Talking to Howard Kremer About ‘Who Charted?,’ ‘Beavis and Butt-head,’ and His New Album
Over the past two years, Who Charted? has evolved into not only one of the most fun and entertaining shows on the Earwolf Network but one of the most fun and entertaining shows in the entire world of podcasting. The key to the show’s success is the fast and funny chemistry between co-hosts Howard Kremer and Kulap Vilaysack and the way they smoothly integrate their guests into their show’s weird world. In addition to his Earwolf show, Howard Kremer has his hand in a wide variety of projects, including writing for TV, doing stand-up, recording special one-off podcasts like Earwolf’s Analyze Fish, and rapping. Kremer recently released the comedy-rap album Douche Minutiae, his third under his alter ego “Dragon Boy Suede,” which is available on Bandcamp now. I recently had the chance to talk with Howard Kremer about the new album, Earwolf stuff, working on the MTV prank show Scare Tactics, and what it was like to work with Mike Judge as a writer on Beavis and Butt-head:
So, how did you start rapping under the name “Dragon Boy Suede?”
I used to have this character who was this half-porno star, half-superhero. His name was Dragon Boy Suede. I don’t remember why. I just thought that sounded cool. Those guys from South Park came out with Orgazmo. At the time, I was like, “Oh, that’s half-porno, half-superhero.” In a different way, but I was like, “I guess I can’t do that character anymore.” So I started rapping and took that as my rap name. Basically, I always rapped since rap started. I was living in Austin, Texas, and I went to a pawn shop and brought a drum machine that had a four-track. I just started making songs to show my friends and stuff. I never really did anything with ’em. The, when I moved out to LA, I kept on doing it more and more and then finally started doing it at Comedy Death-Ray and all the different alt stand-up rooms.
Tell me a little bit about the Dragon Boy Suede stance contest.
A lot of times, when I’m doing Dragon Boy Suede onstage, I get down into this stance. It’s like a dramatic sort of rock pose – to announce the next song. A friend of mine suggested that we do a contest, so people are taking pictures of themselves in that stance with cool landmarks in the background … People are taking them all over the place and sending them in. So, it’s cool to see all these places that I’ve either never been to or don’t get to very often, but the stance lives on. My dad doesn’t understand. He doesn’t get what the stance is. Even people in my own bloodline don’t get what I do.
Does he like your music?
Yeah, he does. He’s got a “You Won’t Sass Me Like That When I Can Summon Wolves” T-shirt … I don’t think he’s too into the music, but he likes the apparel. Sometimes I’ll get mail from him and on the return address, it says, “Dragon Boy Senior.”
So do you have plans for a summer album?
Yeah. I’m working on that one too. I did a summah album last year with Dustin [Marshall] from Feral Audio, same guy who produced Douche Minutiae. I figured we might as well do another one. I still have a bunch of summah songs and ideas I want to get out there still. We’ve been working on that. It was already in production before Douche Minutiae was done.
And when are you gonna release that?
That’ll be probably be May. People seem to get hyped for summah really around May. Around April, they’re still in hibernation from the long winter and they’re starting to get the scent of it, but in May is when it kicks in and people really start getting hyped for it.
Yeah, all those big summer movies start coming out.
The experience begins. It’s deceptive because people sometimes wait until 4th of July before they think it’s summah, then they’ve only got a month or so left because people start gearing down off of summer like mid-August. It’s important. I gotta get the word out! People miss it!
All that back to school stuff starts going up real early.
Yeah, exactly. We had a song on the first summah album called, “Take Your Back to School Sale and Shove It.” It’s just, basically, mid-July is a little too early to have the kids start focusing back on school. Let ’em live!
How’s Who Charted? been going with the video episodes?
Ah, it’s great. Those are really fun to do. I wasn’t sure at first how it was gonna go, but then once we got into it, it was really fun. We did one in Sundance – the first one. That was fun, and then we got to do one at the Earwolf studio, which was great. They had this whole crew out there. They had this piece of equipment called a tricaster. It sounds like a fake Star Trek kinda thing, but it’s a working piece of equipment and they shoot us and people seem to like it.
Do you have a favorite Who Charted? guest or a favorite Who Charted? episode?
Guest-wise, it’s always fun to have Brody [Stevens]. He’s got a lot of energy. It’s hard to contain it in that little studio. It’s exciting when Brody’s there, and I really like doing Two Charted, just with Kulap [Vilaysack].
So, what was it like writing on Beavis and Butt-head?
Fantastic. One of the most fun TV experiences I ever had. I just show up at a sound studio. It would be us, a few other writers, and Mike Judge, and we’d just start watching music videos. We’d make fun of them as they went by. We’d try to crack Mike up. When the video was over, he’d just play it again. So, we’d just make fun of it again and we just did that four or five times. And then, we’d walk down the hall to the sound booth. Mike would go in and do Beavis and Butt-head. It was like Comedy Fantasy Camp. It was so fun. It never got old. It was always fun to hear him do those voices.
When you guys watched the videos, would you riff in those voices or would you just talk normally?
It’s funny. In the beginning, we would just kinda do it ourselves. My friend Chip Pope was the first one I heard do it. He’d kinda say the quote in the voice. I don’t know if that’s gonna help sell the joke or not. It’s funny. It’s a weird thing to do in front of Mike, doing those voices.
Were you a fan of the show growing up?
Oh yeah. I was a huge fan. I lived in Austin too. Mike has a lotta Austin roots. So, livin’ there, it was really cool to see this local guy make it big as an animator/comedian – it was awesome. So, coming out to work with him was like a dream come true. I’m still surprised the show didn’t get picked up and do better, but it was a great one-off, I guess.
So, it’s officially canceled?
Uh, I can’t say that. I don’t know that they officially ever do anything, but they haven’t asked us to work on it for a while. But I think there’s some talk of it coming back on a different channel, so keep your fingers crossed.
Did you just work on the music video parts? You didn’t work on the actual stories?
Basically, we were gonna be working on stories if it came back, and it didn’t come back. So, it was just, “Get crackin’ on bits.”
Do you have any good Scare Tactics stories?
Yeah, I have one, but it’s off-record. [Laughs] Let me try to tell you one you can print. Um, you know the fun thing about doing that show is you [wear] an earpiece, and the producer’s telling you what to say. So, it’s super easy to shoot because I guess I already look scary and intimidating to some people, so I just had to kinda stand there and be me and say stuff that I heard in the earpiece. It was really a lot of fun. Some of the victims that came through would be high. You could tell they just smoked a bunch of pot. It was just so easy and fun. You could really scare the crap out of people. There was people that wouldn’t even look at me after the bit was over and we told them it’s all a joke. They’re still weirded out.
People went bold sometimes before the scary part even happened. We’d just be building up to the big, scary surprise, and sometimes people would get spooked and just take off down the street. [One person did that and] I heard one of the crew guys go, “Okay, send the car down to Rite-Aid to get ’em.” [I said] “How do you know he’s going to Rite-Aid?” He’s like, “Well, we worked at this house before. Whenever people get scared, they just run as fast as they can and they get tired out at Rite Aid.”
Are you comfortable in those situations? Is it hard to not laugh?
Well, it was pretty easy. You always had the motivation of – if the scare didn’t work, you had to bring in a new victim and that took a lot of time. So, you always had that motivation of like, let’s scare this person really bad and don’t crack up because if you do, then we’ve gotta take more time to reset. That was my motivation: to finish work. A lot of these method actors you see on the Oscars and stuff, I think that’s probably their motivation too. It’s just like, “Let’s nail this and hit the bar.”
I used to drink at this bar where Michael Shannon from Boardwalk Empire … used to come in and drink all the time. He was just an unknown dude, just like the rest of us. He asked me to teach him to do stand-up one night. And I was just like, “You can’t do stand-up. You’re not gonna be good at stand-up.” I remember sitting there, just making fun of this guy just ’cause he thought he could do stand-up. It’s funny to turn on the TV four or five years later and see him be nominated for an Oscar. It’s just some dude in a bar I made fun of? That was awesome.
You should try to get him to do stand-up now.
No, I don’t think he’d be as interested. He could probably tour, though. As long as you’re famous, you can always sell out clubs. He probably could get a successful tour together.
Get a Boardwalk Empire stand-up tour going with him and Buscemi.
Yeah, bring Buscemi, bring some of the ladies. That’d be a good tour. If Shaq can do a stand-up tour and Vince Vaughn did one, why not?
Are you guys gonna do more episodes of the Analyze Fish podcast?
I think it’s funny. That’s just like going to talk to your friends, and as soon as it’s done, I forget I even did it. There was some talk on Twitter of doing another one because the Jaws outros in the Oscars. People were saying we should do another episode to discuss the fact that they played Jaws at the Oscars.
Do you guys ever talk about doing more one-off stuff or special episodes at Earwolf?
Yeah, for sure. I did one at Feral Audio, which is back in the golden age of rap in the late ’80s, I used to tape the local radio shows that played rap. There were only a couple radio stations in the country that played rap at that time, and they only played it for three hours on Friday and Saturday nights. Three hours each, from 9 to 12. I used to tape all that stuff with the commercials and the shout-outs and the world premieres, so I went on Feral Audio with Jensen Karp and we did a one-off where we just went through the best moments of the tape.
That was a great one-off. It was good content for people to hear. I don’t know how many people got to experience the way that stuff sounded back in the day. Everybody’s heard old rap, but it was cool to put it in context, you know … It was great. There were PSAs on there from Mike Tyson, trying to get people to sign up to be police officers for New York City. Some really odd lost moments.
Do you have more ideas for one-off podcasts that you haven’t done yet?
We might do one at Earwolf that’s just a Dragon Boy Suede one to kinda give the history. A Behind the Music kinda thing. There’s that. I have a couple – I guess I can’t talk about those either. They’re kind of like show proposals. I better not talk about them. Sorry.
No worries. I understand. That’s sensitive stuff.
Yeah, the secret world of podcast development.
Do you want to tell fans what they can expect from the new album?
Douche Minutiae is a densely-packed, funny album. It’s got a unique sound. The beats are fun. I don’t talk about my lavish lifestyle, all the money I have … It’s got 11 tracks, really fun, really upbeat. It’s a quirky little world, and people will enjoy it … “Douche Minutiae ” the title track refers to people that inundate you with too many details and too much information, so maybe I’ll leave it at that. I won’t say too much about the album for fear of engaging in “douche minutiae.”