Needle Drops House musician Jonathan Coulton challenges the creators of the IFC series Sherman's Showcase Diallo Riddle and Bashir Salahuddin to a music parody game about songs famously associated with movies.

Needle Drops

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OPHIRA EISENBERG, HOST:

Our next two guests created, write and star in two current TV shows, "South Side" on Comedy Central and "Sherman's Showcase," which is a spoof of variety shows like "Soul Train." And their new hour-long "Black History Month Spectacular" is out this weekend for Juneteenth on AMC and IFC. Bashir Salahuddin and Diallo Riddle are on the phone. Hello.

BASHIR SALAHUDDIN: Hey, hey, hey.

DIALLO RIDDLE: How's it going?

SALAHUDDIN: How's it going, everybody?

RIDDLE: This is on the phone? I literally put on a tux. I didn't know it was just...

EISENBERG: (Laughter) Well, I guess, yeah, the phone-slash-Zoom-slash - I don't know - the Interwebs (ph) through Wi-Fi.

RIDDLE: Excellent.

EISENBERG: Joining us through Wi-Fi - that's what we should be saying. Bashir, I know you filmed this Juneteenth special a while ago, but it seems like it's responding to the news right now.

SALAHUDDIN: It makes it seem like we were totally planning this. But, you know, this is one of those times where, luckily for us, the universe kind of caught up to us.

RIDDLE: And what's funny is that by writing things that we thought were funny and relevant to what we just happened to be talking about, it seemed like we were able to hit a lot of things before other people were able to get to them. We were able to do something about kente cloth. Now, that was not because we knew that, you know, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer were going to wear kente cloth last week. Kente cloth is something that Bashir and I were both raised around. We both had these very socially conscious families. And if you grow up in these socially conscious families, especially if you're black, you know what kente cloth is.

SALAHUDDIN: You know, it's from Africa. It's from West Africa. I mean, everything is from Africa at some point, so it almost feels silly to say that. But, you know - but it is a very uniquely African American - it's at the core of a uniquely African American tradition. It's at the core of our celebrations, and it's at the core of even our graduation ceremonies. You'll see a lot of black kids wearing kente cloth stoles. And so it's kind of like one of those things you just grow up with, and you don't put much thought into it. And I think now I'm actually giving it more thought and then - and, you know, having to be...

RIDDLE: Yeah.

SALAHUDDIN: ...A little more present because I didn't even appreciate what this gift was that my parents were giving us, just saying - hey; this is something for you.

RIDDLE: It's like piano lessons. You don't appreciate them at the time.

EISENBERG: (Laughter) You hate them at the time.

SALAHUDDIN: Until you become the drunk guy at the party who can kind of play songs a little bit. And everybody's like, that guy's kind of decent.

EISENBERG: You two have known each other for decades, right? How did you meet?

RIDDLE: We met in an a capella group. We were at Harvard together, and we were singing together. And then eventually, we figured out we thought some of the same stuff was funny. So that's how we ended up working in this crazy entertainment field together.

JONATHAN COULTON, BYLINE: I have to ask what a cappella group because...

SALAHUDDIN: Oh.

COULTON: I was at Yale. I was in an a capella group...

SALAHUDDIN: Oh, nice.

COULTON: ...At Yale, so...

SALAHUDDIN: First off, now we know you're cool because...

COULTON: Yeah, that's right. A cappella club - coolest club in the world.

SALAHUDDIN: Exactly. Anybody who's been inundated, you know, while they were trying to study with the, you know, a capella interruption in class, where they all run into the room and...

COULTON: That's right.

SALAHUDDIN: ...Sing you some sweet sounds while you're trying to focus on other things...

COULTON: Everyone always loves it.

SALAHUDDIN: Yeah, they always love it. But no, we were in a group called Brothers, which was actually a subgroup of the Harvard black university choir called the Kuumba Singers.

RIDDLE: Kuumba Singers.

SALAHUDDIN: We were, like, the bad kids. We were, like, this offshoot. And - you know, we weren't singing, like, gospel hymns and, like, soul rhythms. We were trying to sing, like, R&B and, like, do, like, Jodeci stuff.

COULTON: Right.

RIDDLE: But wait. I have to ask now. So what a capella group were you at Yale?

COULTON: Well, I was - first I was in the Spizzwinks, and then I was in the Whiffenpoofs my senior year.

RIDDLE: The - I was going to say, that's the only one that I - that's the one I remember. And we had a really good friend of ours who was Krokodiloes, so there you go.

COULTON: Good old Krokodiloes.

RIDDLE: The Kroks.

SALAHUDDIN: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

COULTON: The Krokodiloes and - what's the other - the Din & Tonics is the other one that I remember.

RIDDLE: The Din & Tonics, which got me drinking gin and tonics...

(LAUGHTER)

RIDDLE: ...Because I wanted to see what all the hubbub-bub (ph) was about. And you can just blame that a cappella group for my crippling, you know, alcoholism. There you go.

SALAHUDDIN: That's what I'm blaming it on.

COULTON: Makes perfect sense.

SALAHUDDIN: And by the way, Jonathan, am I correct in saying - I just realized this. I think you wrote one of my favorite songs of all time. Did you write "Alive"?

COULTON: "Still Alive," yeah - at the end of the "Portal" song.

SALAHUDDIN: "Portal" - dude, not only do I love that song...

COULTON: Aw (ph).

SALAHUDDIN: ...But we saw you. We saw you. I came to your concert. I want to say...

COULTON: No.

SALAHUDDIN: It was at one of the comedy festivals. I want to say Aspen HBO...

RIDDLE: In Aspen, yeah.

SALAHUDDIN: ...Years ago.

COULTON: Aw (ph), man.

RIDDLE: We saw you there. You were absolutely great, dude.

COULTON: Oh, thank you very much. Thank you.

SALAHUDDIN: I was like, this name looks so familiar.

EISENBERG: Did you actually also think there could be two? I mean, it's possible.

RIDDLE: Two Jonathan Coultons?

(LAUGHTER)

SALAHUDDIN: The issue is that I'm so wrong about stuff in life. And my worst one is when I actually see celebrities in real life because I have a pretty much 98% track record of saying, hey; aren't you - and then being wrong about who that is.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Like the day I was like, oh, Julia Stiles. And she was like, I'm Claire Danes. And I was like, whatever. Yeah - that one.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Well, we have a music parody game for you.

RIDDLE: Oh, here we go.

EISENBERG: This game is called Needle Drops, and it's about songs that are famously associated with movies.

COULTON: We rewrote popular songs to make them about the movie scenes that they are featured in. So there are three ways you can earn a point. You can tell me the movie I'm singing about, the song or artist I'm parodying. Or you could just recommend a movie would be fine if you don't know the answers to any of those others.

RIDDLE: OK.

COULTON: And you're competing against each other, so we're going to go back and forth starting with Diallo.

RIDDLE: All right.

COULTON: This one's for you. Here we go.

RIDDLE: OK.

COULTON: (Singing) Some say that you and I, we don't have that much chemistry. Even so...

RIDDLE: (Laughter).

COULTON: (Singing) ...I still owe. After all, you took a bullet for me. So I am stopping this plane.

RIDDLE: (Laughter) She sure did. She sure did.

COULTON: (Singing) And I am stopping this plane.

RIDDLE: Wow. That was beautiful.

COULTON: Oh, thank you.

RIDDLE: "The Bodyguard," Whitney Houston, "I Will Always Love You."

COULTON: Yeah, absolutely correct.

RIDDLE: Yeah.

COULTON: You got them all.

RIDDLE: By the way, my mother would disagree with you. She thought that they had fantastic chemistry.

EISENBERG: That's right.

COULTON: All right, Bashir, this one is for you.

SALAHUDDIN: Let's do it.

COULTON: (Singing) Russell's coming down from tripping...

SALAHUDDIN: (Laughter).

COULTON: (Singing) ...As the bus rolls down the highway. We were pissed, but now we're singing. I was a golden god today.

SALAHUDDIN: Well, the movie is "Almost Famous."

COULTON: That is correct.

SALAHUDDIN: You were parodying Elton John's "Tiny Dancer."

COULTON: Yeah, absolutely.

SALAHUDDIN: And is that everything I need to say? Is there anything...

EISENBERG: Yeah. That's everything.

(CROSSTALK)

SALAHUDDIN: Great movie.

RIDDLE: Good job.

COULTON: All right, Diallo, this one is for you.

RIDDLE: OK.

COULTON: (Singing) Five kids get dropped off at school, but it's a Saturday. Weekend detention, baby - each has a story to tell. They write an essay, and they get along well. But they don't look like teenagers to me.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: (Singing) No, no, no, no. They look at least 23.

RIDDLE: I was hoping you were going to do the, (singing) when you walk on by. I was hoping that...

COULTON: I know. I'm tempted to go all the way through (laughter).

RIDDLE: "Don't Forget About Me" by The Simple Minds, "The Breakfast Club."

COULTON: Yeah. Exactly right. You guys are killing this game.

SALAHUDDIN: I thought Anthony - what's his name? - Anthony Michael Hall. He looked the right age.

EISENBERG: Yeah, right.

COULTON: Yeah.

SALAHUDDIN: But Judd Hirsch looks like he's about 30 - I'm sorry, not Judd Hirsch, Judd Nelson, excuse me.

(CROSSTALK)

SALAHUDDIN: By the way, Judd Hirsch also looks old in the movie. But Judd Nelson...

(LAUGHTER)

SALAHUDDIN: It's like, why is Judd Hirsch here? All the Judds. Wynonna Judd.

RIDDLE: Ashley.

COULTON: Yeah. I looked - I actually - I looked it up, and Anthony Michael Hall was 17 at the time.

RIDDLE: Oh, there you go.

COULTON: And Judd Nelson was 26. He was 26.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Wow.

COULTON: All right. Bashir, here's one for you.

SALAHUDDIN: Let's rock 'n' roll. Let's go.

RIDDLE: Here comes some soul (laughter).

COULTON: I love your enthusiasm. Here we go.

(Singing) Does this count as stalking? Maybe so. It's a risky move, this teen tableau. I got this boom box. It's 3 feet wide. Wake up. I'm standing outside.

SALAHUDDIN: OK. It's Peter Gabriel.

(Singing) Oh, my instincts - they return.

I know the song is - by the way, I know the movie is "Say Anything," but I want to get this Peter Gabriel song title.

(Singing) Reach out inside.

It's not "Don't Give Up," is it? No.

COULTON: Next line - the next line is the chorus.

SALAHUDDIN: (Singing) In your eyes.

COULTON: I knew it was in there.

RIDDLE: In the Peter Gabriel-Phil Collins-Genesis divide, I think I'm going to go with Phil Collins. I'm going to be the outlier.

EISENBERG: Wow.

COULTON: Wow.

SALAHUDDIN: Wow. You're wrong because Peter Gabriel is a much more incredible...

RIDDLE: Listen. As a kid, I thought his song "Big Time," like, it was just - I thought "Big Time" was an amazing song.

SALAHUDDIN: You didn't like "Sledgehammer"?

RIDDLE: You know, "Sledgehammer" got played out to me. It was on MTV every two seconds. It had the claymation...

COULTON: It was played a lot.

SALAHUDDIN: But listen to it now because you know what? It stands up.

RIDDLE: No, no, no. Listen. I love Peter Gabriel. But I will say, Phil Collins with, like, songs like "Easy Lover" and "Billy Don't You Lose My Number (ph)"

EISENBERG: Wait a sec. Wait a sec. "Sussudio."

RIDDLE: "Sussudio." I mean, like, the man was a machine.

(LAUGHTER)

RIDDLE: He did the song with the guy from "Earth, Wind, & Fire."

EISENBERG: That's right.

SALAHUDDIN: "Easy Lover." Philip Bailey.

EISENBERG: That's right.

RIDDLE: Oh, God, such a great - (vocalizing). That was a good song.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: All right, you guys, we have two questions left. This one is for you, Diallo.

RIDDLE: All right.

COULTON: (Singing) Quill puts his headphones on his head, presses play. And he dances around. Well, he kicks a bunch of aliens. He prefers Star Lord. He prefers Star Lord.

RIDDLE: OK. The movie is "Guardians Of The Galaxy."

COULTON: Yes, yes it is.

RIDDLE: "Come And Get Your Love" is the name of the song.

COULTON: Yeah.

RIDDLE: The group is Native American. A lot of people don't realize that - Native American group.

EISENBERG: Nice.

RIDDLE: But I am blanking on the name of the group.

COULTON: I did not - this is one of those songs that I know this song, but I've never known who it was by. And the answer is Redbone.

RIDDLE: Oh, man. I guess I'm down 1 point.

COULTON: All right. This is the last question. It's for you, Bashir.

RIDDLE: Bashir has to get all three to win.

SALAHUDDIN: Let's go. Let's go.

EISENBERG: That's right.

COULTON: Here we go.

(Singing) Baby, if you make it to the credits and way past U2, you get to hear the song that I wrote, yeah, from the film that Val Kilmer did, the suit nipples hidden this time.

SALAHUDDIN: Well, I know the song is "Kissing From A Rose" by Seal. My only - my brain is going "Batman Returns," but that doesn't feel right.

COULTON: I'm sorry, that is incorrect. It is "Batman Forever."

RIDDLE: Yep.

EISENBERG: Which means that you are tied.

RIDDLE: You know, we've known each other for 25 years. We actually have the same birthday, which we didn't know forever because we were in school together. And we have summer birthdays, so we didn't really know that we have the same birthday. We just have to share so much.

SALAHUDDIN: "Kiss From A Rose" is not an appropriate song for a Batman movie, so it is not inherent. And it's not intuitive. I love Seal. And so I think I should get half credit for that.

RIDDLE: No, I don't think so.

EISENBERG: In our remote versions, we let people talk us into points. So yeah, for sure.

RIDDLE: Wait. No. No. You guys are revealing rules this late game? This is a racket.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: I know. It's "Quiz Show" all over again.

RIDDLE: Yeah. I watch Wait Wait.. Don't Tell Me. I'm like, no, come on, man.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Bashir, Diallo, thank you so much for joining us. It was a complete delight.

SALAHUDDIN: It's a pleasure.

RIDDLE: Thank you. I like playing games. This has been so much fun.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

EISENBERG: That's Bashir Salahuddin and Diallo Riddle. And their new "Sherman's Showcase," "Black History Month Spectacular," is out Juneteenth on IFC.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

EISENBERG: Coming up, two very good friends of the show are back for more. Songwriters and composers for Disney's "Frozen," Kristen and Robert Lopez, will venture into the unknown. I'm Ophira Eisenberg, and this is ASK ME ANOTHER from NPR.

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