Joss Whedon on ‘Dr. Horrible,’ Stephen Sondheim, and Bad Horse

Photo: Getty Images,

Over the weekend, the third and final act of Joss Whedon's awesome online TV show, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, appeared and then disappeared. (It's still available on iTunes, and will soon be released on DVD.) Devoted fans watched the once-lighthearted series take a turn into decidedly Sweeney Todd–ish territory — and also got to see the head of the Evil League of Evil in all his hilarious equine magnificence. Vulture talked to Whedon about his DIY side project — which starred Neil Patrick Harris and Nathan Fillion — this afternoon.

So now that Dr. Horrible has aired in full, was there anything you cut? Was there was ever intended to be a song for Penny in the third act, or for Moist?
Oh no, we built it very tightly. Apart from a couple of lines for Neil that I had overwritten and that we trimmed, it pretty much stayed intact, structurally. There was never a Moist song, but God knows we've talked about one. And my biggest regret is that we didn't get to have another Penny and Billy duet. When they sang together, it made my heart go ping.

What triggered the project during the writers' strike?
From the beginning, I was in meetings with companies to make deals to create stuff for the Internet, in a cheaper fashion — but still on a grander scale than Dr. Horrible — but nothing was going. Nothing was going! So I did something I should've done a long time before — I took matters into my own hands. And now I've finally struck the first blow for writers in the strike! Hey, where did everybody go? We thought of a slow release, little hints — leave a trail of bread crumbs at Comic-Con. And we were like, "No, we're just going to show it. For free."

What were your influences? As usual, we heard some Sondheim, a little Sweeney.
A little bit. A little bit of the old Sondy. [Whedon's brother] Jed has been in a band for years. Apart from Sondheim, our influences are probably pretty different. We're eleven years apart. And I'm a nerd. He's a rock star. So he knows contemporary stuff way better. Plus, he can play his instruments, the fucker. I fall back on all the old stuff, by which I mean the seventies stuff: The Phantom of the Paradise. It's very sort of seventies ballad-y.

Our husband said it reminded him of the book Soon I Will Be Invincible. Have you read that?
I haven't, but I've heard the title, and honestly, I think the title was an influence. The Specials, too, has to be given a nod. Because it's still the best script about lame superheroes ever written.

What were your favorite bits?
You know, you can't really argue with "the hammer is my penis." You can't really be angry that that happened. Also, I'm just going to go ahead and say … the horse.

So simple. Yet so satisfying.
There's so much speculation about Bad Horse. Actually, the costumer who read it threw out some Bad Horse costume ideas. I was like, Ah, okay. It's a horse.

Which bits didn't live up to what you wanted? Or didn't work?
There were a couple of jokes that don't really get laughs. I'm proud to say I wrote both of them.

Name one.
"Is that the new catchphrase?" It's a little throwaway thing that I wish I had thrown away. But you know what, it has the purity of being … well, pure, for one thing. Not having a ton of compromise involved. It's as if our ids wrote a musical.
—Emily Nussbaum

Earlier: Joss Whedon’s ‘Dr. Horrible’ Totally Adorable