How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying – Episode #115 – November 12, 2020
JESS: Hello, I'm Jesse McAnally.
ANDREW: And I am Andrew DeWolf.
BRIANNA: And I'm Brianna Jones.
JESS: And welcome to Musicals with Cheese, the podcast where I try to get Andrew and Bree to like musical theater. How are we doing today, you fine folks?
ANDREW: We're all doing wonderful because we have a very special guest today. Since we're covering the show How to Succeed, we have brought in the very successful new president: (insert) Joe Biden.
JESS: Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. Yeah, we don't know who won yet still, when we're recording this.
BRIANNA: But I will edit it and make it happen, so we have the right name.
JESS: But you have to make it so shittily edited in. You have to, like, overlap the words and everything.
BRIANNA: I will. I’ll put a little delay on it and make it sound like it came from a speaker.
JESS: Yeah. Um, Andrew. I mean, I get why you're saying that, because this musical is really about a man who started from the bottom and then slowly rises to the top, destroys an entire business, and then decides to become president. So, it really is the story.
ANDREW: Yeah, he starts out as a lowly man with a small loan of a million dollars. And he works his way up to become the destroyer of many companies. And then the president.
JESS: And also breaks the heart of many women. How to Succeed Without Really Trying –
(How to Succeed ad plays)
JESS: “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying is a musical by Frank Loesser and book by Abe Burrows, Jack Weinstock, and Willie Gilbert, based on Shepherd Mead's 1952 book of the same name. The story concerns young, ambitious J. Pierrepont Finch, who, with the help of the book How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, rises from window washer to chairman of the board of the World Wide Wicket Company.” And... what the fuck is a wicket? The show has never addressed what a wicket is.
ANDREW: It’s, uh, I think it's a real thing.
JESS: I believe you, but I don't know what it is.
ANDREW: Wicket... is this like a 50s thing? (does a Google search)
JESS: I’m sure it is.
ANDREW: A wicket is a small gate.
JESS: No, it's a character from Star Wars.
ANDREW: That's true.
JESS: “The musical, starring Robert Morse and Rudy Vallée, opened at the 46th Street Theatre on Broadway in October 1961, running for 1,417 performances.” That’s an insane amount for those days. Like, that is a stupid number. “The show won seven Tony Awards, the New York Drama Critics Circle award, and...” Here’s the big one. Here is the one that is incomparable and, like, one of these things is not like the other – “the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1962.”
JESS: Yes. That is –
ANDREW: It's not even a drama. I guess, I mean, it doesn't have to be a drama to win that. But, I feel like comedies don't really cut it usually.
JESS: Andrew, we have covered a couple of other Pulitzer Prize-winning musicals, and there aren't many of them. There is, as of today –
ANDREW: SpongeBob SquarePants.
JESS: There are only 10 musicals in the history of musical theater that have ever won the Pulitzer Prize, and this is one of them.
ANDREW: Les Mis.
ANDREW: SpongeBob SquarePants.
JESS: Nope. Andrew, if you can name me, two –
JESS: Just two. We’ve covered more than two.
ANDREW: Do I have to go, like, way later?
JESS: No, you can do modern, you can do -
ANDREW: Oof, I don't think I could name any of them because I feel like they're just picking random ones.
JESS: No, no, they're the big ones. They're the big obvious ones.
ANDREW: Really? But not like Les Mis.
JESS: Not like Les Mis. Think more populous.
ANDREW: Okay, like Phantom?
JESS: More modern populous. So populous it gets put on Disney plus.
ANDREW: Oh my god. Hamilton actually won a Pulitzer?
JESS: It won the Pulitzer.
JESS: And then, to try to get you a second one - Think of one that deals with a very specific disease. And you know what? It should get it, because it handles that disease. It talks about it, right?
ANDREW: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Falsettos.
JESS: The other one.
ANDREW: Oh, is it Lease?
JESS: Yes, it is Lease.
ANDREW: Lease. Excellent.
JESS: And then there's two other ones that we've covered - Next to Normal.
ANDREW: That one I could see, actually.
JESS: And Sunday in the Park with George.
ANDREW: That one is one I would actually expect to get it.
JESS: Yeah. Well, it didn't win the Tony, like, nothing like that. So, that one I'm actually shocked won it.
ANDREW: Well, it's not a real musical as much as it is a dramatic piece about life.
JESS: It is – art? It is art, and most recently - and this is probably my favorite of all the ones that have won the Pulitzer - Last year, Detroit native Michael R. Jackson wrote A Strange Loop and that won the Pulitzer, before even hitting Broadway. It was an off-Broadway show, and it won the Pulitzer. And I think that’s wonderful.
ANDREW: Well, that's impressive.
JESS: Yeah, it won the Pulitzer, one of the 10 musicals to win the Pulitzer. It is the standout weird one, especially for how dated it is. Let's keep going about the history. “In 1967, a film based on the musical was released by United Artists, with Morse and Vallee re-creating their stage roles. A 1995 revival was mounted at the same theatre as the original production (now named the Richard Rodgers Theatre). It ran for 548 performances and starred Matthew Broderick and Megan Mullally. A 50th-anniversary Broadway revival directed and choreographed by Rob Ashford and starring Daniel Radcliffe and John Larroquette opened on March 27, 2011, at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre and ran for 473 performances.” So, none of the revivals or returns of the show have ever really seen the success of that original version.
ANDREW: Well, is it just because they're not as good? Or is it because it doesn't resonate as well with modern audiences?
JESS: I think this is just a time capsule.
ANDREW: I feel like it almost plays as a period piece or as a... I was almost seeing with the Gilded Age-like stage props and things that we were looking at. It's almost like an Ayn Rand novel. You know?
JESS: I mean, the message is pretty Randian.
ANDREW: Is it though? I feel like it's actually not.
JESS: Maybe because it is about a meritocracy kind of getting around it.
ANDREW: Yeah, it's about the fact that the best don't always rise to the top. And sometimes it's just whoever sucks the most ass. So, it's almost the opposite of a Randian novel. Because in a Randian novel, the person who rises to the top is always the one who's actually the best. Whereas in this, it's like, this guy doesn't even know what the hell he's doing. He's just kind of going.
JESS: But it shows that in business, you really don't need to know what the hell you're doing.
ANDREW: Yeah. So, in my opinion, it’s almost a parody of a Randian property.
JESS: I see that. But this was written contemporaneously with the time it was taking place. So, it wasn't written about... And you can't really take it out of that time. Like, if you put this on now, it's got to be set in 1962.
ANDREW: Yeah, well, I can almost see it being set earlier than that, too. Like, if you went back and you set it in, like the 1930s?
JESS: Yeah, that could work.
ANDREW: Or 20s probably is more accurate than the 30s? But yeah, if you bring it forward, it doesn't work quite as well, I don't think.
JESS: I mean, fair, but let's stop talking about the show. And Andrew, tell us what happens in the show. What is the plot of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying?
ANDREW: I mean, it's pretty much the title. The guy has a book called How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying -
JESS: Which was a real life book. It would be the equivalent of us having a musical called What to Expect When You're Expecting, and the characters are just reading that book throughout it.
ANDREW: Yeah, yeah. Although I don't know if the book is as specific as the one in the show.
JESS: No, I doubt it.
ANDREW: But it's basically, like, he rises to the top using the tactics in this book. So, it opens with him as a window washer, and he's reading the book. And it's like, “Well, if you want to rise to the top, you have to get a job in the mailroom” or something like that. And so, he literally goes and he gets a job in a mailroom by just pretending that he already knows the big boss of the company, and just weaseling his way in, essentially.
JESS: So, he's a slippery shit and lies and deceives people into the success that he gets.
ANDREW: Yeah. And what I find a little bit ironic about the show is in the mailroom, he meets what is essentially the bad guy of the show, which is the guy who's using nepotism to get to the top. You know, he's just -
JESS: His uncle owns the company.
ANDREW: Yeah, he's just calling his mom, and she's trying to weasel his way up to the top. But it's just like... the main character’s basically doing the same thing, just without the same connections?
JESS: Right. He's making the connections himself and then deceiving and lying and framing things to make it look like he is doing things much better or much harder than anyone else is.
ANDREW: But the other guy also deceives and lies,. But when he does it, the show frames it as like, “Oh, villainous plan, haha”. You know? I don't know, maybe that’s intentional.
JESS: The thing is, having relatives at work in a place and using that to your advantage makes you a piece of shit and you should not succeed.
JESS: Nepotism is worse than being, like, out-and-out terrible, apparently.
ANDREW: True. But in all actuality, if someone in your family owns a company, you are extremely likely to gain ownership of that company, through nepotism. And that's kind of just how our society works. So -
JESS: And it bothers me a little bit of how accurate the show is to, like, succeeding up the ladder of big companies, as a person that has either both worked currently in a big company or has previously worked in a big company. This is how it does work: you kiss the ass of the right person, and you get up. And I'm guilty of this. I don't really judge on merit. I judge by who I like spending the time with, to be honest. Like, if when I'm on film sets and all that... There have been people that have done wonderful jobs and I'm like, “This isn't a personality fit. Goodbye.”
ANDREW: Yeah. And I feel like a lot of societies like that are... People pretend that it's all about merit, and all about how well you do a job –
JESS: And it’s not.
ANDREW: But in all reality, it's just about who you know, and how much they like you. Because they'll put you in a position that you're not great at, as long as they get to hang out with you. I mean, look at me, I'm on a big podcast for no reason.
JESS: I mean - As far as that gets you, I guess.
ANDREW: As far as that gets me. Well, um, oh boy, I was about to say something. I forget what it was. Oh, the only thing that's kind of inaccurate about the show is that he works his way up to the top and he actually ends up becoming the chairman, which in real life would probably never happen.
JESS: Why not? I mean, weirder things have happened.
ANDREW: Well, I don't think you can really work your way up to a position like that. Usually chairmen come from other companies or are appointed by the board of directors.
JESS: Well, let me frame it like –
ANDREW: Maybe in the 60s it was more common that they actually work their way up and promote within for that position. But I feel like nowadays, no one's going to get promoted into Walmart CEO.
JESS: Let me give examples here. I just finished reading Bob Iger’s book, Bob Iger “Cuck to the Top”, which is what I believe is the proper title for that. So, what happened was, he started from the bottom-ish, as far as you can as a white man that went to Harvard.
ANDREW: Oh, yeah, from the bottom. Way at the bottom.
JESS: From the bottom of Disney, meaning he was not even Disney yet. He was just an ABC guy. And then someone died in front of him, and they were like, “Well, you're here. Take over ABC Sports.” And then Disney bought ABC and he was just there, and they put him as the head of ABC. And then when Michael Eisner was firing everyone, he kept trying to find a replacement and then firing the replacement because he didn't like the replacement, and just wanting to rule Disney forever. Bob Iger was just also there in the room. He's like, “I am also here. I don't want to take your job, Michael, but I wouldn't say no to it.” And then Michael is ousted. And the board members are like, “Well, you're here. You want the job?”
ANDREW: I wonder if it's not really the way he tells it, though. I wonder if he's leaving out all the ass kissing.
JESS: Oh, I'm sure the ass kissing is there. But then again - I don't think it's the most flattering version of his own story if he is the one telling it in this rose-colored way. Because literally, he's cucked to the top. He's just like, “Well, you guys keep doing your thing. I'll be in the room watching it.” Let me say this. It's like: getting married and then your wife gets a cuckold boyfriend and they just start banging, but then they fight, and then you're the one with the name on the lease and the house is yours.
ANDREW: You get the Nintendo Switch. It's great.
JESS: Exactly. You are the one that owns the house at the end of it all, after they have their little fight.
ANDREW: It’s Aaron Burr’s dream.
JESS: Exactly. He waits for it.
ANDREW: Well, they have a song about that in this show. Which is Just Doing It the Company Way?
JESS: Exactly. You have –
ANDREW: One of my favorite characters is the guy who sings that.
JESS: He's a quarter century man.
ANDREW: He has literally been with the company for 25 years and has never been promoted beyond mailroom manager.
JESS: It takes him 25 years to get promoted.
ANDREW: 25 years to get promoted out of mailroom management, which I assume does not pay very well. He's probably been with the company longer than most of the upper executives. And he's just like, “Yeah, I just do what the company says because I know that that's the right thing to do, and it will get me places.” And then this guy that's like been with the company for a week is singing along with him, and is instantly promoted way above.
JESS: The thing is, you say a week. He was literally there one day before getting promoted out of the mailroom. Like, by the end of the day, he is out of the mailroom.
ANDREW: Yeah, no, he's out of the - I think I think he says it's a week. He tells the girl -
JESS: No, the end of it is when he's like, “It's been a long, been a long, been a long - ” That's just the one day that they've been there.
ANDREW: It's ridiculous.
JESS: This show is ridonculous. Let's bring up sexism.
ANDREW: Okay. Yeah, I mean, you have to talk about this.
JESS: It is the elephant in the room of this show. And the reason why you can't really put it on with kids right now, because it's sexist as fuck.
ANDREW: Well, yeah, there's just a lot of stuff about, one, all the characters that are secretaries only exist as love interests. That's basically it. Exist to be a love interest or be someone who wants to be sexually active with one of the characters. Like, that the only purpose -
JESS: Or to be the ugly one. And that's the joke. That they're the ugly one.
ANDREW: Yeah. And on top of that, they don't seem to mind that? Like, they don't even fight back against that. They're just like, “Yep, that's what I am.”
JESS: But then there's also out-and-out sexual assault in this show.
JESS: Where a guy's like, “Nice seeing you around!”, grabs her on the ass, and then she smacks him, and he's like, “Oh, I gotta stop reading Playboy.” And we're supposed to laugh at that.
ANDREW: And then there's the one guy who has sex with the woman in his office, basically, and then he gets he gets sent off somewhere by the company? I don't quite remember.
JESS: Moved around like a Catholic priest.
ANDREW: That was Finch’s plan to get rid of him, essentially. Because the boss guy has a favorite secretary, who he's basically cheating on his wife with the secretary. And she's a major plot point, because she kind of causes the destruction of the company, in a way.
JESS: And she's also kinda funny, as a character.
ANDREW: Yeah. Well, her entire character is that she likes to have lots of sex.
JESS: And then she's sexually assaults Finch, right? Like, she literally comes in drunk and is like, “You better kiss me, or I'm gonna tell everyone that you did it.”
ANDREW: Yeah. And that sexual assault is his moment of realization that he's in love with someone else?
JESS: Yeah, getting kissed by that girl made him realize “I'm in love with this other girl, Rosemary.”
ANDREW: Yeah, it's, um, I feel like you could make a modern version of this show and just kind of edit around all this stuff, though. But –
JESS: Let's go into that briefly. So, the most offensive song in this entire show to me is the Act Two opener, which is the Cinderella song? Cinderella, Darling.
JESS: It is terrible. Horrible. And I hate it.
ANDREW: I don't know, you also have the Secretary Is Not a Toy song, too, I mean –
JESS: I'm gonna come to that in a little bit. But in the 1995 revival, with Matthew Broderick, which by all means is the seediest, most mean-spirited, cynical revival, but in a good way, where it's making fun of the content. They replaced that song with a secretary's version of how to succeed as a secretary, where they do a reprise of (sings) How to Succeed. And they go through all the stuff that they have to do to get around these men. So, it kind of gives them the power instead of being like, “Oh, well, they find me attractive because I'm Cinderella.”
ANDREW: “Oh, wow. Well, I find them attractive too. Look, he's such a powerful man.”
JESS: Yeah. And that’s the smart way to get around it. As well, for the Secretary Is Not a Toy, they make it much more violent and much less tongue-in-cheek and much more, “these men are fucking rapists and shame on them.” Like, just in the tone.
ANDREW: I don't know which one I watched, but the one that I watched, it was very -
JESS: You watched the Daniel Radcliffe revival, the one where they just replicated the original 1960s production.
ANDREW: It was very goofy when they did that song and it's like, “This isn't really a goofy subject.”
ANDREW: Like, maybe back in the 60s it was a goofy subject, but I think we've kind of moved past that at this point.
JESS: That production is what they dub the 50th anniversary production which was: “Let's just do the original show and not change anything because fuck it!”
ANDREW: You know, I can see that. I can see that being a thing, but you should maybe like –
JESS: Not do that, maybe.
ANDREW: At least acknowledge it a little bit? I don't know.
JESS: Which is why I wish that they had taken on the ‘95 revival, where - Well, I guess we're gonna have to talk about casting. So, you watched the Daniel Radcliffe Harry Potter version, Andrew. How did you think he did in the lead role?
ANDREW: I thought he was pretty good. I mean, the lead role’s... It doesn't seem very demanding to me, this particular lead role. It was good.
JESS: I feel so much regret in my soul as a human being as I host this podcast that I did not have you watch the movie instead of watching the Broadway show.
ANDREW: And why is that? Usually we don't do movies because of, you know –
JESS: I know. We have the occasion where I'm like, “Fiddler is just about as accurate to the show as a movie can be” and things like that. Where here, they brought back the original actor that played Finch on Broadway. And they deleted a bunch of songs and they restructured a thing or two, but really, it's relatively accurate, mostly because you have the cast and it's so close to when that original show came out. But Robert Morris, he plays Finch like an absolutely insane person. Like, absolutely fucking nutso insane human being. He is making acting choices that no... Like, Crispin Glover level of crazy. And it makes the joke land even more when he is suddenly promoted and all that stuff. Whereas -
ANDREW: Yeah, and I can see that being really funny. Whereas with the version I watched, it was funny, but the joke is just like, “Man, it's so easy, huh?” Whereas, if he's like nuts and taking advice from a book that doesn't make sense, and it still works, that's funny. That's really funny. I don't know.
JESS: Exactly. And that's why... I watched the Harry Potter version, which I call it because two Harry Potters played Finch in that run. You had Darren Criss who played Harry Potter in A Harry Potter Musical. And Daniel Radcliffe, who played Harry Potter in the Harry Potter Harry Potters. So, it was a Harry Potter show. And they just play it like charming white guy, instead of insane nebbish guy. Whereas Matthew Broderick, who you can only imagine how insane he played that role because - nebbish white guy.
ANDREW: The thing with Matthew Broderick is I can't really see him playing the role, because it's almost the same role as Music Man, where it's this kind of con artist-type and Matthew Broderick just doesn't sell it.
JESS: The thing is, he sold it because he was a little bit more lascivious instead of charming. He played the insane person side of it.
ANDREW: Okay, yeah. Yeah, I guess.
JESS: He played it like Bloom from The Producers.
ANDREW: Okay. Which, I think he actually did okay in that, so.
JESS: Yeah, and we'll do that episode one day cus yeah, that musical’s fun. Well, Andrew, I feel like I had a point to make and now I done forgot it.
ANDREW: I think your only point was that the audience should watch the movie, I guess, cus that’s probably readily available.
JESS: Watch the movie. Yes. We have not brought up that this is a Patreon request. Because –
ANDREW: Oh really?
JESS: Can you guess who requested this?
ANDREW: Well, it wasn't Mina Moniri. I cannot. Who is it?
JESS: It was Mina Moniri.
ANDREW: What? She did this many requests in a row?
JESS: We had to hold her Dracula one for a couple of months because Halloween, so -
ANDREW: Oh okay. The only reason I ruled her out was not because I didn't think she would request this, but because I didn't think we'd give her two in a row like that.
JESS: Well, yeah, because we had to basically put a hold on it for a month. And then we did Dracula and they're right next to each other. But you can't accept our explanations of the cheese, we gotta hear what the critics said. So, it's time for our favorite segment of the show! It is Breesviews! Cue the music.
BRIANNA: There is no music. Andrew hasn’t written me anything.
ANDREW: I might have time coming up.
JESS: (sings) Breesviews ~
BRIANNA: Love it. Okay, so the original 1961 Broadway production opened to highly positive reviews. “New York Times critic Howard Taubman wrote, ‘It stings mischievously and laughs uproariously...It belongs to the blue chips among modern musicals.’ Taubman praised the show's ‘adult viewpoint and consistency of style’, stating that Burrows had ‘directed brilliantly’ and that Loesser had ‘written lyrics with an edge and tunes with a grin...the songs sharpen the ridicule.’ In contrast, in their reviews of the 2011 Broadway revival, the New York Times chief theater critic Ben Brantley warns that the show's book writers ‘failed to give Ponty any defining traits beyond all-consuming ambition’ and that ‘you don’t particularly want [Daniel Radcliffe's] character in the show to succeed, and that really is a problem.’” I have a question - this isn't the one where he showed his peepee is it?
JESS: No, that's Equus.
BRIANNA: Okay. Thank god.
JESS: No, this would be the weirdest musical just to whip your dick out at, I'm not gonna lie. Like, where would you fit that in, Andrew?
ANDREW: Uh, I mean, I could think of a few places, but -
JESS: (singing) “Oh, it's a brotherhood of man.”
ANDREW: No, I’m thinking - There's some very bad places you could put it in. It would ruin the show.
JESS: I know, I know. But I would much rather see a bunch of naked men kick lying with their balls out.
ANDREW: How come you don't make that show?
JESS: It's called The Full Monty. Patrick Wilson showed his dick. It was pretty great. But do you agree with that, Andrew?
ANDREW: I hate to agree. But, I think I agree.
JESS: The thing is, I don't think Ben Brantley quite understands the show. I don't think you really want to see him succeed. You kind of want to see him trick a bunch of idiots. Like, it's not about his success. It is about fooling the fools, basically. It's fucking, you know, Bugs Bunny rabbit season. That is the appeal of a show.
ANDREW: Yeah. I think that he wasn't overly harsh, though. Like he usually is.
JESS: I mean, no, because at a certain point with revivals, you can't really tear them apart the way you might like to, unless they're doing something really wacky like Oklahoma.
ANDREW: Yeah. I think that from the sounds of it, the characters usually played a different way and that might be a better way to play them. But I don't think it ruined the show, but I don't think he is saying that either. So, I'm not really sure. I feel like I don't disagree necessarily with him. It's just maybe not like a hard agree.
JESS: All right. Yeah, he didn't come off as terrible. But then again, Ben Brantley, go fuck yourself. All right. Are you ready to go into a mid-show?
JESS: Let's get some advertising. Let's go, kids.
JESS: Andrew, I got a question for you.
JESS: (sings) How do you succeed? That's the first song, How to Succeed. Ah, we did it.
(How to Succeed plays)
ANDREW: The only thing I had trouble with with this song is I couldn't figure out where he was supposed to be, and then I realized he was supposed to be a window washer.
JESS: Yeah. Also, it's a weird note to hit. Like, it's not a difficult song to sing, but it's a weird note to hit and sustain. Like, no matter whether you hit it correctly or incorrectly, it sounds wrong.
ANDREW: I don't mind the song though. I think it's a decent opening. I'm wondering if maybe they could have just cut it, so instead of him being a window washer, it was just before he went into his job interview or whatever the fuck? I don't know.
JESS: But the window washer is an important plot point for later.
ANDREW: Important. It’s the deus ex machina at the end of the show.
JESS: Yes, but they set it up right in the first second. Like, first second you see him, he’s washing windows, it's gonna be very important later. And this is where I kind of want to talk about how successful this is as a show, despite being very dated in some elements. Like, this is a very effective book of a musical. And we don't very often talk about the book of a musical on this show, because we're really pumped on songs. But structurally, this is probably one of the most effective musicals we've ever covered.
ANDREW: Why do you say that?
JESS: Every single thing is setting up a joke or a plot point. Every single thing that happens in the show. Even the things you don't notice that are gonna be important. Sometimes you think it's just interstitiary lines, like, what's-his-name saying, “I'm gonna go golfing” and it's a lie, but it comes back later as something that brings him back as well as sets up the knitting. You think the knitting is just a joke but of course Finch is going to use that later to try to get his way in. Things that just seemed like they're gonna be jokes turn out to be plot points. And I think that's the best way to sneak in storytelling.
ANDREW: I mean, what about the Coffee Break song? Does that does that ever come back?
JESS: Nope. That's just like, “Man, ain't women crazy?”
ANDREW: Everybody wants coffee.
(Coffee Break plays)
JESS: “Man, women can't function without their coffee.”
ANDREW: I mean, I think it's somewhat implied that no one at the place can function without their –
JESS: Right, I agree. But also, it's a goofy number. And apparently this was like - Oh, I didn't even bring up the Fosse of it all.
ANDREW: The dancing?
JESS: Yes. But Bob Fosse was technically the choreographer but he was credited as original staging because he didn't want to take a choreography job from another choreographer, because he just got fired and didn't want another choreographer to get fired. So, he took the lowered credit, did all the dancing, except for the fucking pirate dance, which was done by the original choreographer, which is just, it's just awful. It's just terrible. So yeah, this is a secret Fosse show. Tell your friends. Use that fun fact when you're pulling up your musical theater trivia.
ANDREW: Well, they didn't put it in Fosse/Verdon though, so who cares.
JESS: They did not. I think, like, Cy Feuer was in it, who also was a big person behind this. So, there's interstitial connections. But yeah, Coffee Break was a really hard scene to do. Really dumb song.
ANDREW: It really doesn't have a point, other than just being a dance number with a bit of comedy - if you're really into the joke. “Wow, doesn't everyone like coffee? Hahahaaa”
JESS: I bet that was groundbreaking for 1961.
ANDREW: That probably was. Now it's major boomer humor, though.
JESS: I mean, a lot of this is still major boomer humor.
ANDREW: Yeah, but I think the, “Hey, everyone likes coffee, right?” “Yes.”
JESS: See, if they did this today, would it be like, “Starbucks burned down! Oh, no! Where will I get my pumpkin spice lattes?”
ANDREW: Oof, the boomer. Ah, it hurts. Company Way. I like Company Way a lot.
JESS: I love Company Way. This song is really fun.
(Company Way plays)
ANDREW: I think this is an extremely fun song. The message of it is hilarious in the way that Finch is like, almost ironically singing along with it.
JESS: He's so meticulously evil. I think Finch might be one of the most evil musical theater characters.
ANDREW: I don't know, though. His intentions are selfish. I don't know if you can call them evil, though, because I don't think he's being necessarily malicious towards anyone.
JESS: No, I don't think he wants to hurt anyone. He just will crush anyone and use any chance he can to get his way. Like, he's really terrible to Rosemary. Like, I feel so bad for her.
ANDREW: Yeah. Well, I mean, yeah. I don't know why she wants to be with him is really the main question there.
JESS: Because he is just so sexy, Andrew -
ANDREW: I know.
JESS: He exudes sex appeal.
ANDREW: She doesn't love him. She's just written that way. But -
JESS: “The script says I love him. So, I gotta love him.”
ANDREW: Yeah, I mean, we didn't talk about Happy to Keep His Dinner Warm. But that's like, she just met him and she's already thinking about, like, “Man, I'd be so happy just to make him happy.”
JESS: I mean, I felt that way before. It was 10 long years ago, when I met you, Andrew DeWolf. And I was like, “Man, I'd be so happy to keep his bed warm at night.”
ANDREW: Bro, that's gay.
JESS: So what? Let be gay.
ANDREW: True, tho.
JESS: True, tho. Company Way is so funny, especially the message of it. Like, I'm sure some company has to have taken this and used it as their actual musicals anthem, right? This had to have happened.
ANDREW: This is a person who has hook, line and sinker - Just swallowed the “If you work hard, eventually you'll be on top” line. And it's almost sad. And then he's singing it along with someone who is fully aware of how the system actually works, and is just singing it along with him because he doesn't want to tell him. Because if he tells him, then he'll actually have more competition.
JESS: Well, yeah, but he was originally going to use him to become the head of the mailroom. But then he uses him as a stepping stone to get even higher.
ANDREW: Yeah, it's almost sad and a tragic song because of who is singing it, and you almost feel bad, but you can't.
JESS: 25 years in the mailroom. Holy shit. Imagine doing 25 years of anything. I haven't even done 25 years of anything straightforward yet.
ANDREW: But I mean, you're barely capable of doing that. You'd have to have done something since you were born.
JESS: I'm not there yet. I'm a baby.
ANDREW: Like, actually, though - I know back then, that's probably something you could live off of. But I think today, if you were working in a mailroom for 25 years, you would be subject to complete poverty.
JESS: I don't know. It depends on when you got there. If you had a union back when it started, maybe that's a great job for you. Unions are great.
ANDREW: Yeah, unions are great.
JESS: It's funny that they don't even bring up healthcare or unions in this fucking musical.
ANDREW: Well, I mean, I don't think people liked that stuff back in the 60s. And I think if you brought up either of those things -
JESS: You’d just get shot on site.
ANDREW: Well, McCarthyism was a recent memory at the time, right?
JESS: Yeah. Yeah. Hey, would you have sold out all your friends to Joseph McCartney? Joe McCartney?
ANDREW: I would tell Paul McCartney about all my friends.
JESS: And their socialist leanings.
ANDREW: Hey, guys, I just want to let you guys know that Jess has personally told me that he wants a Stalinist utopia. He wants to live under the boot of the state 100%.
JESS: Shhhh! Paul McCartney might hear and lock me up. Andrew, stop!
ANDREW: All right, comrade.
JESS: No! Paul McCartney! No, it's not true. It's not true, Paul McCartney.
ANDREW: Yeah, this is him. Paul McCartney, get over here.
JESS: Let's talk about A Secretary Is Not a Toy.
(A Secretary Is Not a Toy plays)
ANDREW: If the title of the song was more literal, then I guess I agree. But I think I don't agree.
JESS: Literally the last lines of this song are, “A secretary is not a tinker toy.” Like, what the fuck does that mean? She's just got a bunch of holes?
ANDREW: I think that is what that means.
JESS: Is that literally what you think that means? Like, actual question.
ANDREW: I honestly don't know. Maybe they just needed something with that amount of syllables and kind of fit.
JESS: It's disgusting. This song is gross. And even, like, if you do a tongue-in-cheek in the way of like, “Oh, men are gonna be men. They're gonna want to touch women on their rears and it's all fine because you know women aren't people.”
ANDREW: “Hey, but they all know that. You're not supposed to do that. Wink wink, nudge nudge.”
JESS: “But we're not gonna do anything. Just don't get caught. Don't make them mad.” Oh, I love having Bree here, where she's just laughing like, “These two fucking idiots. I hate it.” We've got our token girl here, like, “These fucking morons.”
ANDREW: I mean, Bree, what do you think? Do you think it's okay to just touch your secretary inappropriately at any time?
JESS: What if he's a himbo?
BRIANNA: Is he sexy?
ANDREW: Oh, he’s sexy.
BRIANNA: Like, is he sexy-sexy?
ANDREW: It’s JFK.
JESS: He’s all those things.
BRIANNA: No, it's not ok.
JESS: Oh. Oh no.
ANDREW: Well, this show disagrees.
JESS: If you've got a himbo secretary, just grab him on the can. Don't do that. It's bad. It's sexual assault.
ANDREW: Don't do that. Even if it's a himbo.
JESS: Himbos have rights.
ANDREW: Himbos, normal secretaries, unnormal secretaries. Whatever you got. It doesn't matter. Don't do it.
JESS: “Stop,” to quote Michael Jordan because McDonald's has brought me here to say this.
JESS: McDonald's has brought me here to tell you, don't do drugs. Come on. Stop.
JESS: I'm Michael Jordan. McDonald’s.
ANDREW: All right. What's next? Can we talk about Grand Old Ivy? Because I think it's ridiculous.
JESS: Grand Old Ivy is so stupid.
ANDREW: It is absolutely over-the-top absurd stupid and I love it.
(Grand Old Ivy plays)
ANDREW: Oh, I get it. He half knows the whole dance and half can't figure it out.
JESS: Yes, exactly. Like, he just listened to it three times and tried to learn the best of the dance he could. And I think that's a great touch in all versions.
ANDREW: Yeah. I like that it's also implied that he doesn't know where he went to school. Like, did resumes not exist at this time? Or, I guess maybe he'd never had a resume.
JESS: Yeah, he just walked in.
ANDREW: He just walked in. He's just like, “I'm gonna get a job.”
JESS: Yeah, I mean, I’ve gotten jobs with less work, to be honest.
ANDREW: This is like the CEO of the company doesn't even know if this guy went to school or has no way of checking it.
JESS: Let's be fair. Um, if you work at a big company, the CEO is not going to fucking look up your resume.
ANDREW: But the CEO is probably also not going to do a song and dance number with you about the college that you both went to?
JESS: Why not, Andrew?
ANDREW: Because the CEO is probably not going to talk to you because they probably don't give a shit.
JESS: I've actually talked to every CEO of every company I've worked with.
ANDREW: Oh, really? I've never been able to get ahold of them.
JESS: You just got to say you know someone and then you walk into their office and tell them, “Hey, you went to Grand Valley State University? Me too.”
ANDREW: I had a guy walk into the bank that I worked for. And apparently he was the CEO’s brother or something and I was just kinda sitting there working on something. And he walks up to me and he's like, “What? You're not going to introduce yourself?” I'm like, “What? Who are - I don't even know who you are.” I guess he just assumed that I –
JESS: I fucking hate entitled white men. God damn.
ANDREW: Yeah, I'm just like, “Okay.” And then he told me that I needed to button up my shirt better. And I was like, “You know what, fuck off. Get out of here.”
JESS: I once had a boss that had to diarrhea so bad and then treated everyone like shit for the rest of the day. Because apparently it's our fault that he had diarrhea all day.
ANDREW: Well, you shouldn't have made him all that spicy food.
JESS: No, he just had Crohn's disease and that made him a huge asshole sometimes.
ANDREW: Oh. That sucks.
JESS: It does, but also treat your employees nice.
ANDREW: Yeah. Or better yet, start a socialist revolution and no longer have employees.
JESS: Yes, I agree. Let's talk very, very, very, very, very, very, very briefly about Paris Original because this is a show full of dumb songs. This is maybe gonna take the cake.
(Paris Original plays)
ANDREW: What do you got here?
JESS: I like the premise of it. Like, the girl is convinced that she has a Paris original dress that no one else can find, because you know, it's an original dress. And then she goes there and slowly everyone comes in with the same dress, and then you find out it's not the most original dress in the world. It's a fun premise for a show about girls and fashion. But for this show about secretary fighting, it's so stupid and I hate it.
ANDREW: Maybe the point is, it's a musical and they know that there's probably a lot of women in the audience as well. And they're like, “Shoot, you know, all we've done is songs about how it's okay to sexually assault your secretary. Maybe we should do one for the ladies.” And they're like, “Yeah, let's just write a song about a dress.”
JESS: You know, that is the same methodology George Lucas went into for Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, when he's like, “Girls don't like Star Wars. So, I'm gonna put her in as many pretty dresses as I can to try to get the girls into the theater.”
ANDREW: “Get the girls in the theater with the dress.”
JESS: That was literally his plan and that's the reason why she's dressed like a fucking dominatrix by the fire.
ANDREW: “You hook ‘em in with the sexual assault and then you keep them there with the dress.”
JESS: There was a mandate that every scene she was in, she had to have a different outfit on.
ANDREW: Of course, of course. I’m honestly shocked that they didn't have her change outfits between cuts. Knowing George Lucas.
JESS: That would be the funniest – No, he added it in for the special edition of Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones.
ANDREW: Like literally in the same scene, every time it cuts away and back to her, she's in a different outfit.
JESS: Exactly. “That's just my true version of the saga.”
ANDREW: “This is how I truly want Star Wars to be.
JESS: “You know, she actually had like, just a plain dress here. And now she's got a real extravagant one for each shot.”
ANDREW: I’m just thinking of the RedLetterMedia when they're having him review salads.
JESS: Alright, let's talk about I Believe In You, where Finch is singing to himself in a mirror.
ANDREW: God damn. Is this not the perfect descriptor of this of the show?
JESS: Literally, it's a man who does not have any right to be as confident as he is telling himself, “Be confident, you deserve this.”
ANDREW: Yep. And you know what, by golly, he does.
JESS: And he'll become president one day.
ANDREW: Yep. He'll become president because all he does is – like, we literally don't see him do any actual work the entire show.
JESS: No, no, he doesn't know what his job is. He doesn't even know what the company does.
ANDREW: Literally. I think that's honestly an intentional joke. Like, the World Wide Wicket Company. What do they do? And our surrogate character is Finch. And we don't know what the company does because he doesn't know what the company does.
JESS: Nor does it matter to do the work that he does, apparently.
ANDREW: Yeah. Well, if the work that he does is none, it doesn't matter.
JESS: Well, he does work and his work is stealing another person's idea and then doing a treasure hunt on TV.
ANDREW: Do you remember the episode of Seinfeld where Kramer just kind of shows up at an office in a suit? And just starts working there?
JESS: I love that joke. But a friend of mine actually got a check from someone from a job he used to work at by just saying, “Hey, you forgot my check.” He did not work there anymore.
ANDREW: That's great. That’s more like Office Space, where they fire the guy and they’re just gonna stop paying him but they're not gonna tell him he’s fired.
JESS: Oh my god. But I Believe In You. This is, like, the white man mantra. Like, “I'm great because I say I'm great and you know what? I'm gonna do good things.”
ANDREW: It's great. Let's talk about the last one.
JESS: All right, Brotherhood of Man. This is the best song in the show. Like, it's easily the catchiest one. It's the one that you leave humming and it's rare that you end a musical with a really cool original song.
ANDREW: I don't quite get it, though.
JESS: No, no, no one does. It is a love letter to the patriarchy. That is the song. Like, “We are all men.”
ANDREW: I almost feel like it's meant to be like a “Hey, we're all in this together.” You know? Like, it's a brotherhood. Like Soviet Russia rises up and sings this song.
JESS: (sings in a Russian accent) It’s the brotherhood of man.
ANDREW: Yeah, I don't know. It just doesn't seem to fit the theme of the show.
JESS: No, it does not. But for a show... Like, there are females involved in the storytelling, the secretaries not being a toy and all that, specifically being about brothers and men being the overarching resolution, is kind of a sickening thought.
ANDREW: Yeah, I mean, it depends how you look at it though. Because I think you could also say brotherhood of man is a generic term that we use to describe humankind being together, in on something.
JESS: I mean, for musicals, you choose your words very specifically for things like this. They mean it for men.
ANDREW: I mean, if you write this song with this melody, and you want this message, what else could you fit in here?
JESS: (sings) It's the company of – or something about companymen. They did that, but do it reprised.
ANDREW: They already do the reprise after right after this song.
JESS: Yeah, no. I like the song. I don't like the message. I may not be completely understanding the message, but the message I'm gathering I don't like.
ANDREW: I don't think there is a message. I just think it's a fun song and everyone will leave with it. And then they can do NBC’s Brotherhood of Man, where it’s a Superbowl commercial.
JESS: So many rapists, so many rapists in that commercial.
ANDREW: See if you can spot them all. Check it.
JESS: Hey, yeah, you gotta buy your rapist bingo board when you watch the Brotherhood of Man NBC Superbowl commercial. Like, how many rapists can you find? Speaking of rapist - Andrew, what do you think of the show and your cheese rating?
ANDREW: I actually really like this show. I know there's definitely some problematic stuff in it, and we - Yeah, I don't know. It's an older show. And I can forgive it. Maybe not everyone in our audience can forgive it, but me personally, I am able to look past it because the show was pretty fun. And I like the dancing and I like the songs and it's got some good jokes. It's got some cringe jokes, but it's got some good ones as well. So, I'm gonna say it's decent enough to watch. Oh boy, I want to give it like some sort of like mass produced cheese like, I don't know, something company-related, but I'm not really sure what that would be. I guess a Kraft Singles. I know I've given other shows Singles before, but I'm going to do it for this one too, just because it's a company show. It's about corporations. You know? What are you gonna do?
JESS: Alright, Bree, what do you think of our discussion and your cheese rating of what we had to say?
BRIANNA: You know, I think you guys had a really successful chat.
JESS: I see what you did there.
ANDREW: (singing) It’s the brotherhood - of man.
JESS: - of Jess.
BRIANNA: So, I'm going to give you the most successful cheese in America.
ANDREW: Oh boy.
BRIANNA: It is the cheese that Americans eat 11.5 pounds of each year.
ANDREW: I'm really skewing those results, I'm sure though.
BRIANNA: Mozarella! Because you guys are a success.
JESS: Well, I guess that leaves me. This show was fun. I would recommend watching the movie. It has not aged well. You are going to find problematic shit. I don't think you can really revive it and bring it back without really retooling this because the show has some really iffy things that it tries to say and I don't like it.
ANDREW: Harkens back to Carousel, that kind of stuff.
JESS: Yeah, Carousel is a beautiful musical. And I love a lot of it. But it is super problematic. This is an effective, well told well-structured musical that is super problematic. They're in the same category, yet wholly different shows for very different reasons.
ANDREW: I think I would recommend this more than Carousel because I think this is aged a little bit better. Just a little bit better. And the jokes are funnier than Carousel is.
JESS: Carousel doesn't have jokes.
ANDREW: Yeah, I know. But that's what I'm saying. Like, this is a funny show and I laughed a bit. Whereas Carousel is just kind of like you're spending the entire time thinking about like, “Oh, really? Oh, really?”
JESS: I just watched Carousel a couple days ago and my god, the score to that is just so gorgeous that you ignore “being beaten by an angel”.
ANDREW: I guess. I don't know. There's a lot of musicals with beautiful scores though. There's not like a million musicals that have some pretty funny corporate structure humor though.
JESS: You know, that’s fair. But my cheese rating is eight six-ounce blocks of Wisconsin cheese, fratello, dill havarti, smoked gouda, el diablo scorpion pepper gouda, 3 amigos spicy gouda, mango habanero gouda, smoked mozzarella - And when you put them all together, you have the Brotherhood Pack from cheesebros.com
ANDREW: Of course.
JESS: (singing) Cus they're the brotherhood of cheese, the brotherhood of cheese. You're missing out in these fucking dance moves if you're not on Patreon. Whoa, yeah, the brotherhood of cheese.
ANDREW: (joins in) – of cheese.
JESS: Um, but thank you guys for listening. We love you all so much.
Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/How_to_Succeed_in_Business_Without_Really_Trying_(musical)
Howard Taubman, New York Times: https://www.wikiwand.com/en/How_to_Succeed_in_Business_Without_Really_Trying_(musical)