After The Postal Service—a band that released one record almost 20 years ago—teased on its brand new Twitter account that something was coming on Oct. 7, speculation ran wild about new music being released or announced today. Fortunately it was something even better: a follow up to the great “auditions” video that Tom Scharpling wrote and directed to announce the band’s reunion tour back in 2013.
No, the one-off band’s not reuniting during a pandemic. The purpose of the new video is to promote HeadCount’s “Make Your Vote Count” campaign, which helps voters track their absentee and mail-in ballots to make sure they’re not lost (or, uh, disappeared) during an election that’s basically guaranteed to be an utter shit show of voter interference and outright cheating. It’s a little less vague than the standard “hey, go do a vote, please” pitch from celebrities and rock stars, and given how thoroughly Republicans have tried to tamper with our ability to vote, people definitely need to be alert about stuff like this. Still, that didn’t stop what felt like the entire internet from immediately writing this new video off as pointless celebrity gasbaggery, like that insipid “Imagine” video from earlier in the pandemic. And that’s a shame, because, like that original auditions video, this is actually really funny.
If you haven’t seen the new video, which is again written and directed by Scharpling, here’s a quick recap. Jon Daly returns as Dave from Sub Pop, the role he played in the original video. This time he’s urging them to do another reunion tour, bigger than the 2013 one, with dozens of band members on stage. (“Two and a half Polyphonic Sprees” is his goal.) And so he has a litany of musicians and comedians audition for the band through Zoom, including Tim Robinson, Jon Wurster, Vanessa Bayer, Aparna Nancherla, “Weird Al” Yankovic, Kenny G, Rick Springfield, and many more.
Obviously, what with the pandemic and the nature of Zoom and everything, it’s not as tight or cohesive or well-produced as the original video. It’s basically a series of very short sketches, often starring people who aren’t professional actors or comedians, which means, sure, it’s going to be a little shaggy. That doesn’t mean it’s not funny, though, or should be dismissed simply because it’s not what Postal Service fans apparently hoped for. Watch the whole video below, and then let’s run down its best parts real fast.
If you saw Tim Robinson during his one-season stint on SNL or his dearly missed sitcom Detroiters, you knew he was hilarious. (And if you somehow needed even more proof that Saturday Night Live and Comedy Central don’t know what the hell they’re doing, well, there you go.) It wasn’t until Netflix’s I Think You Should Leave that the pop culture world at large seemed to take notice. Robinson’s the funniest part of this video, showing up as “Frank Schøttendt,” the manager of a band that’s the perfect fix for what The Postal Service needs. They’re “18 strangers who are rowdy” and love two things: rock ‘n’ roll and arson. I’d definitely rather go see “18 rowdy arsonists” rock out than the Death Cab dude moping about on stage.
Robinson’s great, but the overall MVP of the video is Rick Springfield, surprisingly enough. He really sells the sadness and desperation of a man who lost all of his money on a floating casino in international waters that eventually sank, and now needs a job—any job—to stay afloat himself. Here’s a little reminder that Springfield isn’t just an ‘80s pop legend, but also a pro actor, with multiple movie and TV roles under his belt.
Vanessa Bayer could probably make a fortune on YouTube right this instant by starting up an ASMR channel. Her whispered, almost inaudible version of what I assume is a Postal Service song is absolutely the kind of thing ASMR people would go nuts for.
For her audition comedian Aparna Nancherla picks a song from Hamilton, and then turns it into the kind of awkward, stilted conversation you’d expect from her. Aparna’s anxiety is pretty much always funny, and we’re always happy to see people mock Hamilton.
One of the few callbacks from the original video comes when Dave, the smarmy Sub Pop employee played by Jon Daly, once again has no idea that Duff McKagan was in Guns N’ Roses. It pretty much repeats the joke verbatim, but thankfully expands on it by bringing Slash in, as well.
Martha Kelly pops up as a representative for HeadCount, with her emotionless monotone perfectly fitting the thankless role as a bureaucratic functionary there to make sure the business gets taken care of. And then suddenly there’s a loud crash and she has to immediately leave due to some kind of cat problem. There’s an inherent comedic reaction evoked by Kelly’s voice and demeanor, of course, but the surprise crash, the unseen nature of the cat accident, and the fact that Kelly’s HeadCount employee works in a room that seems to have nothing in it except for cats all make this one of the funnier moments of the video.
J Mascis nails his one line with perfect timing and the quiet aloofness that’s always been a large part of his persona. I would probably like that Postal Service record more if Dinosaur Jr’s leader was soloing all over it, though.
Finally, Scharpling’s long-time comedy partner Jon Wurster makes the least surprising cameo of all time, bringing back the Denny Rock character he played in the original video. He’s still cheesy as hell, and this time he reveals he has absolutely no idea how to play a trumpet. Wurster, of course, is a pro musician himself—he’s the drummer for Superchunk, the Mountain Goats, the Bob Mould Band, and probably way more—and pretty much nobody does better rock ‘n’ roll-based comedy than him. You can be sure he’s met more than his fair share of real-life Denny Rocks after over three decades in the business.
Senior editor Garrett Martin writes about videogames, comedy, music, travel, theme parks, wrestling, and anything else that gets in his way. He’s on Twitter @grmartin.