Trevor Moore, founding member of The Whitest Kids U’ Know, returns to television at midnight on March 6th with a brand new one-hour Comedy Central musical special, High in Church. The show was recorded live at the Gramercy Theater in New York and incorporates a full band, backup singers, dancing girls and some truly hilarious music videos featuring Presidential cat assassinations, drunk texts and Moore and his pals accidentally tripping balls at a midnight mass. I talked to Moore about the special, his conservative upbringing, and the latest news on The Whitest Kids U’ Know.
This special is entirely musical. A couple of years ago, you released the musical album Drunk Texts to Myself. What made you decide to push the musical angle for your solo stuff?
I grew up on a tour bus. My parents were Christian rock singers in the 80s. I’ve always been around it. Even in Whitest Kids, I would always put out two or three songs every season. Those are the things that I would like to go and write. I really enjoyed being in the recording studio with the musicians, making the songs and then shooting the videos for them. When we started to wrap up Whitest Kids after five seasons, I just went over to Comedy Central and was like, “You know, I’ve got a whole album worth of songs that I’ve never done anything with. Would you guys be interested in me putting out music?” They were into the idea.
How do you select which musicians to work with?
For the most part, I’ve been using these guys Chris Maxwell and Phil Hernandez, who go by The Elegant Two. They produce a lot of the music for Bob’s Burgers. They had also done the music for Whitest Kids with me. They do the bulk of the instruments and if we want to get something more obscure, like a honky tonk piano or harmonica player, we’ll hire them in for the day.
How about the house band for the special? You’ve got a full band, backup singers, the works.
That’s them! Phil was the drummer. Chris was on guitar. The background singers did the backup vocals on my album. Then we had Marco Benevento, a touring piano player, on piano for us. I was lucky enough because I shot the special in New York and recorded the album in Woodstock. All of the people that I used on the record were local to New York, so I could basically just have everybody come in and do it live.
You mentioned growing up with musical parents who were also Christian. In the special, you talk about growing up in the South and listening to country music. How did all of those factors influence your comedy style?
I grew up in a very, very rural environment, kind of on a farm. We didn’t have cable or anything. It forces you to create things out of sheer mind-numbing boredom. It pushed me toward making little videos and sketches to entertain myself. I return to a lot of themes, constantly. There’s a lot of politics, history and religion. I think it’s part of growing up in a very conservative, religious area in Virginia where these were the topics that were always around when I was growing up. I went to a Christian school. We would go to church on the weekends. Then, we would go on the road and my parents would play their concerts. I grew up in an area full of Civil War battlefields. I would go out with my grandfather with metal detectors and find cannonballs, sword handles, stuff like that. History was always present. Those things are topics that I keep coming back to now that I’m older. At first, I think my parents felt like I was personally attacking them by coming back to these topics. Now they’ve sort of realized that it’s not about them. I’m not attacking them. These were just such big parts of how I grew up that it’s only natural that I write about them now.
You chose to showcase two topics that most people tend to avoid: religion and politics. What’s it like when you go home for the holidays?
I’ve been doing this for a little while now. Toward the beginning, we would have these big arguments. As time has gone by, they have come to understand that it’s not personal. But still, like for this album, they were like, “Should we watch the special when it comes on?” I said, “Eh. I’ll send you some links or something, but don’t knock yourself out.” Then they asked what the special was called. There are some eggshells. I don’t want to anger them or hurt their feelings. That’s never the intention. It’s just more about the fact that these issues dominate my headspace.
Do you find something inherently funny about Presidential assassination?
(Laughs) I must, because I keep writing about it. With this one, the Kennedy one, I’m obsessed with conspiracy theories. I don’t necessarily believe a lot of them, but I find them fascinating. I’m rather skeptical. That being said, the Kennedy assassination, I feel is in broad daylight. The whole thing with this song was like… let’s take some damning pieces of information and wrap it and mask it in silliness with cute kittens sitting on a diorama and make what is a heavy, loaded subject cute and bubbly.
Was this redemption for never getting to film Cat Congress?
You know about Cat Congress? Wow. Yeah, totally! We pitched Cat Congress so many times and it never got made. There are two things like that in this special. The other one is that I always used to pitch something with a monkey because I wanted to do a sketch with a monkey. So this time I was like, “We’re going to get a monkey and a bunch of cats and do this for me.”
You had some great guest cameos like Steve Agee, Reggie Watts, Randy Liedtke – who else am I missing?
Of course. How did he get involved with the project?
That was crazy for me. My manager is friends with him and asked if he would do it. He was super cool. I had never met him until that day. He was one of the last Kids in the Hall guys that I hadn’t met and I was psyched that he came to do it.
Let’s talk about Whitest Kids for a bit. You’ve been doing some select shows with a couple of the guys from the group. What’s the status of the group as a whole?
We all kind of live in different states. Three of us live in L.A. I’m meeting with them tomorrow to write some stuff. Timmy lives in South Dakota. Darren lives in New York. We’ll meet up to do live shows sometimes as a group. I tour a lot with this music stuff and I’ll usually have Darren or Sam come with me. That way, I can change it up. Like, “Here’s a set of songs from the new album and now here are three old Whitest Kids sketches we like to do.” We’re still writing things together. We have this one idea that we’re developing now. We’ll see if something comes of that. We did a pilot last year with the whole group, but it didn’t make it. We’re just waiting to sign that right idea to make it another Whitest Kids thing.