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News of Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog has been sweeping across the internet at an alarming pace this week, featuring on the front page of websites like the LA Times, Google Entertainment, MSN.com and TIME. Within 24 hours of the launch of Act 1 on Tuesday the musical had climbed to the number one spot on iTunes video downloads proving that it may have what it takes to change entertainment as we know it. In fact it was so popular that it crashed their server when a thousand people attempted to watch the video in the same instant .
I was delighted to have the opportunity to chat with two of the creative minds behind Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog earlier today. Jed Whedon and fiancé Maurissa Tancharoen took some time out during a very busy week to talk about the musical.
Dr Blog Bot: Let me start by saying Happy Birthday
Jed Whedon: Oh, thank you very much, thank you very very much, it’s been a wonderful one so far.
DBB: That’s great, was it planned to launch this on your birthday so when it went really well it was a great birthday present?
JW: It wasn’t, but it worked out that way so I’m happy. I will be actually launching Act III instead of having a little shindig but then I’m gonna go out and play a gig with my brother Sam in downtown Los Angeles so that’ll be fun to have some drinks.
DBB: Good way to spend a birthday… Now Dr Horrible has obviously been pretty successful, you were obviously expecting a lot of traffic and made preparations to account for that but the servers crashed because there was so much and you had all sorts of problems, did you expect this kind of reaction from people?
JW: Not exactly, I mean we knew that Joss’ fans are very loyal and very web savvy and they’re very educated about what’s coming up so we did expect some people to sign on, we definitely approached it from a grass roots point of view, we didn’t think that it was going to go crazy and we were just hoping it would build over time, people would start to spread the world and people would enjoy it. We didn’t expect everybody to try and see it at once. So, that’s where the error occurred but now that’s fixed so there are no more worries in that department and it’s going as well as we could have hoped. It’s hard to get the word out on something like this but it seems like everyone’s doing a good a job as anyone could hope for.
DBB: I heard that at one point something like 1000 people tried to access the server within one second, is that right?
JW: Yeah well they take a picture, a kind of snapshot when there’s a huge problem and I got a call from the hosting company in a kind of panicky shaky voice call that basically said within that snapshot a thousand people had tried to log on in that instant which, you know I don’t know what that means but it’s thrilling… and so, you know, we couldn’t just upgrade, we had to move to a bigger server and that’s why we were down for so long which was a frustrating, long day for me but now it’s up and I have no more worries about that kind of stuff. We were averaging about 200,000 hits an hour which I think also had to do with the fact that it wasn’t initially available overseas so once that was opened up we sort of had a swell.
DBB: There was a bit of a panic from people round the world who couldn’t access it and a lot of people were being a bit critical but you had intended for it to be available internationally from the start, is that right?
JW: We don’t like people who aren’t American [Joking] we were trying to think of everything and that was the one question we didn’t ask when we were talking to Hulu about the actual hosting of the video, we didn’t even think to ask it but as soon as we launched and the first blogs were “why can’t I see it” and we went into panic mode and the people of Hulu were up that night re-writing the code and getting it in order and it opened up some time in the night but no it definitely wasn’t planned and we were extremely sad that the launch was tainted by sadness and disappointment… so you couldn’t see it right away, I’m guessing from your accent..
DBB: No, I was one of the ones that was going “what??” but you did an amazing job getting it fixed so quickly, so on behalf of international viewers, thank you.
JW: We also apologise that there was any delay, we also know for all of the overseas people that getting access to content from over here is a long process and so it was an exciting idea that it was going to be available so it must have been disappointing.
MT: We were very very very sorry about that.
DBB: Speaking of the international issues, a lot of people are wanting to buy it on iTunes and that’s currently not available outside the US and Canada I believe, is that something that’s going to be changed at some point or is there something that’s preventing that from being available?
JW: Well, you know the one thing about iTunes is that each market is a whole different process to get it available, the easiest one I guess is Canada, I don’t’ know why, that one was easy to pull off quickly
MT: We’re working on that
JW: Yes, definitely our goal to have it available in as many places as quickly as possible because that’s sort of the point of the whole thing is “why not”.
DBB: Is it frustrating from your perspective to have people in Australia and the UK and all over the world saying “We want to give you money”, and not being able to just do it instantly?
JW: Well, yeah, we’re always frustrated when people aren’t allowed to give us money
MT: [Joking] Yeah, we spend a lot of time on the streets asking for money and it doesn’t really work in our favour
JW: So we were like lets try it on the internet… I mean at this point, we really want everybody to see it and get excited about it you know a lot of Joss’ shows, Firefly I guess is the one I’m talking about, after being cancelled kind of grew on the internet and lives on in fans who want to see it still and that’s entirely based on this word of mouth and this spread of the enjoyment of the content and so that’s our plan with this, we think it will eventually be available everywhere and we certainly want people to be excited about it when it is, or still excited about it.
DBB: Speaking of iTunes, a lot of people are wanting to know if there’s going to be a sound track available.
MT: Oh yes, and we’re currently working on that as well, soon, not very soon but
JW: As soon as possible
MT: As soon as possible. With everything we have going on, the things we want to accomplish keep piling up so we’re trying to pick away from the pile as quickly as humanly possible.
JW: Yeah, we have to do a little remixing and remastering for the actual soundtrack and so that’ll take a little time and right now because we’re doing this ourselves, we’re just trying to get Act III up. But then, next week..
MT: I think we’ll have time, Jed will have time, that’s all in Jed’s hands pretty much the mixing and mastering with the sound track.
JW: But with Dollhouse and we’ve got Comic Con next week you know and we’re going to try and get it out as fast as possible because we want people to rock it in their cars.
MT: Oh Yeah
DBB: I’m sure that right now people all around the world are watching this and singing along because they’ve already learnt half the words.
JW: Oh that’s great, awesome.
MT: I’ve seen also the sort of speculation on song titles that I love, that tickles my little heart. So I feel that once we release the CD with the actual titles and lyrics and everything it’ll be fun for everyone to be like “Oh! That’s what it’s called”
JW: Also, I see some people have transcribed the lyrics which is helpful too.
DBB: Speaking of the sound track and people singing and so forth, is there potential in the future for people to be able to hold public screenings of Dr Horrible and have big massive sing-alongs.
MT: I feel like we’re open to all the possibilities of what can happen with Dr Horrible.
JW: Joss loves those
MT: Yeah, we want more than anything to have people at midnight screenings singing along to Dr Horrible. We want more than anything to have a bunch of people at Comic Con dressed as Dr Horrible, that, I think that would signify success for us.
DBB: I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see people showing up dressed as Dr Horrible, or Captain Hammer or something…
MT: Captain Hammer, that would be awesome.
JW: I’m gonna try and get Nathan to dress as Captain Hammer at Comic Con to just see what happens to him. I’m going to try and get him to dress as Captain Hammer when we hang out and just see what happens and see if his personality changes.
MT: Or have him dress as a Captain Hammer groupie have him wear one of those red shirt with his own face on it.
DBB: I must say I can’t imagine anyone else play such a smarmy, strange character and play it so over the top but still be really enjoyable to watch, I think Nathan does an amazing job with that.
JW: Yeah, I mean I had never actually seen him be that much of an asshole and so when we did our first reading, I knew I loved him and I knew he was exceptionally hilarious and talented, but only when he read the lines did I realise how perfectly he was cast and Act III will show him off well as well.
MT: After the first read through we all came together and were like “wow, Nathan was born to play a smarmy superhero. And his voice was very impressive, he can sing, the man can sing.
DBB: They’re all amazing, I think people have been quite surprised at how good these actors do sound when they sing.
MT: Right, Neil goes without saying, he’s a Broadway baby and Felicia has such a beautiful, angelic voice and we’re all just so pleased with our cast, they’ve all be so wonderful.
JW: It was very fun, the whole recording process was extremely fun and there was a lot of hilarity and it came out better than we could have hoped.
DBB: Are we going to see some of that behind the scenes stuff on the DVD?
JW: There’ll be behind the scenes, we filmed a lot during the process and yeah, we’ll cutting that up to make it enjoyable.
MT: There will be plenty of juicy morsels for you to ahh, enjoy on the DVD.
JW: Yeah, our DVD dreams are non-stop, our aspirations are high.
MT: Every day I think we come up with some new silly thing to go on the DVD. It’s like a non stop romp over here since the day Dr Horrible was conceived, we’ve just been playing the whole time and pretty much every ridiculous thing we think of makes it into the actual product.
DBB: Who’s idea was it to the pots and pans in the opening scene look like Serenity?
JW: I think that’s just coincidence but it’s a great conspiracy. The house we shot in, I mean honestly, this guy just had a house that was perfect, it was insane, we walked onto that set but it wasn’t a set. I guess it had been made over by some reality show when the come in…
MT: Wasn’t it called Monster House or something?
JW: Yeah, so it is possible, he may have arranged the pots and pans to look like Serenity, he may have done that, you’ll have to ask him, I’m sure you can find him on the internet, get on him, we need to know, we need to get to the bottom of this!
MT: But it was pretty amazing
DBB: It is quite amazing to look at it, I didn’t notice it at first, and when someone posted it I went and had a look and thought “that does look like Serenity”
JW: I’m going to take a look at it right now.
MT: I’m trying to find his house online so that we can give you his name..
JW: He was very nice to allow us to invade his home.
MT: Oh, and we invaded his home for a very long day. [Dr Blog Bot edit: see our earlier article for details about where it was filmed]
DBB: Do you have a favourite song from Dr Horrible?
MT: We love all of Joss’ songs. We have a funny thing going on, Joss is like “I like your guys’ songs better” and we’re like “your songs are better than our songs”, so, what would be our favourite… it’s coming up. It’s coming up in Act III
DBB: Ok, we’ll leave that question so we don’t’ give away any spoilers then. Do you have a favourite line from the movie?
MT: “The Hammer is my penis”, curtesy of young Zackary Whedon
DBB: I think that one’s gone down well with all…well most of the fans anyway, there’s been a couple of concerns but..
JW: When we were filming that, I mean, everybody on set had their hand over their mouth trying so hard not to laugh. He did I think four or five takes of it.
MT: Four of five takes, each one absolutely perfect, and everyone dying every single time he said the line, each one got funnier
DBB: I don’t know how he did it with a straight face.
MT: And how Neil maintained is quite a feat.
JW: He’s a pro.
DBB: Can you tell me, what happens if wonderflonium gets bounced?
JW: Well, you know what, I don’t know if anybody knows, nobody has dared bounce it.
MT: No, but I will say that New York street did burn down at the Universal back lot, that’s all I’m saying…
DBB: Ok… Now you’ve both started working on Dollhouse recently, was that anything that sort of came out of Dr Horrible or was it going to happen anyway?
MT: We were being submitted for staffing on various shows it was all sort of, the timing of everything was really just organic, the strike happened, we were all sitting around, out of work writers, and decided to get together and do something fun which became Dr Horrible and then we finished shooting Dr Horrible and it was time to staff up for … well Joss’ show had been in the process of being staffed up and it was all sort of serendipitous and we liked working together obviously, and it’s been…
MT: Yeah, it’s continuing the fun, I really will say, the fun just doesn’t stop.
JW: It’s a great staff too on Dollhouse so it’s an extremely positive experience working over here, and it’s easy to come to work every day.
MT: And we’re learning a lot from really great people, Tim Minear, Liz Craft, Sarah Fain, Steve DeKnight, I mean it’s like heavy-hitters in the room.
JW: And that Joss guy’s kinda smart too.
MT: Yeah, I guess Joss is ok, his ideas are alright.
DBB: So you think you could stand to keep working with him then?
MT: Yeah, maybe they gotta pay us a little bit more but…
JW: I don’t know, I’m outta here [joking]
DBB: How do you find working with each other?
MT: Everybody asks us that and it’s starting to get to the point we’re like … “should we start hating each other?” But no, actually it’s fine, we were working from home for a while anyway prior to coming to an office every day on Dollhouse, we were both doing freelance from home so we’ve been in each other’s faces for the majority of our relationship and I think it’s just going to continue to stay that way…. It’s Jed’s Birthday
JW: Yeah, she got me a new laptop which is just awesome.
MT: Yeah, I got him a new Macbook and he’s very happy about it, funny thing is is when I went to pay for it the guy at the Apple store looked at my credit card and he’s like “oh, no, wait, I mean, wait, you’re Mar… no, you can’t…wait.. did you write Dr Horrible? [laughs] and I said ‘yes” you know my name’s ridiculously long.
JW: You can now officially pronounce it for the masses.
MT: Oh, yes, my name is “Maurissa Tancharoen” and it is a Tai surname.
JW: Now we don’t’ have to put it on the DVD.
DBB: One of the things I’ve been wondering about myself, Dr Horrible when it was first conceived was going to be totally different by the sound of it, a much smaller, less finished product, is that accurate?
JW: I guess Joss’ first idea was that it would be a podcast or something and then when we all started working on it we were thinking we would play the parts and do it on our webcam because Maurissa and I had done some stuff like that and Zack and Maurissa and I did a strike video and so it started that way and when we started writing songs and Joss started talking about bigger people playing it and so it just expanded and expanded…
MT: I think our first official creative meeting Joss had Freeze Ray written and he sat on his little keyboard and played it for us and then all of a sudden the world of Dr Horrible started to come clear to us and it all evolved from there.
JW: Yeah, and then we came to the next meeting and we had a little…
MT: Yeah, Jed and I had the next song and then yeah, everyone just kept going back and forth and it became what it is today.
DBB: Was it hard to decide where to draw the line so that it didn’t become something that seemed like it shouldn’t be on the internet?
JW: We didn’t really think about it, we just kind of made it, we honestly didn’t think about it, I guess we knew we were going to make it three acts from the beginning, we didn’t know how long they were going to be but we just sort of made it … we just kind of went and didn’t care how it came out or what it ended up being we just wanted to make the characters likeable… or unlikeable depending which one we’re talking about, and you know we didn’t really worry about the end product as long it’s something you, as a writer, as long as it’s something you would want to see, that’s how you judge whether or not it’s any good. At least that’s they way I do it.
DBB: Is there any one particular thing that stands out to you that was either really good or really bad about the whole process?
JW: Umm, well Felicia is you know, just a terrible diva.
MT: Oh my gosh, her makeup entourage, her hair entourage, her dream analyst, I mean it’s just out of control
JW: That is a lie [laughs]
MT: We’re kidding, we’re kidding. I will say every part of it was…
JW: The worst part of it was dealing with the web stuff on the day of the launch,
MT: We were freaking out about all of that
JW: That was the hardest part, everything else has just been an organic fun process, trying to make it … but that was the one part where we were pulling our hair out.
DBB: Nobody can plan for getting a thousand hits a second that would take anybody by surprise… One last question?
DBB: You’ve both got to answer this separately, if you were applying to the Evil League of Evil, what would your laugh sound like?
MT: Jed… go ahead…
JW: Well the thing is, I’m actually IN the Evil League of Evil so I don’t even have to audition but unfortunately you do Maurissa.
MT: Umm, well let’s see, I’m Asian, how should I do this? [crazy laugh]
DBB: That’s great, thank you so much both of you for taking some time out to talk to me it’s been a pleasure.
MT: Absolutely, thank you.
DBB: Have a great day and I hope this continues to be a huge success for you.
MT: We do too. Thank you.
JW: Thank you for all your help.