My Favorite Album: Heidi Gardner of “Saturday Night Live” on Tenacious D’s Self-Titled Album | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Saturday, August 8th, 2020  

My Favorite Album: Heidi Gardner of “Saturday Night Live” on Tenacious D’s Self-Titled Album

“I think just listening to how well it works when you make a comedy album with a kick-ass singer like Jack Black, it’s incredible.”

Jul 14, 2020 Web Exclusive
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Comedian and actor, Heidi Gardner, who is known for her many roles on Saturday Night Live and for her voice work on the animated show, SuperMansion, pursued her career in comedy a little later in life than some. While laughter had always been part of her world, for a while she never knew she could find a job that paid within the ranks. In the meantime, before earning a role on the most prestigious sketch show in the world, Gardner appreciated the work of the talented musical and comedic duo, Tenacious D. In fact, the band’s eponymous debut LP  (from 2001) is Garnder’s all-time favorite record. And though, as you’ll see below, she struggled a bit to admit that to the world, Gardner stands by the record in full, both for its creative prowess and for how it helped strengthen the relationship she had with her older brother. We caught up with the Bailey Gismert creator to talk about all things Tenacious D.

Jake Uitti (Under the Radar): Your birthday is coming up. Does that mean it’s almost Tenacious D time?

Heidi Gardner: Oh my god, that’s a good point! You know, there have been many times in my life when it’s been Tenacious D time. It’s my favorite album so when thinking about it now, it became Tenacious D time again. I think it’s going to carry probably into August. It will be, like, a birthday month of Tenacious D.

Had you, because of this conversation, dove back into the record?

Yeah, I dove back in because, when I thought about which was my favorite, that album was the first one that came to me. That’s my favorite album of all time. And then I had this, like, weird shame brain that was like, “A comedy album cannot be your favorite album, Heidi!” And so, I did this weird thing where then I was like, “Okay, then it has to be The Strokes.” So, then I put them up against each other. Because I was really trying to talk myself out of Tenacious D! But it was, like, “No!” I know every lyric to the Tenacious D album. I love it so much. So, it was really obvious. I was glad I dove back in. 

I’m 37 and I grew up in New Jersey listening to Dave Matthews. He’s my guy. But coupled with that comes a bashful quality to liking his music because people make fun of his fans. So, I wanted to ask, did you feel ashamed to love Tenacious D or did you blast them unabashedly?

I think I always blasted it unabashedly. But, like, at the time of that first album, it was also just, like, not all of my people knew who they were. So, either I had to be vulnerable enough to be like, “Can I introduce you to something?” Where you might be like, “What the fuck is this?” It was a great gauge of a new friend. So, yeah, I really had to trust the person would get it. [Laughs]

Were you hip to the HBO show before the record?

I was a little. I tried to remember the first time I was hip to them—I feel like I’d been away to, like, I can’t remember if it was maybe a summer camp or something? But I went to some dumb film camp in L.A. when I was 17 where they told us we were going to learn how to become directors. But really that didn’t happen. And Loni Anderson gave a talk and it was really bad. But when I got home, my older brother was like, “I have been dying for you to get home. I have to show you something!”

This weird thing happened where Tenacious D was on SNL but they weren’t the musical guest. Matthew Broderick hosted and at one point he just read a thing that was like, “The next guest wants me to read this.” And then Tenacious D performed two songs but they weren’t the musical guest. They just got on the show. So, when my brother had taped that for me, I was just blown away. I was like, “Where can we see more of these guys?!” Then I think the HBO show came out a little after that but we didn’t have HBO. For a while it was really like hunting and pecking for where you could see Tenacious D.

They were one of those bands I learned stuff from while listening to the records. It was a moment in 2001. It crystalized conversations you were having with friends, but you hadn’t heard them on albums. But it was also profound in a way. Did you feel that, too? 

Yeah! I feel like listening to their album, it kind of fucks with you in a way, because it’s so funny and then also, like, it’s really good music. I feel like I put Jack Black’s voice up against a lot of other singers. It’s really good. The guitar work is great. And then, yeah, I feel also like I learned a lot more about rock through them. I wouldn’t have known who, like, Dio was. They also talked about Ozzy [Osbourne] a lot in interviews. I feel like it made me look into, like, “How did they become what they are? What were they listening to?” And even more about the devil, too.

Dave Grohl was on the record. 

Yeah, Dave Grohl. I’ve learned so many different names for Satan because of that album. 

How did you get the record? Did you buy it? Was it a gift? 

I think I must have bought it. I can’t quite remember—I almost want to say I was probably, like, I bet I was 18 or 19. I think my brother heard that they were playing a show in St. Louis. So, I think what happened was we went to that show and that might have been the first time I heard the album, or the majority of it, because they played it. I think I bought the first album at the concert and took it back to my—I was starting my freshman year of college. So, I played it for my roommate who got obsessed with it and it was on from there.

When you were going back to it for this conversation, did you find new things? Is the reason you liked it then the reason you like it now? As someone who is in show business, in comedy, are there new things that jump out?

Yeah, there were a lot of new things. I definitely—all my favorite parts were still my favorite parts. But then there were just some random nuances in writing that I thought were so funny. Like in the song, “Tribute,” when, you know, they’re pitching the audience how good the song is, they’re like, “You gotta believe me, it’s just a matter of opinion!” I just feel like them saying, “It’s just a matter of opinion,” suddenly they’re deferential? It’s just a matter of opinion? I just loved how subtle that is. And then I think I did—I always picked up on the dynamic of Jack and Kyle. Jack’s the leader and always gives Kyle shit. But I was picking up on a lot more of it in the album, just Jack bullying Kyle, just the part where he says he’s going to get a cape and get a smaller one for KG. Just all this shit he gives him.

The skit with the drive-through line, too. When he’s ordering food and he says KG can’t eat anything! 

Yeah! So good. And I think Jack Black is such a force that I bet at that time I was just like, “He’s the funniest, he’s the funniest.” Then KG—I don’t necessarily want to call him the “straight man” because he’s not always that. But a bit of the time he is. He’s so funny in that drive-through one, too.

He’s kind of innocent. 

Yeah. Innocent and sweet. So, yeah. I feel like I was even able to appreciate him more.

Had you heard many comedy albums or even comedy music albums before?

Yeah, I was trying to think. The first one I super remember is Adam Sandler, They’re All Gonna Laugh at You!. And I remember my brother and I, we took our Christmas money and we went and bought that. He’s six years older than me and he was my introduction to all things cool. I remember when we played that, even he was like, “Ooh, I think I’m going to get in trouble for letting you listen to this.” Because it was pretty dirty and there were a lot of cuss words. So, that was the first one I remember. I thought it was so hilarious! But I think I remember a lot of things going over my head, too. Like, “Ooh, I know I’m going to get in trouble if someone finds out I’m listening to this.”

That album was big for me, too. My friends and I would cut up the scenes—like the bathroom scene where the guy pees for five minutes. We would do our own skits using those sound effects. 

Yeah, and “Toll Booth Willie!”

Does the Tenacious D album inspire you to do anything, specific? Like, write, work out, rock out, party? Or is it something that you listen to solo just to appreciate? 

Gosh, I think a mix of a lot of those. In the past few years I remember being on a road trip with friends who also had said, “Oh I love that album!” We put it on and it was so fun for all three of us to sing it at the same time. But then when I’m by myself, I think—yeah, you know, lately the last couple of times I’ve listened to it, I’ve just loved how original their point of view is. I do think that it’s pretty inspiring. Out of nowhere in the album, they’ll start acting like the devil and doing these different voices. It’s just so specific and it actually made me want to be like, “I wonder if someday I could ask them about it?” I have so many questions about, like, “Were you guys both on board? Or was one of you, like, ‘Dude, you’re too much!’ Or were you both flowing in this and did you know how—like, which parts were improvised?” Because some of [them] must be and some of the melodies seem like they are, too. So, it did make me inspired. But also very curious.

A friend of mine’s dad is randomly friends with Jack Black’s dad. They live in this small rural area. Somehow just knowing that, it makes sense—like, thinking that Jack grew up in an area without a lot of people around, without a lot of people judging him. It’s interesting, if that makes sense?

Yeah, totally! That’s what it feels like, like that album is just unfiltered and, like, who gives a fuck?

You said you first got the record at a Tenacious D concert. But have you seen them live since?

I saw them live and then I went on, like, a bit of a—honestly Tenacious D would have been my Grateful Dead or Phish. Because I followed them. I would go—especially when they played in the Midwest. I remember going either with my older brother, who was a big fan. Or my best friend. I saw them in St. Louis and Kansas City, Indianapolis. I saw them in L.A. when I lived there. So, I’ve seen them a lot. 

It’s interesting. Learning about you through research for this, it seems like your interest in comedy and performing came a bit later. But the whole time you were enamored with this great comedy band. Do you think about that dynamic at all?

Yeah, it makes a lot—I guess—more sense now. It’s a nice outlet. But at that time, you know, I always say that, like, I didn’t know there was a career in it. I just thought that if you were into these indie comedians or movies or comedy, all you could really do, if you’re not an actor, was just quote stuff a lot. So, I just felt like, you know, “I’ll just live out a life of quoting these people who are funny and hopefully find my tribe who are like, ‘Oh, hey, have you seen that?”’ [Laughs]. That’s all I could really do at that time.

Did you ever think about starting a band, just for music or to do a comedy musical group?

No, because I can’t sing. I think just listening to how well it works when you make a comedy album with a kick-ass singer like Jack Black, it’s incredible. I couldn’t even try!

I don’t know if you’ve met Jack Black, perhaps you have. I don’t know if you’ve talked to him about the record, but if you were to thank either the record itself or the people who made it, what would you say? What difference ultimately has it made in your life?

Oh my gosh! What would I? I do think I would thank JB and KG for…. I wouldn’t have been able to describe it at the time when I first heard it, but, in a weird way, it was like one of those moments where you feel seen, or something. Where you’re just like: “This is, to me, the funniest thing in the world!” Thank you for...I don’t know, it’s not even like I could thank them for putting out what was in my head. I could never come up with that! But it was just something where it was, like, you just feel—oh it’s so hard to describe!

Like you were connected to people, or almost like a Bat Signal?

It just felt so special! And it also, like, even to this day, just never gets old, you know? It did—it connected me with other people. It super connected me with my brother. I think that was really cool. So, yeah. I would just thank them for being so authentically themselves. Because it was just a real fun time in my life.

www.twitter.com/heidilgardner

www.instagram.com/heidilgardner

www.tenaciousd.com 

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