5 Questions I’ve Never Been Asked: Nick Brennan and Luke Jones

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ThankYou2w_MaxRubyIn popular culture, The Golden Girls has done what few sitcoms have done: passed successfully, even triumphantly, from comedy to nostalgia to camp. The adventures of Dorothy, Blanche, Rose and Sophia replay on Lifetime ad nauseum, but all I know is that dear friends of ours are obsessed with the four of them and one of our friends is the type you can play Stump Me with, hurling at him all kinds of minutiae about the show.

Now, not that I’d want to make a point about why gay men love The Golden Girls in particular, but if The Golden Girls: Live! a few years ago proved that not having the rights to a cultural icon makes for problems, at least the boys behind Thank You For Being a Friend, which runs at the Kraine Theater through Aug. 23, know what to do: go out for parody!

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Photo by Max Ruby.

In Thank You For Being a Friend, four women over 60 (Blanchette, the varicose-veined vixen; Dorthea, the brainy ball-buster; Roz, the lovable airhead; and Sophie, the wisecracking spitfire) are spending their golden years together in a bungalow in Miami. But when gay pop superstar Lance Bass moves next door, his loud outdoor sex parties keep the quartet of cheesecake-loving retirees awake. The solution pits the gays against the girls at the annual Shady Oaks Retirement Home Talent Show: If the women win, then no more sex parties; if the gays garner top prize, the sassy seniors must serve as the party’s clean-up crew.

It features a book by Nick Brennan, lyrics by Luke Jones and music by Jeff Thomson; Brennan directs. There are also, naturally, parodies of landmark Broadway songs, like “All That Jizz.”

The show has already been extended twice, and I’m quite sure Susan Harris and Paul Junger Witt are less than thrilled this “unauthorized musical parody” — parody being protected by the constitution — but what can they do about it?

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And now, a video illustration.

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For more information on Thank You For Being a Friend, visit www.spincyclenyc.com or call 212-352-3101.

And now, 5 questions Nick Brennan and Luke Jones have never been asked – and a bonus question.

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1) What’s the most perceptive question anyone has ever asked you about your work?
In the case of Thank You For Being A Friend: The Musical, they comment about its heart. Yes, it’s written in a dirty, irreverent, high-camp style, but it also has a sentimental side to it. These characters love each other in the end. The perceptive audiences have really liked how we mixed that into the script and lyrics. They laugh at the dirty jokes and the mean putdowns, but they are elevated by the fact that these “women” really care for each other. That’s obvious when they sing the song “I’ll Be There For You.”

2) What’s the most idiotic question anyone has ever asked you about your work?
Haha, The Gay City News questioned whether our show was homophobic or not. Hmmm, we are gay writers, this is a camp show, The Golden Girls is an iconic show for gay audiences…we and the show are definitely “friends of Dorothy”; I think the answer is obvious. However, the show does poke fun at gay people and their culture. Hey, if Bruno can do it, so can we. I guess what I’m saying is lighten up and laugh, people.

3) What’s the weirdest question anyone has ever asked you about your work?
We had an elderly lady who once asked us where we came up with the lyrics “Grope me! Choke me! Spit in my Mouth! I wanna feel those balls a-bouncing on my chin!” Personal experience, lady, personal experience.

4) Thank You for Being a Friend sounds like a tribute show and satire as well as parody (or at least skirting between the two). Presuming you two have as much affection for The Golden Girls as the rest of us (gay and straight alike), how easy or difficult was it to actually write the show? In other words, was there a point when you came up with a song idea, parody or plot point and thought, Ooooh, that’s over the line. Dish, boys, dish!
Actually, this was easier to write than you might think. The archetypes are so recognizable and relatable that the lines almost wrote themselves. What was challenging was coming up with a storyline that was campy enough, ridiculous enough, gay enough, referenced the source material, yet had it’s own personality. I really think we’ve done that. One idea we toyed with cutting is Dorthea, after going through a sex change operation, flashes her newly molded cock and balls to a horny stage manager. Having no class or couth as writers, we decided we wanted Dorthea to show it to the audience in full swing. The cast, on the other hand, thought it was too over the top. Apparently no class or couth wins, because we kept it in and the audience hoots and hollers during that scene every night!

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5) Nick, you play Rose (er, Roz) and Luke, you play Dorothy (er, Dorthea). Since you’ve obviously gone to absolutely monumental lengths to conceal the fact that Thank You for Being a Friend is an “unauthorized” parody, do you worry about comparisons with the stars of The Golden Girls or about legal issues? Parody or no parody, cease and desist letters are just about the easiest things for a lawyer to write, right?
We did for awhile, but then we said to ourselves, this is an honest-to-Bea parody from start to finish. No copyrighted material is used from the original show and our golden gals have their own set of quirks and personalities that take their cue from the originals but make them completely original, outrageous characters. Writers have the right to comment on popular culture and to do that, references to the original must be made.

Bonus Question:

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6) If there is a God, what did he say to Bea Arthur when she got to heaven? Was Estelle Getty there to greet her? What did she say?
“I lent you my voice thinking it would make you a leader among men. Sorry it made people think you had a dick.” Estelle was there to greet her and she said, “Nice to see you, Bea, now shut up and let an old lady get some sleep on a cloud. The softness factor helps keep my hemorrhoids in check.