New York chaos lead Bob and Tobly McSmith not only to a small city apartment but to a “blood brothers” friendship and a slew of hit parody musicals. While “Un-Block the Music” always wandered (and continues to wander) around the New York theater district just as a past time, often I saw ads for The Office! A Musical Parody. Then, my PR friend Dan DeMello (DDPR) sent me a press invitation Friends! A Musical Parody and I realized there are a slew of musical parodies written by this team! In fact, to date, they have written nine with no end in sight. Lucky for me, I was able to have an hilarious talk with these not so traditional musical theater writers.
First off, Tobly and Bob are not related by birth, but they moved to New York around the same time. Bob said, “I always wanted to be an actor. I studied it in college, but I wasn’t very good at it. But, Tobly and I became obsessed with Comedy Central and Saturday Night Live. It became our safe place, and we found this mutual bond over comedy.”
Both McSmiths had New York “survival” jobs and started creating comedy and playing music on the side in bars and smaller theaters. “We didn’t have much in terms of musical background but have figured it out over the last 15 years,” with their first parody being Bayside! The Musical! (Saved By The Bell Musical).
Why did they write Friends!? “Even though it is not really based in reality, people relate to the show,” Bob said. “One of the great things about comedy is that it is a conversation,” said Tobly. “I am transgender and there are a lot of cringy jokes in the shows in light of 2021. But it is important to celebrate how much we have progressed.” If you are uncomfortable with these topics, it is time to understand why.Tobly says in this time of change, things are very scrutinized so you do have to be conscious of what you write. Spoken as a true writer, he is also the author of two Young Adult novels, Stay Gold and Act Cool. Both follow coming of age transgender boys dealing with relationships and chasing their dreams.
As a journalist and writer, I have been around creators my whole life, and since starting “Un-Block The Music” I have been most fascinated with how artists create! No two stories are alike. How do Bob and Tobly come up with their ideas? “Basically Tobly and I sit in a room and try to make each other laugh. If we don’t laugh, then we don’t put it on the page. We have different senses of humors!,” Bob said.
No formula exists for Bob and Tobly when they write. “Sometimes the book comes first; sometimes the lyrics. We start with whatever makes us laugh at the time,” Bob said. Sometimes they write the lyrics with a melody in their head and then they will pass it to a composer. It is a very collaborative process, and they have worked with a lot of different composers. For Friends! , the composer was Assaf Gleizner.
Personally, “Un-Block The Music” loved Janice, Chandler’s consistent love before Monica. Maybe it’s because she sounds like an exaggerated version of me! LOL! Anyway, while I haven’t seen the musical yet, I hear the son “Oh. My God. It’s Janice!” is a standout moment. If you are a fan of the television show, you will “get” these titles immediately. Songs include:
Other Songs from Friends! A Musical Parody include:
- “495 Grove Street – How Can We Afford This Place?”
- “How You Doin’?” – Joey
- “We Were On A Break!” – Ross
- “Will They or Won’t They?” – Ross and Rachel
- “The Ballad of Fat Monica”
- “Could I BE Anymore…In Love with You” – Chandler
- “The One Where We Make a Million Dollars an Episode”
- “We’ll Always Be There For You”
“We always knew Friends! would happen. Bob and I moved to New York right around the time that show was going on. Our lives were very different than their lives. But, we still watched it,” as did 5 million people who watched the show finale. That was long before streaming!
Friends! is popular internationally as well. It has been playing in Poland and Australia this year. “So many people have told us they learned English by watching the show. It speaks to everybody,” said Tobly.
Whats up next for this duo? Love Actually. It first premiered in Fall of 2019 befor CO-VID!! It features music and orchestration by Basil Winterbottom.
Songs in this spoof include:
“Messages of Love, Actually”
“He’s the Prime Minister (of Rom-Coms)”
“Dark Deeds in Dark Corners”
“British Girls” – Colin, God of Sex
“Keira Knightly Actually”
“A Joni Mitchell CD? (For Your Continued Emotional Education)”
“The Lament of Laura Linney” “The Language of Love” Jamie & Maid
“American Girls” – Colin, God of Sex
“The 11 O’Clock Grand Gesture Number”
“Love is Actually”
What shows are the McSmiths dabbling with currently? Next up, says Tobly, is likely to be a parody of Parks and Recreation. But, right now they are most thrilled to be back live. “We are proud of our shows and how many people are employed as a result,” said Tobly.
Check out Bob and Tobly’s website for info on where their shows are playing around you!!!