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'Superbad': Adolescent Id, Awash in Hormones

Superbad might be the most provocative teen sex-comedy ever made. I hedge because it's just opening, and the only ones provoked so far are nerdy male film critics. We love it! Its heroes are graduating high-school buddies swimming in hormones and uncertainty. Seth, played by Jonah Hill, is blobby and loud. Evan, played by Michael Sera, is skinny and hysterical. Seth is a virgin and likely to remain so for some time but talks of nothing but sex — a nonstop stream of naughty words that would make David Mamet sit up and salute.



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Other segments from the episode on August 17, 2007

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, August 17, 2007: Interview with Mike White; Review of the film "Superbad"; Review of the television movie "High School Musical 2"; Obituary for Max Roach.


TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A

Interview: Mike White, actor, director and writer, on his new
film "Year of the Dog" and past works with Jack Black

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave DAVIES, senior writer for the Philadelphia Daily
News, sitting in for Terry Gross.

Mike White is an actor and writer whose best known work is the Jack Black film
"School of Rock," which he wrote and appeared in as Ned Schneebly, Jack's
timid roommate. White's other screenplays include "The Good Girl," "Nacho
Libre," "Orange County" and "Chuck & Buck," which he also starred in. White's
also written episodes of several TV series, including "Freaks and Geeks" and
"Dawson's Creek."

White made his directorial debut earlier this year with "Year of the Dog," a
film he aso wrote starring Molly Shannon, Peter Saarsgaard, John C. Reilly
and Laura Dern. It's out on DVD later this month. I spoke to Mike White in
April when "Year of the Dog" opened in theaters. The film features Molly
Shannon as Peggy, a single office worker whose closest relationship is with
her pet beagle, Pencil--that is, until he dies unexpectedly. She's crushed by
the loss of her companion, so a neighbor she's barely spoken to before, played
by John C. Reilly, asks her out to dinner. Here they are at a restaurant.

(Soundbite of "Year of the Dog")

Ms. MOLLY SHANNON: (As Peggy) So you were saying you had a dog who died when
you were young?

Mr. JOHN C. REILLY: (As Al) Tessie. I loved that dog. Had her since she
was a puppy. We did everything together. She was my right-hand bitch.
Sorry, I mean in the dog way of being a bitch.

Ms. SHANNON: (As Peggy) Mm-hmm.

Mr. REILLY: (As Al) Yeah, she died way too young. She was only six.

Ms. SHANNON: (As Peggy) Oh!

Mr. REILLY: (As Al) Yeah.

Ms. SHANNON: (As Peggy) How did she die?

Mr. REILLY: (As Al) I shot her in Wyoming. Do you want some more wine?

Ms. SHANNON: (As Peggy) Wait, what do you mean?

Mr. REILLY: (As Al) It was an accident. A hunting accident.

Ms. SHANNON: (As Peggy) Oh.

Mr. REILLY: (As Al) I still feel terrible.

Ms. SHANNON: (As Peggy) And what were you hunting?

Mr. REILLY: (As Al) Hunting moose. Mooses. But they got a lot of moose up
there, don't worry about it. You ever been hunting?

Ms. SHANNON: (As Peggy) No.

Mr. REILLY: (As Al) Can be a rush. But, you know, accidents do happen.
And, you know, the gun is a very powerful weapon. I learned that the hard
way. That's why I never keep guns in my house.

Ms. SHANNON: (As Peggy) Mm. Well, that's good.

Mr. REILLY: (As Al) Yeah. Just knives.

(End of soundbite)

DAVIES: Well, Mike White, welcome back to FRESH AIR. Well, Molly Shannon is
at the center of this story. Is it true that you wrote this script with her
in mind?

Mr. MIKE WHITE: Yeah. I had just, you know, the inspiration for the movie
was, I was doing this TV series for Fox, was a half hour sitcom with Molly and
Jason Schwartzman called "Cracking Up" that was like a short-lived disaster.
And it was one of those things where like just constant fighting with the
network, never a moment of peace. You know? Just one of those really bad
professional experiences, and I was just sort of overstressed and underslept.

And over the Christmas breaks, where sometimes you try to catch up on scripts,
I had this stray cat who lived behind my house who sort of unexpectedly died
on me one day. It was like on Christmas Day, actually. And I didn't even
know I was that attached to the cat, but I was so sort of emotionally kind of
unhinged by this cat dying, and, you know, I ended up writing the like most
depressing half hour of that show, and the network hated it more than the
other stuff I had already been doing, and ended up getting even more behind,
and it was just--like, basically, the show shut down. And I really think if
that cat hadn't died, it wouldn't have had such a sort of profoundly
depressing end.

And when the dust settled on it, I just--I looked back and I thought, Well,
that's kind of an interesting life experience, and you know, the thing was
that one thing I'd gotten was I'd just had such a great time with Molly, I
just felt like it's like, you know, when you throw--when you like make a movie
or you have a TV series, you feel like you're throwing a party and you invite
all these people to your party and you tell them it's going to be fun, and
then it turns out not to be fun and it just goes on forever. And it was just
one of those things, where it was like, `I'd like to throw a party for Molly
where it actually was fun and we had a good time, and it turned out good.'

DAVIES: Right. So the story kind of revolves around people, adults who are,
in some ways, obsessed with their pets. Was there something about that idea
that connected to Molly Shannon?

Mr. WHITE: Well, not so much the pets, but I do think that, like, there's
just sort of an innocence about Peggy, and a sweetness. And the thing about
Molly is she's just--she's kind of preternaturally like positive. There's
just something like--she just has, she's such, just such a kind, like--she's
so giving, as just in communication and in life. And I just thought, you
know, people think of her as like the girl who's like sniffing her armpits and
falling over bleacher chairs from "Saturday Night Live."

DAVIES: Right.

Mr. WHITE: And I just, you know, it's like there's such a--there's such a
sweet warmth to Molly, and I just wanted to create a character that she got to
show some of those colors, too.

DAVIES: You know, you've covered a lot of different subject areas, when I
look at the body of work that you've written. But it seems that a lot of your
central characters are sort of on the fringe of worlds they inhabit, sort of
restless, dissatisfied people. Were you like that growing up?

Mr. WHITE: Well, I definitely relate to somebody who feels like their
interests or their persona or whatever is somehow outside of the mainstream,
and that the sort of conventional world is something that they feel slightly
alienated from. And so I tend to like to write characters that kind of, you
know, that are--by their passion or their goals or who they are--are sort of
subverting the status quo or the world they're in.

DAVIES: Right. Now, you went to Wesleyan University and were lucky enough to
get writing work in Hollywood pretty quickly, did a lot of television work.
And then in 2000, you wrote and started in "Chuck & Buck," which is this film
where you play Buck, this guy in his 20s who's sort of has the social
development of a 12-year-old and who's trying to reconnect with his childhood
friend Chuck. And here is a scene where Buck, who's the kind of socially
stunted guy, visits Chuck in his office. I think we have a clip.

(Soundbite of "Chuck & Buck")

Mr. WHITE: (As Buck O'Brien) After you left, I didn't really get into school
at all. You know, I didn't like the other kids so much, all the homework and
sports. Just wasn't fun.

It's weird you have this office. What do you do in here?

Mr. CHRIS WEITZ: (As Chuck Sitter) Sign bands and produce and negotiate
contracts. I mean, it's not all that interesting.

Mr. WHITE: (As Buck O'Brien) That's funny. That's really funny. Because
you remember, we used to play games like we were businessmen. Remember, we
bought all those office supplies? And now you're like really doing it. Is it
real now, or is it still like a game?

Mr. WEITZ: (As Chuck Sitter) It's pretty real.

(End of soundbite)

DAVIES: And that's my guest Mike White, along with Chris Weitz, in the film
"Chuck & Buck," which Mike White wrote and starred in. You know, in this
film, Chuck, the kind of more socially stunted of the two, is sexually
attracted to his old friend, but kind of sees sex as an adolescent does. And
he sort of becomes a stalker. What's interesting about this, though, I know
that you didn't direct it and didn't do the casting, but you ended up playing
the lead. And you inhabit this role so completely convincingly that I wonder
if it sort of followed you and people assume it's in some way

Mr. WHITE: Well, I did get a lot of that when the movie first came out, and,
you know, certainly, the first--it was a weird thing to, you know, have your
first movie, and be in it and be sort of recognized to be that character and
have all those sort of, I don't know, assumptions or questions that come with
that. But, you know, in a way it was really creatively liberating. Because
when you have--once you kind of like jump out of the airplane and to have that
kind of real sense of just like, `Gosh, you know, all these people either
think I'm crazy or I'm this character.' It just sort of like--you realize you
can't control that, and, you know, you'll never win the popularity contest in
a sense, so you can kind of just give up that goal and just kind of pursue the
stuff that makes it, you know, that's meaningful to you.

DAVIES: Did it open doors for you, though, this film?

Mr. WHITE: Yeah, weirdly. I mean, it was like one of those moves that like,
when I wrote it, you know, and said I was going to make it, and I mean, people
would read the script and say, `Not only do I not want to like, you know, give
you the money to make this, but I think you really shouldn't make this. Don't
make this movie' kind of thing. So it was interesting that when it, you know,
actually, once it was made and we put it out there that, you know, it was a
movie that, you know, kind of seems to have stuck around, and certainly it did
open doors for me in terms of, you know, people. You know, screenwriters
suffer from anonymity, I think, in a sense, in whether--even if, like, you
know, people think maybe I'm a crazy stalker, at least they recognize me and
can identify me with the work that I do. And that has certainly been helpful
in some sense in this business.

DAVIES: Right.

Actor, writer, and director Mike White. More after a break. This is FRESH


DAVIES: My guest is actor, writer and director Mike White. His film "Year of
the Dog" is out on DVD later this month.

A lot of people know your film "School of Rock," which you also wrote, and
which stars Jack Black as this out-of-work rock musician who, desperate for
money, gets a gig as a substitute teacher in a private school, and then kind
of uses the kids to create a rock band which he can star in. Where did that
idea come from?

Mr. WHITE: Well, I was living next door to Jack for a few years and became
friendly with him, and sometimes he would give me scripts that people, you
know, that had been offered to him. And, you know, I wasn't really in the big
sort of comedy rewrite world or whatever, but I kept reading these scripts and
I was like, `You know, I could write something for him that would be more
appealing, potentially, than these scripts that they're giving to me--he's
given to me.' And I just--there's something so winning about Jack, and up to
that point it felt like he was really just getting the parts of like the drunk
frat guy or, you know, who's falling through windows or whatever. And I just
thought it would be fun to kind of make a movie with him with kids and try to
like open up his audience base and try to do something that's sweeter.

DAVIES: Well, it really worked. Let's hear a clip from "School of Rock."
This is Jack Black, where he has his students who he's making into, he's
crafting, molding into a rock band. And here's where he's explaining to them
the nature of rock 'n' roll.

(Soundbite of "School of Rock")

Mr. JACK BLACK: (As Dewey Finn) You guys have been doing real good in here.
And if I was going to give you a grade, I would give you an A.

(Soundbite of guitar strings)

Mr. BLACK: But that's the problem. Rock ain't about doing things perfect.
Who can tell me what it's really about? Frankie.

Mr. ANGELO MASSAGLI: (As Frankie) Scoring chicks?

Mr. BLACK: (As Dewey Finn) No--no. See, no. Eleni?

Ms. VERONICA AFFLERBACH: (As Eleni) Getting wasted.

Mr. BLACK: (As Dewey Finn) No--come on! No. Leonard.

Mr. COLE HAWKINS: (As Leonard) Sticking it to the man?

Mr. BLACK: (As Dewey Finn) Yes! But you can't just say it, man, you got to
feel it in your blood and guts! If you want to rock, you got to break the
rules. You got to get mad at the man. And right now, I'm the man. That's
right. I'm the man. And who's got the guts to tell me off? Huh? Who's
going to tell me off?

Mr. KEVIN CLARK: (As Freddy) Shut the hell up, Schneebly!

Mr. BLACK: (As Dewey) That's it, Freddy. That's it! Who can top him?

Ms. ALEISHA ALLEN: (As Alicia) Get out of here, stupid ass.

Mr. BLACK: (As Dewey Finn) Yes, Alicia!

Ms. MIRANDA COSGROVE: (As Summer Hathaway) You're a joke! You're the worst
teacher I've ever had.

Mr. BLACK: (As Dewey Finn) Summer, that is great. I like the delivery
because I felt your anger.

Ms. COSGROVE: (As Summer Hathaway) Thank you.

Unidentified Actor #1: You're a fat loser and you have body odor.

Mr. BLACK: (As Dewey Finn) All right. All right!

(End of soundbite)

DAVIES: And that is Jack Black from "School of Rock," written by my guest
Mike White. It's just so much fun to watch Jack Black in this role. It's
sort of hard to imagine anybody else having done it. Were there certain
mannerisms or certain styles he had that you wanted to get into this

Mr. WHITE: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, again, it was just like with Molly, it
was like I really wrote something specifically for him. And, you know, I knew
he was going to bring a lot of his own stuff to it, but I tried to write
something that was as much in his voice and, you know, with his mannerisms as
I had observed in my time living next door to him.

He's just, you know, the thing about Jack--and I find that's true about Molly
and certain people that are, you know, at the highest level of, you know,
comedy--that they just are funny. Like, I don't think Jack has ever left a
message on my machine that wasn't humorous. And I don't think, it's not
necessarily that he's always on or trying really hard, there's just something
sort of funny about the way he, you know, words come out of his mouth. And so
that makes it easier to write comedy, when you know you have somebody who can
just kind of sell it.

DAVIES: Now, you also had to--you had kids in this, which were a critical
element of it working. How did you picture the kids in "School of Rock"? I
mean, it's not quite "Fame," not quite "Bad News Bears."

Mr. WHITE: Well, I felt like, it's like, you needed, with Jack, you need
somebody who's like crashing the sort of--the party, so in the sense that
you--I felt like it was important to like make the kids in a more sort of, you
know, uptight, you know, very academic and competitive school, because it felt
like then he would really be the fish out of water in that world. And I had
gone to a school growing up that was pretty rigorous and similar to the school
in "School of Rock." But Rick Linklater really deserves the credit for finding
these kids, especially the ones that were in the band. It was really
important to him to find kids that really played that music and could perform
so it just didn't feel like some cheesy, you know, like some cheesy TV show
where everybody's lip synching in the big finale.

DAVIES: Right. You know, a colleague of mine at the Philadelphia Daily News
said that that movie was like a life-altering experience for his kids, who
were playing music and really got into classic rock after that. I mean, was
there any kind of mission here? I'm wondering, did you have any particular
relationship to rock 'n' roll that informed this idea?

Mr. WHITE: I mean, for me, it's more the creative impulse. I mean, I went
to a school that was very sort of like focused on the mathematics and the
sciences and, you know, very preparatory. And I was this sort of creative
person and felt like that part of my education wasn't as much focused on, and
had sort of wished it had been. And so whether it was rock music or, you
know, writing or just anything that was more creative, it was what I was kind
of trying to do, was, talk about, you know, and--you know, the thing is, when
I was a kid and watched movies, I would come home and sort of re-enact the
movie, especially if something that really caught my inspiration, and so there
was a part of me that was writing to that kid in me, which was sort of saying,
you know, `Go out and do it,' you know, like, just a sort of call to, you
know, follow your creative impulses.

DAVIES: Now, I know you also grew up in a conservative Christian home. I
mean, did that make it harder to explore creative stuff?

Mr. WHITE: Nah. I mean, not so much. I mean, my dad was in a--yeah, he was
a minister and he came from a really conservative Christian background, but he
was a filmmaker and a writer, so it wasn't so much that, you know, my parents
were squashing that creative impulse at all. But, yeah, so not so much. It
does actually affect the fact that, like, I don't have a very long sort of
rock musical education because, you know, we had sort of more, you know,
gospel and Christian music in our house, and so I think people think that
since I've written "School of Rock" that I'm some sort of rock aficionado, and
there's actually huge gaps in my rock education.

DAVIES: Well, after "School of Rock," you did another film with Jack Black
that was a vehicle for his energy called "Nacho Libre," where he plays
Ignacio, who is a cook in, I guess, a monastery that's raising orphans in
Mexico, and then decides to get into--adopt a secret life as a wrestler in the
Lucha Libre contest to make--so he can afford fresh ingredients for his
orphans' meals. Where did this idea come from?

Mr. WHITE: Well, I was working on this script with Jared and Jerusha Hess.
They're the--Jared directed "Napoleon Dynamite," and they wrote that movie
together. And the three of us got together and, you know, Jared was really
excited about writing a movie about Mexican luchadors for Jack. And so we,
you know, I don't know, we spent a few weeks in Salt Lake City and kind of
came up with this story. It was one of the best sort of, or the most fun
collaborative experiences I've had.

DAVIES: Well, let's hear a clip. Here, Jack Black as Ignacio has come upon a
bunch of the orphans that he cares for wrestling, and Sister Encarnacion tells
him they can't do this and wants Ignacio to explain to the kids why wrestling
is bad.

(Soundbite of "Nacho Libre")

Mr. BLACK: (As Ignacio) Orphans! Listen to me! Listen to Ignacio! I know
it is fun to wrestle, a nice piledrive to the face.

Unidentified Actor #2: (In character) Mm-hmm.

Mr. BLACK: (As Ignacio) Or a punch to the face. But you cannot do it
because it is in the Bible not to wrestle your neighbor.

Unidentified Actor #3: (In character) So you've never wrestled?

Mr. BLACK: (As Ignacio) Me? Nah. Come on. Don't be crazy. Listen, I know
the wrestlers get all the fancy ladies, the clothes and the great creams and
lotions. But my life is good. Really good. I get to wake up every morning,
at 5 AM, make some soup. It's the best. I love it! I get to lay in a bed by
myself all of my life. It's fantastic!

(Soundbite of music)

(End of soundbite)

DAVIES: And that is Jack Black as Ignacio in the film "Nacho Libre," written
by our guest, Mike White.

You know, this seems like an idea that really could miss. And, you know, you
have like Jack Black here, who's, you know, has this accent. Was there ever
any concern that you'd be seen as sort of showing the culture sensitivity of
the Frito Bandito?

Mr. WHITE: Well, I was, I mean, because the idea came to me through Jared, I
was concerned. And certainly Jack was concerned about all of that. But, you
know, Jared is such a real deep fan of this world and, you know, he spent--you
know, he's a Mormon and spent years in South America on his mission and speaks
fluent Spanish and is just a real sort of like, you know, die-hard fan of the
luchador culture and South American cultures, and it just felt like it was
coming from such a pure place. You know, even though his stuff is sort of
twisted and like he does have a sort of an absurd take on humanity, it didn't
feel like it was sort of playing on stereotypes. It felt like it was--there
was just something more interesting about where the humor was coming from.

DAVIES: Well, Mike White, thanks so much for spending some time with us.

Mr. WHITE: Oh, cool, thanks for having me.

DAVIES: Director Mike White recorded in April. His film "Year of the Dog" is
out on DVD later this month.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Profile: Remembrance of the 30th anniversary of Groucho Marx's

This Sunday marks the 30th anniversary of the death of Groucho Marx. We'll
end this half with his recording of "Lydia the Tattooed Lady," from the 1939
film "At the Circus," which music and lyrics from Harold Arlen and Yip

I'm Dave Davies, and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of "Lydia the Tattooed Lady")

Mr. GROUCHO MARX: (Singing) Oh, Lydia, oh, Lydia
Say, have you met Lydia?
Lydia the tattooed lady
She has eyes that folks adore so
And a torso even moreso
Lydia, oh Lydia
That encyclopedia
Oh, Lydia, the queen of tattoo
On her back is the battle of Waterloo
Beside it the wreck of the Hesperus, too
And proudly above all waves the red white and blue
You can learn a lot from Lydia.

Chorus: (Singing)
La la la la la la
la la la la la la

Mr. MARX: (Singing) When her robe is unfurled
She will show you the world
if you step up and tell her where
For a dime you can see Kankakee...

(End of soundbite)

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Review: David Edelstein on the film "Superbad"

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies sitting in for Terry Gross.

The new teen comedy "Superbad" is co-produced by Judd Apatow, who made
"Knocked Up," and "The 40-Year-Old Virgin." The film features alumni from two
cult TV series. Co-writer Seth Rogen worked with Apatow on "Freaks and
Geeks," and "Superbad" director, Greg Mottola, and co-star Michael Cera were
part of "Arrested Development." Film critic David Edelstein has a review.


"Superbad" might be the most provocative teen sex comedy ever made. I hedge
because it's just opening, and the only ones provoked so far are nerdy male
film critics. We love it. Its heroes are graduating high school buddies
swimming in hormones and uncertainty. Seth, played by Jonah Hill, is blobby
and loud. Evan, played by Michael Cera, is skinny and hysterical. Seth is a
virgin and likely to remain so for some time, but talks of nothing but sex, a
nonstop stream of naughty words that would make David Mamet sit up and salute.
Evan is cuter and sweeter. Embarrassed by his friend's sexism, he talks of
respecting women--not that he's been with any. Both look to an upcoming party
for resolution. Their task is to procure alcohol, which Seth is sure will get
them into bed. In the course of their odyssey, they plunge into a night world
of sex, drugs and aggression.

The co-producer is Judd Apatow, the co-writer Seth Rogen, both of "Knocked
Up." Some conservative commentators pretzeled themselves up to praise their
last collaboration, which had four letter words and drugs and premarital sex,
but, hallelujah, came down on the side of family values. The same is true of
"Superbad," but the pretzels will have to be even twistier. Apatow and
company have a pipeline to the adolescent id and a little bit too much fun, if
you're a moralist, frolicking in its hot springs of obscenity. If teens
emerge with the message that booze and sex and drugs can't buy them love, they
might also feel the compulsion to talk dirty, drink, have sex and learn the
lesson for themselves.

Besides Seth and Even, there's a third major character in "Superbad." His name
is Fogell. He's played by newcomer Christopher Mintz-Plasse, and he is a
dork. Elected to buy booze, he's created a fake ID with a wildly optimistic

(Soundbite of "Superbad")

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. JONAH HILL: (As Seth) Who are you? Mm-hmm. All right, that's good.
It's hard to trace, I guess. Wait! You changed your name to McLovin?
McLovin? What kind of a stupid name is that, Fogell? What are you trying to
be, an Irish R&B singer?

Mr. MICHAEL CERA: (As Evan) Have you ever actually met anyone named McLovin?

Mr. CHRISTOPHER MINTZ-PLASSE: (As Fogell) It doesn't even have a first name!
It just says McLovin!

Mr. CERA: (As Evan) What? One name? One name? Who are you, Seal?

Mr. HILL: (In character) Fogell, this ID says you're 25 years old. Why
wouldn't you just put 21, man?

Mr. MINTZ-PLASSE: (As Fogell) You know, how many 21-year-olds do you think
there are in this town?

Mr. CERA: (As Evan) You know, it's going to work. It's passable, OK? This
is--this isn't terrible. I mean, it's up to you, Fogell. This guy's either
going to think, `He's another kid with a fake ID,' or, `Here's McLovin, the
25-year-old Hawaiian organ donor?' OK? So what's it going to be?

Mr. MINTZ-PLASSE: (As Fogell) I am McLovin.

(End of soundbite)

Mr. EDELSTEIN: I believe McLovin will enter the lexicon. There will be
McLovin fests, McLovin Mc-love-ins.

"Superbad" is like "American Graffiti" with a crucial difference. The adults
are more childlike than the kids. In George Lucas' paean to lost innocence,
the teens sabotage the police cruiser. In "Superbad," two drunken cops,
played by Rogen and Bill Hader, shoot up their own car to impress McLovin, who
they've adopted after picking him up in a liquor store. In a book, writer
Christopher Noxon dubbed adults who don't want to grow up "re-juveniles," and
Apatow is their impressario. But his celebration is doubled-edged. In search
of alcohol Seth and Evan stumble into a grown-up inferno where very weird
things go down.

At close to two hours, "Superbad" feels 15 minutes too long, although the
director, Greg Mottola, and the screenwriters, Rogen and Evan Goldberg--hey,
Seth and Evan, like the characters--they want to take you past the high, to
the inevitable plummet. No "American Pie" climactic couplings here. Instead,
puke and loathing.

The filmmakers linger on the homoerotic undercurrents of adolescent male
friendship in a way that other teen sex comedies avoid like the gay plague.
That's what makes "Superbad" so vital and of its time. In the '70s and '80s,
even explicit teen sex comedies like "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" unfolded
in a culture with a fair amount of shame. Now, with "American Pie" as a
touchtone, with MySpace turning even shy people into exhibitionists,
filmmakers can begin where their predecessors ended. "Superbad" takes place
in a world in which everyone acts out. It suggests we don't have to worry
about repression, but about having nothing left to repress.

DAVIES: David Edelstein is film critic for New York Magazine.

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Review: David Bianculli on "High School Musical 2" and the success
of the "High School Musical" franchise

Today the Disney Channel officially premieres "High School Musical 2," the
sequel to the 2006 tele-movie. TV critic David Bianculli says that while
"High School Musical"'s success was a surprise even to Disney, its hit status
isn't that hard to figure out.


What is "High School Musical" and just how big a hit is it? Basically, it's a
little made-for-TV movie that came out in January 2006 with less fanfare than
a couple of other Disney Channe projects that winter. It stared a cast of
complete unknowns and told two simple love stories at the same time. One was
about a high school basketball star who developed an instant crush on a shy
new girl in class after singing a karaoke duet with her. The other was how
they came to embrace their love, not only for each other but for musical
theater. Trying out for the school show even though, especially to his
friends on the basketball team, that just wasn't cool. Until, by the end, it

The stars of "High School Musical" and its sequel include Zac Efron, who's
already landed a major role in the new movie musical version of "Hairspray."
He plays Troy, the basketball star. Vanessa Hudgens plays his singing
girlfriend, Gabriella, and Ashley Tisdale portrays the snobby rich girl who
tries to win Troy for herself. Her character goes by the wonderful name of

For girls--and even boys--flirting with either side of puberty, this kind of
school-age story is almost like a classic myth. Instead of the class divide
of "Romeo and Juliet," or the racial divide of "West Side Story," the conflict
in "High School Musical" is between various high school subsets, ones that are
just as identifiable today as when you or I were there: the jocks, the nerds,
the cheerleaders, the slackers. Troy and Gabriella could just as easily be
Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland getting together to put on a show. Or Frankie
Avalon and Annette Funicello playing beach blanket bingo and other wholesome

The first time out, Disney had no idea what it had on its hands. Like
"Grease" or "Dirty Dancing," two other films with similar themes, the original
"High School Musical" ended up being embraced and claimed by an entire new
generation. It's worth noting, by the way, that the director and
choreographer of "High School Musical" is Kenny Ortega, who did the
choreography for "Dirty Dancing."

The last time Disney was caught this much by surprise when a TV program became
an instant phenomenon was more than 50 years ago, when Fess Parker's "Davey
Crockett" made coonskin caps a fashion statement. Originally there were only
three Davey Crockett adventures and in the third one, he died at the Alamo.
But the movie was so popular, Walt Disney kept the franchise alive by
presenting television's first official "prequels."

This time, with "High School Musical 2," the Disney organization isn't messing
around. The new tele-movie starts where the old one was set, at East High
School, with the students at the same desks in front of the same teacher. But
this time they're literally counting down the moments until school ends. Not
only for the class and for the day, but for the summer.

(Soundbite of "High School Musical 2")

Unidentified Actress: (As teacher) There was that...

Unidentified Actors: (In character, in unison) Summer.

Actress: (As teacher) ...unforgettable summer of dinner theater...

Unidentified Actors: (In character, in unison) Summer.

Actress: (As teacher) ...where I was the only...

Unidentified Actors: (In character, in unison) Summer.

Actress: (As teacher) ...actress to understand...

Unidentified Actors: (In character, in unison) Summer.

Actress: (As teacher) ...all the roles in the...

Unidentified Actors: (In character, in unison) Summer.

Actress: (As teacher) ...entire season's repertoire.

Unidentified Actors: (In character, in unison) Summer. Summer. Summer.
Summer. Summer. Summer. Summer. Summer. Summer.

(Soundbite of school bell ringing, cheers)

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Actors: (Singing) What time is this?
It's our vacation
What time is it?
Party time
That's right, stay alive
What time is it
Time of our lives
What time is this?
School's out, scream and shout

Unidentified Actor #1: (Singing) Finally summer's here
Good to be chilling out
I'm off the clock, the pressure's out
Now my girl's what it's all about

Unidentified Mr. CERA: (Singing) Ready for some sunshine
For my heart to take a chance

Actor #1: Ooh, yeah

Mr. CERA: (Singing) I'm here to stay, not moving away
Ready for a summer romance

Singers #1 and #2: (Singing) Everybody ready, going crazy
Yeah, we're out
Come on and let me hear you say it now
Right now

Singing Group: (Singing) What time is this?

(End of soundbite)

BIANCULLI: Then, in a clever shift of locale, "High School Musical 2" moves
to a wealthy summer resort owned by Sharpay's parents. She has the manager
offer Troy a job so she can be near him all summer, and Troy talks the manager
into hiring all of his friends, including Gabriella, so they can be there,
too. So there's the same romantic triangle. And, of course, the same
pressure to mount a big, end of season variety show.

If I sound unusually tolerant of this movie and genre, I have to admit, as a
guy who went through high school on the musical theater tech crew, it's
hitting me in my soft spot. But as both a student and teacher of TV history,
I also love what this "High School Musical" franchise represents. At a time
when the broadcast networks largely and stupidly are ignoring young viewers,
cable networks such as Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel are building their
own little empires and stars by programming for the next generation. A
franchise like "High School Musical" not only makes tons of money for Disney,
it introduces literally millions of kids to the joys and possibilities of
musical theater.

And the "High School Musical" wave is far from over with this sequel, by the
way. In the next few months, on the Disney Channel, we'll see a documentary
by Barbara Kopple showing a couple of the more than 100 amateur stage
productions that have been produced since the TV musical came out. After
that, there's a big screen movie in the works. And if Disney can bring
"Beauty and the Beast" and "The Lion King" to Broadway and turn them into
durable, well-received hits, I predict it won't be too long before "High
School Musical" gets the same treatment.

DAVIES: David Bianculli is TV critic for the New York Daily News.

Coming up, we remember legendary drummer Max Roach, who died yesterday. This

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Interview: From an old interview in recognition of his death
yesterday, Max Roach on his musical career

Max Roach, the innovative drummer who was one of the leaders of the jazz
revolution of the 1940s, died in New York yesterday. He was 83.

(Soundbite of music)

DAVIES: In a career that spanned more than half a century, Roach worked with
the immortals of jazz, helping formulate the language of be-bop with Charlie
Parker, Miles Davis, and Dizzy Gillespie, and later teaming up with trumpeter
Clifford Brown, for what many regarded as the quintessential bop group of the

(Soundbite of music)

DAVIES: Don Heckman wrote in The LA Times that, as an instrumentalist, Roach
brought the drum set to the front of the stage, making each element of the kit
into a unique, individual instrument. No longer a roaring sound behind the
horns, the drums, after Roach, became a musical source of infinite
possibilities. Roach became known for doing the unexpected. He performed
unaccompanied. He wrote music for plays by Sam Shephard and dance pieces by
Alvin Ailey and worked with video artists, gospel choirs and hip-hop

He earned a degree in composition and began teaching in the 1970s, and in 1988
was awarded a McArthur Genius Grant. He was also politically active. In the
early '60s Roach recorded the album "We Insist!: The Freedom Now Suite," some
of the first jazz music inspired by the civil rights movement. He was touring
and performing as recently as 2000. Terry Gross spoke to Max Roach in 1987.


How did you first meet some of the people who you became very close with and
made now-classic music together with? I'm thinking of Charlie Parker and
Dizzy Gillespie. Did they find you? Did you find them?

Mr. MAX ROACH: Well, Dizzy Gillespie heard me at a jam session in a place
called Monroe's Uptown House. Clark Monroe was the brother-in-law of Billie
Holiday's first husband, Jimmy Monroe, and he was like a kind of patron for
young talent in these after-hour clubs. These after-hour clubs would open up
at 4 in the morning and go until 8, so we could work those places and still go
to school--Bud Powell and a crowd of us.

Well, he heard me. He was...(unintelligible)...and heard me and he said,
`Someday when I get my own band, when I meet Cab Calloway, I would like for
you to play for me.' That's how I met Dizzy, and Dizzy got--introduced me to
Coleman Hawkins and I got my first record date. And Dizzy was kind of like
the catalyst of that whole movement that we called bebop. You know, he
brought Charlie Parker. He discovered--in a way, you know, he brought Charlie
Parker to New York and Bud Powell and all these wonderful people. He kind of
had a group around him, you know, and I was just fortunate enough to be part
of that. But that's how I really got started.

GROSS: You were one of the first drummers to play bebop and you were one of
the first people to figure out how to drum in the kind of fiery sessions that
were being played. What were some of the challenges that that presented to

Mr. ROACH: Well, when they played fast, they played very fast. It was a
period where instrumental virtuosity in our area, in the jazz area was
now--prevailed because during the war, you know, we had an extra--the second
world war, we had an extra 20 percent cabaret tax. It's very complex. To put
it very simply, if an entrepreneur hired--he had to pay, say a city tax, like
in New York, he had to pay a state tax and federal tax. And on top of that,
he had to pay an 20 percent government tax called entertainment tax if he had
a singer, if he had public dancing or dancing on the stage or a comedian.

This really heralded the demise of big bands during that time. This tax was
just awful, you know, so the people who really got the jobs were the virtuoso
instrumentalists. Everybody went home and practiced, practiced, practiced,
and then that was the beginning of bebop, like the people--so Charlie Parker
and Dizzy and Shearing--the virtuoso players were the ones who people would
come and sit down. Everybody began to sit and listen to music rather than get
up and dance to it. That was the beginning of it.

GROSS: What rhythms had you been playing before, and what rhythms did you
shift into playing once you started playing bop? Because you really had to
invent new rhythms and you had to invent new styles.

Mr. ROACH: Yeah, well, I had a ot of help, too. I had lot of help. I
had--my mentors were people like "Big" Sydney...(unintelligible)...Chick Webb
and Joe Jones with the Count Basie Band. For folks who don't know these,
these are people who played with Louis Armstrong and...(unintelligible)...did
and made a band with Benny Goodman. (Unintelligible)...took Gene Krupa's
place when Krupa started his own band. But all these folks, they were doing
pretty much the same thing, but only in large band context. When you played
in a small band, you had to do more. More was required of you because there
were less people. It was like playing in a string quartet vis-a-vis a
symphony orchestra. It's much more interesting for the individual player. Of
course, an orchestra's interesting for the composer and the conductor and the
soloist. But when you play in a smaller context, everybody has to do more to
fill up the sound.

So this was required of us, actually. I don't think we were aware of it
excepting that first small band I worked in. The first one was Dizzy's. I
worked in small bands, of course, all around the city at that time, but Dizzy
was the one that--his band with Charlie Parker and Oscar Pettiford and Bud
Powell, Charles Mingus, that was real--all the virtuoso people got together
and we knew that everybody had to be kind of busy. So consequently you heard
more drums, you heard more piano. You heard more this, that and the other to
fill it out. That's to put it very simply, of course.

GROSS: Right. Well, to put it less simply, we'll hear some of what you were
playing then. This is from the mid-1940s, and this is my guest Max Roach as
recorded with Miles Davis and Charlie Parker, and we're going to hear "Ko-Ko."

(Soundbite of "Ko-Ko")

GROSS: That was "Ko-Ko" as recorded in 1945 with my guest, Max Roach, on
drums, and Miles Davis on trumpet, Charlie Parker on alto saxophone. Does it
bring back memories for you? Do you listen back to that much?

Mr. ROACH: It sure does. And Charlie Parker at that time, as well as Dizzy.
The music was very, very fresh, and I guess you would equate it with what we
heard today from people like Anthony Braxton, at least, they treated us that
way. We were the new breed on the scene, and they would say things, well,
like--the critics would say Dizzy sounds like he's playing with a mouth full
of marbles and Charlie Parker was playing scales from a saxophone book, just
only scales. And Max, he was dropped bombs. I don't know. But it was
interesting. But Powell had no left hand, and it was, you know, we were
criticized. But some of it was valid I thought. You know, we had...

GROSS: Really?

Mr. MAX ROACH: We had a long way to go.

DAVIES: Max Roach speaking with Terry Gross in 1987 We'll hear more after a
break. This is FRESH AIR.


DAVIES: We're listening to Terry's 1987 interview with legendary drummer Max
Roach, who died yesterday.

GROSS: Was this the life you had planned on when you wanted to become a jazz
musician? Because you started playing at time when the big bands were...

Mr. ROACH: Right. Correct.

GROSS: ...still around, and being a jazz musician meant going on tour with
Earl Hines or Cab Calloway...

Mr. ROACH: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: ...Duke Ellington, one of the big bands. But you actually came of
age--you know, you grew right after that...

Mr. ROACH: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: You came of age in a time when it was small groups, as you were saying
before, and the life just became very different.

Mr. ROACH: It did. Well, I hadn't planned on really becoming a--taking jazz
music that seriously at the time. But the war and all the things that did
happen. And then, while I was in my senior year at Boy's High, I said I met
this gentleman Clark Monroe and worked in his after-hour club. Well, Sonny
Greer, Duke's great drummer, was ill. And most of the great drummers were in
the Army, like Joe Jones, Sydney...(unintelligible)...etc. I could read music
so, you know, Clark, because in those after-hours spots you played, as I said
before, for...(unintelligible) did all kinds of things.

And when Sonny Greer got sick, Duke Ellington called Mr. Monroe up for, `Did
he know a drummer who could play a show?' Duke was at the New York Paramount.
He said, `I've got a kid who works in my club that plays a show' and I went
down to the New York Paramount--to make a long story short--got on the stage
and looked at Mr. Greer's music stand. There was no music stand and no
music, and I couldn't play by ear at that time. You know, I was about 17. So
everything was by ear. So Mr. Ellington, before the curtain came up, he
looked at me and saw the fear in my face and said, `Keep one eye on me and one
eye on the acts on the stage,' and I made it through.

But then I made up my mind, I wanted to be in this area of the music because
Duke had all the theater and the drama, and the pageantry was just surrounded
him when he presented a show and that's when I really decided, that was what I
wanted to do.

GROSS: In the early 1960s, you started to play music inspired by the civil
rights movement...

Mr. ROACH: Hm.

GROSS: Had you become an activist then?

Mr. ROACH: Well, I guess we always had been, you know. It was just
something that you--people ask me that quite often. But I go back to Bessie
Smith with "Black Mountain Blues" and then to Duke Ellington with his "Black,
Brown and Beige," and it's always been there. Hudy Ledbetter always spoke
about the issues and the times that existed and many of the old black folk
singers from the South, the street musicians, dealt with it. And so to me it
wasn't--it was just I had an opportunity to say something, and I used--in
fact, the suite was commissioned by the youth movement of the NAACP, and we
premiered it here in Philadelphia at one of their conventions, that's where it
was. In 1960. It was originally a commission to do something for the
centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation and so that's how it came about.

GROSS: Was it at all risky for you to do politically-inspired music? Did you
run into any trouble in getting recording dates afterwards or club dates
because of your involvement in the civil rights movement and, you know, I
don't know how to precede with that.

Mr. ROACH: I don't think so . I'll tell you what did happen that was very
positive. It sneaked into South Africa--or rather it went into South
Africa--it didn't sneak in it...

GROSS: The album?

Mr. ROACH: It was taken into South Africa as a jazz musician's album until
people read the liner notes put out by Matt Hentoff, and the pieces were a
comment because Oscar Brown Jr., of course, was the lyricist on the work. It
was a comment on the things that happened in Johannesburg, the massacre and
things like that. And so when the authorities in South Africa realized that
this was not just simply a jazz album, they banned it and hit the UPI and AP,
and it became a celebrity record, and it sold more records, I guess, than
anything I had ever made at that time.

DAVIES: Max Roach speaking with Terry Gross in 1987;. He died yesterday at
the age of 83. We'll close with a track from Roach's "We Insist!: The
Freedom Suite," featuring Max Roach and singer Abbey Lincoln.

For Terry Gross, I'm Dave Davies.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. ABBEY LINCOLN: (Singing) Ooh, ooh, ooh
Ooh, ooh, ooh
Ooh, ooh, ooh

(End of soundbite)
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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