TCA Tour, Jan. 2009: “Z Rock”

I admit it: I didn’t give “Z Rock” nearly as much love during the summer 2008 TCA tour as I should have.

There are a lot of ad-libbed or loosely-scripted comedy series around nowadays (or, at least, more than there used to be), but this is definitely one that’s close to my heart, given its premise of a hard rock band who makes ends meet by working as a kids’ party band by day. Music-related jokes are all over the place, as you’d imagine, but the show makes room for cameo appearances by famous rockers like Dee Snider, Sebastian Bach, and Dave Navarro (who raises his hand at one point and asks, “Who here has banged Carmen Electra?”) as well as comedians like Gilbert Gottfried and Dave Attell; similarly, both John Popper and Joan Rivers play themselves, doing so repeatedly throughout the first season.

Now that Season 2 of “Z Rock” is on the horizon, IFC has wisely decided to try and maintain the show’s momentum by bringing the trio – David Z, Paulie Z, and Joey Cassata – to the TCA Press Tour, along with Mr. Popper and Lynn Koplitz, who plays Dina on the show.

One thing that a lot of people don’t realize about Z Rock is that they’re actually a real band called ZO2. This isn’t 100% autobiographical, but they’re still out there writing, recording, and performing music, and they really did do the kids’ band circuit in their day…though there’s very little chance that they’ll be doing it again anytime soon.

“Only if we had to,” said Paulie. “If we were desperate. And that’s obviously the point of the show. It’s, like, we did it because we had to. It was the best-paying gig we can get at the most flexibility time-wise, so, yeah, if everything else fell through, we would go back.”

“They’ve talked to me about this before, and I think it’s a huge mistake,” said Popper. “Because you’re creating an audience about 10 years from now, 20 years from now, then you’re sort of seeding the next generation.”

“What we did was at the parties, we were slipping ZO2 CD’s under their beds,” Paulie explained. “Like, the three-year-old kids. So we’re hoping in, 15 years, they’ll be, like, ‘What’s this?’”

“By the reunion tour, they’ll be coming out,” said David, confidently.

The cast loved the opportunity to work with their guest stars, but they were particularly honored by the presence of Joan Rivers.

“Joan’s amazing,” said Paulie. “Everyone knows she’s talented, but when she came on, it was, like, we knew we were getting someone who was just a professional, but she was so down to earth. I think that, for us, is what made it even better. We fed off of her jokes and stuff like that. But then, in between the takes, she was, like, ‘Come over and just talk to us,’ and she would be able to do like a fart joke, and we would be like, ‘What? Joan Rivers…?’”

“A lot has to be said for the guest stars that we have and the co-stars,” said David, “because we weren’t actors, we were musicians. So it’s easy to play off of people when they’re so good at it, and they’re so good at your craft, it looks like we know what we’re doing, and because they’re so funny, we kind of just play off of what they said and we’ll react to what they said and kind of throw in a line here and there.”

But if you’re not a music fan and therefore figure you won’t find the show funny, Paulie thinks you’d better think again. “It’s not just for rock and roll people,” he assured us. “I mean, obviously it’s a music show, but you don’t have to be an actor to watch ‘Entourage’ and enjoy that show. It’s like, yes, obviously musicians love it because they say, ‘I know what they’re going through.’ But if you really just think about it, it’s for anybody who struggles to do something in their life who has a dream. If you have a dream to be an astronaut, you have a dream to be whatever it is, you’re going to have to sacrifice things, and there’s always that temptation of ‘I can go the safe route or I can starve.’”

“It’s like Rocky in the ‘Rocky’ movies,” said David. “You see him start from nothing and struggle. So we say we’re the Rocky of rock and roll.”

To close, I’m offering up my first back-and-forth exchange of the tour, since – as you may recall from previous tours – I try desperately not to break any rules of the TCA, and they very much frown on the old copy-and-paste. Sometimes, however, there’s just not a better way to show how a particular moment from a panel went down…like, for instance, when one of the critics asked the guys who would win in a throw-down between Z Rock, Flight of the Conchords, and the Jonas Brothers.

Paulie Z: Us, Jonas Brothers and the Conchords?
John Popper: Is the Jonas Brothers’ security there? I think I could take them. They’re pretty small.
Paulie Z: Do they have weaponry, or is it just music?
Critic: Hand-to-hand combat.
David Z: I have a ring like the Jonas Brothers’, but it means a very different thing.
John Popper: Always take out the bass player first, because he has the biggest thing to swing with, so if you take the bass player down…
David Z: We’re not talking about my, uh…
Paulie Z: Don’t forget, guys, we grew up in Brooklyn, New York. All right. So you know what I mean? I think the only band we probably couldn’t take would being like Lemmy. Motorhead would probably kick our butts.
John Popper: On behalf of Blues Traveler, we’ll throw down at any time.
Paulie Z: We’ll take you down. You crazy?
Joey Cassata: You have a bum leg. We’ll kick you…
Paulie Z: What are you talking about? I’ll take your cane away and you’re down.
John Popper: We’ll settle this outside, you guys.
Paulie Z: There’s going to be a big fight after the panel, by the way, if anyone wants to watch.

The second season of “Z Rock” premieres later in 2009 on IFC, but no specific date for the premiere has been announced as of yet.


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