Comedian Eliot Glazer’s web series turned live show, Haunting Renditions, turns all of the best bad pop songs of yore and repackages them into beautiful(ly ironic) ballads, shining a giant spotlight on just how cheesy your favorite pop lyrics can get.
The series, which started as a “vanity project” for the Broad City and New Girl writer, features a variety of musical and comedy guests. We spoke with Glazer about the creation of his project, as well as his hopes for adapting Haunting Renditions for television.
Vinyl Mag: How did this concept first form? What made you decide that you wanted to incorporate music into comedy?
Eliot Glazer: My friend Seth Keim and I simply made it as a vanity project. Seth works on Jimmy Fallon, but we grew up together and always collaborated, literally starting in 9th grade. After we worked on Shit New Yorkers Say, [my other web series] It Gets Betterish, and Eliot’s Sketch Pad (for Above Average), we made five Haunting Renditions videos honestly just for ourselves based on an idea I’d had for a while—a sendup of MTV Unplugged or Austin City Limits.
Mike Fram, the musical director of my college a capella group, helped arrange the songs and played the piano, and from there, the show naturally progressed into a live show.
VM: Not all of your songs are blatantly lyrically amusing, but their comedy comes out in the context of the performance. What do you look for in the music you select?
EG: Yeah, leaning into silly lyrics with self-serious music is accessibly funny on the surface. But playing with the context or artifice of the song is more challenging. But when it’s about context, the joke tends to come from the arrangement: it’s in the way a song is sung and played. Visual aids also help, too, but it’s really just a matter of sonically breaking down a song so that it stirs up feelings of nostalgia, which then hopefully make you laugh. Or at least remind you that you knew every word to this song, but never stopped to think about what they really mean.
VM: What about nostalgia appeals to or inspires you?
EG: So much of nostalgia brings you back to childhood. It’s funny to apply your adult brain to your child brain, for better or worse.
VM: Do you come up with the concept and then figure out the guest, or the other way around?
EG: We always figure out a fun bit with guests, not the other way around. It should always feel personal for them.
VM: Is everything rehearsed, or is there an element of improvisation in the performance?
EG: There’s certainly improv in the way I sing, but everything is tightly rehearsed.
VM: How does your classical music training inform the series?
EG: Not very much! I know my vocal ability is based more in pop/R&B, so any operatic training doesn’t really apply.
VM: Who are some of your dream guests, both comedians and musicians?
EG: Erykah Badu, Maya Rudolph, Fred Armisen, The Roots, and I really need to get my buddy Eric Andre sometime (he’s a jazz musician).
VM: Will you be continuing HR the web series?
EG: We’re pitching an adapted version of the web series for TV with a production company, so hopefully we can make the jump later this year.
VM: What are some of your favorite performances so far?
EG: Performing a Toni Braxton song with Thorgy Thor for 420 was pretty incredible. I always love when I can share the stage with my sister, which has become a holiday tradition. And having Abbi Jacobson reprise her alter ego, Val, from Broad City, was super fun. Doing bits with Pete Holmes, Gilbert Gottfried, and Mamrie Hart were also super special.
VM: What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned since your first show? How has the vision changed since then?
EG: The show started out with me acting like some egomaniacal musicologist, and I’ve slowly become more myself onstage, less of this “character.” It’s been a real boost of self-confidence to not feel like I had to hide behind an alter ego.
VM: What is coming up for Haunting Renditions? What is your vision for it in the future?
EG: The hope is to adapt it for TV, which we’re working on with a fantastic production company. It would be really cool to see the brand continue to develop and grow, but ultimately I just want to keep having fun. Bringing it to festivals, even internationally, would be really cool, too.