republican party–and that just shows how sad it is that they have to get some unqualified person like Palin to run with McCain to appeal to the Evangelical idiots. So, I think that’s everybody’s battling with God right now. Most atheists are very irritating to people. We come off like know-it-alls. Most atheists have an annoying smirk on their face most of the time. I tend to get annoyed at very small things like I have an allergy problem and people say "God Bless You" everytime you sneeze and if you’re an atheist, you don’t want to be blessed right at that moment, you know, and if you’re a Jew you don’t like that the only German word people know is "Gezunheidt." You don’t want some Nazi yelling at you right in your moment of weakness.
On your Comedy Central prank show Crossballs, you wrote an episode called "Godster," in which a computer constructed a God that everyone could worship. What do you think a Jewish God would look like if the Godster computer generated it?
Well, it would definitely have the head of Woody Allen —I know that. Um, and the body of Rex Grossman who I hear isn’t Jewish, but I always try to think he is just so that we have one Jewish football player that I can point to. Maybe it would have the breasts of the girl on the Heeb Summer 2008 cover [Bar Refaeli].
You’re performing at Heeb Storytelling LA on December 15. Any chance you’ll bring some elements from your one-man-show to our stage? Pope hats? A head of a pig?
I don’t think this is going to be a prop heavy show. I got some college stories. I went to college in Massachusetts with a lot of New York Jews, so I got really Jewed-up in college.
Check out the Freak Dance CD, due out any day now.