Editor’s note: On the new comedy podcast “R U Talkin’ R.E.M. RE: ME?“, hosts Scott Aukerman and Adam Scott dive deep into the legendary Athens band’s discography. Local superfan Tim Kelly is reviewing the podcast for Flagpole.
“I just march up to people and say, ‘I think we should be friends,’ and then it usually works out.” — April Richardson
“Dude, you are NOT ready.” — April’s friend informing April that Michael Stipe (whom April had never met) was at the 40 Watt that night
My years in college were spent doing many things, not all of which were wise or productive. One of my favorite pastimes was to convince friends to go downtown and frequent the reputed haunts of R.E.M. members. Grab a bootleg at Low Yo Yo (loved the shoutout from April!), beer at Manhattan, etc. Part of this was simply to soak in the Athens-ness of it all, but a much bigger part was to perhaps bump into Stipe, Mills, Buck or Berry. And then? I didn’t actually know what would happen should I ever come face to face. Would I say something? Would they call security? As the Joker once wisely said, I was the dog chasing cars—what was I going to do once I caught one?
I’ve never been fearless enough to walk up to friendly strangers—let alone internationally famous rock stars—and just… start talking. With the latter, I usually rely on the time-honored “pretend to be looking for the bathroom, walk by and get a brief glimpse” strategy. Much like Scott, I’m envious of April’s confidence in these situations.
Now, the following story has grown in the telling, but the way I remember it goes like this. It’s spring of 1999, and The Globe is at capacity, with a scant few seats scattered around the bar. I go up to order a drink, R.E.M. bootleg CD purchased earlier that night at Low Yo Yo in my pocket (truth), and a man settles in nearby. I glance over quickly, and it’s Stipe. It’s only the second time I’ve encountered him in Athens. I panic—silently, briefly—then collect myself. I grab my two beers, turn to catch one more glimpse of one of the most famous artists on the planet—and he’s gone. I turn around, promptly crashing into someone directly behind me, sloshing beer on them. It’s Stipe. I apologize; he’s unfazed.
During this disastrous turn of events, my friends had managed to secure table space. There are two empty seats next to them—the only two empty seats in the entire bar. Stipe and his friend eye the open spots and ask if they can sit down. And now, we are sharing a table with Michael Stipe. My friend Barbara has a touch of the April Richardson superpower and uses a lull in their conversation to make contact, and now we are all talking to the lead singer of R.E.M.
We stay for a few hours, speaking intermittently throughout the night. Stipe throws a knowing wave the bartender’s way as last call approaches, signaling it is OK for us to stick around with them a bit later than normal just to finish our drinks. We say our goodbyes, stumble out into the night and then I proceed to tell this story to every friend, family member, store clerk, flight attendant and domesticated animal that will sit still and make eye contact with me.
I asked my friends this week for their recollection of the night. I recall us playing the whole thing cool; we gave Stipe and his friend their space and only chatted when it seemed appropriate. My friend Barbara responded, “Yeah, not sure ‘we played it cool.’” You may think I’m crazy, and like April walking up to Mike Mills’ house or leaving messages on Stipe’s voicemail, maybe these stories are best left to our youth. But that night was mine, dammit, and I loved every second of it. I caught the car, and guess what? The car and I had a beer and a nice conversation!
April’s R.E.M. story is very much my story. We’re the same age, an older sibling introduced the band to us, we loved “Get a Life,” something clicked, and after hearing the band a few times, as April said, “I just knew—I’m into music now!” Hearing her stories and especially her birthday pilgrimage tale brought back those nights wandering downtown hoping for a sighting, taking the long way home to drive past the steeple, stopping for an impromptu stroll by the trestle, just basking in the fact that we were R.E.M. fans living in Athens. And for one girl celebrating a birthday on Mike Mills’ porch and a group of star struck 21-year-olds on a spring night at The Globe, the old adage did not ring true: You should absolutely meet your heroes.
- The debut of “How Does it Feel (When You’re in R.E.M.)(Good)”;
- The iTunes reviews of the podcast: “I like Adam Scott when he has a script” and “If you like people chewing into mics and talking forever without making a point, this is the podcast for you”;
- Adam and Scott excited that the podcast was featured on REMHQ;
- David Wain in re: cheesy bread at pizza places: “Hey, would you like some more pizza with that pizza?”;
- Debut of episodes of: “There’s Always Time for Impressions,” “U Talkin’ V. Halen V. Me?”, “Text Mext” and “Sweet Tweets” (why HAVEN’T you discussed pepperoni pizza?!?);
- How has Adam never heard XTC’s “Dear God”?;
- Scott to David: “You have an awful lot of free time! I don’t understand!”
- The isolated tracks—hearing Stipe’s vocals isolated made me appreciate those songs even more;
- April signed the petition to bring the R.E.M. podcast on air;
- “Let’s have a conversational narcissism-off”;
- Scott – “Ten-ish, anyone?” (Adam laughs uncontrollably) “I do that just because I know it will make you laugh”
- Sam Raimi never directed a sequel to Drag Me to Hell titled Drag Me to Hell 3: Dragging Me Back to Hell, nor did David Wain direct a remake of A Simple Plan entitled An Even Simpler Plan;
- Stephen Spielberg’s Schindler’s List does not include a scene in which Oscar Schindler loudly yells “Look at my list! Look at my list! It’s SCHINDLER’S list!!”
- R.E.M. never employed a pyrotechnic expert named “Rick Danziger” to guard the band’s guitars;
- 1941 was not Spielberg’s best film;
- Eyes Wide Shut is not widely regarded as a “classic comedy”;
- In live recordings of legendary jazz saxophonist and composer Charlie Parker Jr., aka The Bird, you can not hear people screaming “CAW CAW! CAW CAW! That’s your nickname! The Bird! That’s You!”in the background;
- Scott Aukerman was born in Savannah, GA, not Kenya;
- U.S. Presidential elections are not held every year on New Year’s Eve;
- Roose, Chicky Chan and Shem-Sham were not actors nor characters on the popular 1990s NBC sitcom “Friends”;
- R.E.M. did not close their famous three-song November 1994 “SNL” set with the “Happy Birthday” song—they closed with “I Don’t Sleep, I Dream”;
- Andrew Dice Clay does not perform backing vocals on R.E.M.’s “King of Comedy”;
- The best song Scott Aukerman has ever heard is not the theme song to the television series “Batman” starring Adam West;
- R.E.M., by virtue of their release of an album called Monster, is not a “very scary band,” nor should they “exclusively be played on Halloween”
Stone Cold Classics, Monster edition:
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