Interview

Ellie Kemper’s Favorite TV Theme Song

Before we heard a few of our listeners' theme song picks, we asked the "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" star to share her favorite song. Rico and Brendan weigh in with their own picks too!

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Throughout our “All-TV” Episode we’ve been hearing some of our listeners’ favorite TV themes. Now, it seems only fair that Brendan and Rico share theirs. Joining them, as they try their damndest, is Ellie Kemper. They spoke to her earlier about her TV series “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.” The new season of which hits Netflix on April 15.

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Brendan Francis Newnam: Ellie, what TV theme did you pick?

Ellie Kemper: One theme song that I love is the theme to “Friday Night Lights.”

Brendan Francis Newnam: Oh by that band… it’s like that indie band.

Rico Gagliano: Explosions in the Sky.

Ellie Kemper: I thought… I thought it was W.G. Snuffy Walden.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Wait what?

Rico Gagliano: What?!?

Ellie Kemper: Am I wrong?

Rico Gagliano: I think… oh I’m being told by our produced Jackson Musker that I’m thinking of the movie soundtrack.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Oh, we were thinking of the movie.

Ellie Kemper: Oh no, I’m thinking of television.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Because that’s what we asked you. Good work! [Elllie laughs.]

Rico Gagliano: Yeah.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Let’s hear a clip of this theme song.

Brendan Francis Newnam: [Singing] “Friday Night Lights.”

Ellie Kemper: Football.

Brendan Francis Newnam: [Still singing] Friday night…

Ellie Kemper: Coach.

Rico Gagliano: No one can see it but we’re actually swaying back and forth in the studio right now.

Ellie Kemper: I… I am crying.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Yeah.

Ellie Kemper: This, to me, is everything in life. It pulls at my heartstrings. When I hear the song… it’s everything from high school just comes out. And I wasn’t a huge football player, but oh my gosh! It’s like everything that is so central to living.

Brendan Francis Newnam: It’s euphoric, it’s epic.

Rico Gagliano: And the thing that’s so interesting too is it’s a sound that is perfect for the show. And yet, when you think of say, West Texas, you don’t think of sort of chiming, stadium, guitars.

Ellie Kemper: You’re so right!

Rico Gagliano: But it works.

Ellie Kemper: It reminds me of… well I don’t know. I ran track in high school and it reminds me of like driving to track meets in Missouri. I just think it’s so universal.

Brendan Francis Newnam: But you know what? I think I have a sadder theme song. When I was very young, my chorus teacher, Ms. Russ, she made us sing this song and it’s the theme song to this TV show with Tony Randall called “Love, Sidney.” Which has the distinction of being the first television show to have an openly gay character.

Ellie Kemper: Wow.

Brendan Francis Newnam: In it, Tony Randall played this rich-

Rico Gagliano: I remember.

Brendan Francis Newnam: …Gay New Yorker. Yeah, do remember this show Rico?

Rico Gagliano: Yeah.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Because his neighbor was a single mom.

Rico Gagliano: Played by Swoosie Kurtz I think.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Swoosie Kurtz was the name.

Ellie Kemper: Yes.

Brendan Francis Newnam: And he kind of adopted him. So, listen to this theme song.

[Theme song playing.]

Rico Gagliano: Aww.

[Theme song still playing.]

Brendan Francis Newnam: It gets better.

Ellie Kemper: Aww.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Yup. I used to sing this to Curious George.

Ellie Kemper: To Curious George?

Brendan Francis Newnam: I had a Curious George doll.

Ellie Kemper: Oh no.

Brendan Francis Newnam: I’m welled up.

Ellie Kemper: I’m here, I see him in person. He is welling up.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Isn’t that… I mean, that’s an emotional song.

Rico Gagliano: It is.

Brendan Francis Newnam: “Friday Night Lights,” Friday Night Shmites.

Ellie Kemper: No. See okay now that you’ve said that I can be honest. No, that does not hold a candle to “Friday Night Lights.” I think there must be some sort of association in your mind with that because when I just heard it, it’s darling, but it’s not sad.

Rico Gagliano: Oh I remember, we were very young, Brendan and I, when that show came out, and I remember it being very touching. But I think that was one of those shows where I liked the theme song more than the actual show itself.

Ellie Kemper: Yes, yes.

Rico Gagliano: You can also tell that that song is from, you know, the ’70s or ’80s or whatever it is because the song is as long as the episode.

Ellie Kemper: Oh yeah, exactly right.

Brendan Francis Newnam: That’s like, that’s like two episodes of Kimmy Schmidt right there.

Ellie Kemper: Yup, right there, right there. I kept wondering, I was like, surely it’s going to end.

Brendan Francis Newnam: OK so Rico, what’s your, what’s your TV theme song?

Ellie Kemper: “Friday Night Lights” is in first place so far.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Oh! Competitive.

Rico Gagliano: I’m going to flash forward to the present and pick the theme song to John Oliver’s satirical comedy show on HBO, “Last Week Tonight.”

Ellie Kemper: Oh!

Brendan Francis Newnam: I don’t know if I know it.

Ellie Kemper: It’s good.

Rico Gagliano: It’s really great. It’s a power pop song. Actually we’ve had that song on our show as one for the road, before it became John Oliver’s theme song. It’s by a band called Valley Lodge and it is called “Go.” And every time I hear it, it makes me want to just drive happily. So here we go.

[Theme song plays.]

Ellie Kemper: Five, 6, 7, 8.

Rico Gagliano: Right?

Ellie Kemper: Yeah, that’s good.

[Theme song plays.]

Brendan Francis Newnam: That was a good one. See this is what happens when the child that Sydney raised graduates from college.

Ellie Kemper: And she drives off into the sunset with that song. Yeah that’s a great song, especially for that show. It like gets you excited, you know, to take in some satire.

Rico Gagliano: So that’s my tune. We all agree it’s the best one for sure. And Ellie-

Ellie Kemper: Why? Who weighed in on that?

Rico Gagliano: Thank you so much for joining us.

Ellie Kemper: Thank you for having me. I don’t know if that was the best theme.