“We Tapped That Ass” was one of two songs that “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” submitted for the Emmys, and in the end, was the one that won the nomination. Although series creator, star, and lyricist Rachel Bloom was thrilled for the nomination, her first thought was, “Oh shit. We’re not going to win this. That’s not likely.”
Sadly, “We Tapped That Ass” did not end up winning this year — the honors went to Common’s “Letter to the Free” for Ava DuVernay’s “13th” instead — but the song is in good company among other raunchy comedy tunes that have been recognized by the Academy.
Before the 1990s, the trend for Emmy-winning songs tended to be pretty standard theme songs, concert performances or variety tunes. “The Simpsons” started opening the door to more comedic fare in the 1990s, earning multiple nods and even winning two, but it was a 2007 earworm on “Saturday Night Live” that set a precedent for more risqué material.
“It’s just a ’Dick in a Box’ strategy this year,” said Adam Schlesinger, who writes the music and lyrics for “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” referring to the “Saturday Night Live” digital short starring Andy Samberg and Justin Timberlake spoofing ‘90s boy bands. “What a great anthem.”
After “Dick in a Box” won the Emmy, the following year “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” won for “I’m Fucking Matt Damon.” Since then, the nominations have been wide open to naughty, suggestive and downright lewd songs. “We Tapped That Ass” just continues the tradition. In the song, Rebecca Bunch (Bloom) is haunted by the memory of her two ex-boyfriends Josh (Vincent Rodriguez III) and Greg (Santino Fontana), with whom she had sex all over her apartment. The exes appear in her imagination to perform and tap about those memories in a sequence inspired by Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor in “Singin’ in the Rain.”
Take a look at the song below:
“We were thinking about, ‘What’s a song where they could kind of gang up on her in her mind?’” Bloom said. “‘Moses Supposes’ is kind of a very, very kinda cheeky, clever song that Rebecca would imagine — if you watch it in ‘Singin’ in the Rain,’ they’re kind of ganging up on this speech teacher. We knew the song already was a tap number, and so we started brainstorming. Jack [Dolgen], Adam, and I got in a room to brainstorm lyrics for the song, and also what the hook could be.”
Dolgen gets the credit for the phrase “we tapped that ass,” which became the song’s chorus. Bloom said, “It’s insane that wasn’t the idea from the beginning, but in fact the chorus, the hook, was the last piece of the puzzle before Adam then took our ideas and went off and did the first half of the song.”
Having strong visuals are also key to earning an Emmy nomination, and the show had to take that into consideration when submitting songs for consideration.
“So much of it is about the video also,” said Dolgen. “The submissions for this category is not just an audio submission. It’s the actual butt clip from the show. So it’s really more like submitting a music video than it is submitting just a song. It’s both. And so we weigh that in and we just basically try to pick songs that we think have the best shot at winning or the best representation of our creative point of view.”
The choreography took place all over Rebecca’s apartment, but one prop had to be made especially for the song: the giant ass. The larger-than-life derriere made for a great visual gag and also inspired Greg’s line, “What? Too cheeky?” which Bloom also attributes to Dolgen.
“This number was a dream for both [Rodriguez and Fontana],” she said. “Vinnie’s idol is Gene Kelly. There’s that one part where Vinnie has that little tap solo and he just has that manly gracefulness Gene Kelly had, and it was wonderful.”
Unfortunately, Fontana has a more painful memory from the experience. At one point he had sprained his ankle on another gig, so shooting had to be delayed a month. And then on set, he suffered another, less dignified injury. “I do remember at one point jumping on the ass, and Santino very painfully sitting on his balls,” Bloom said. “We all feel bad about that. Even as a woman, I don’t have balls, but when I see a guy hurt his balls it’s, ‘Whoa.’”
“We Tapped That Ass” is also full of sexual puns and innuendo. The raunchier the reference though, the more clever they had to be when it came to the use of puns. As co-creator Aline Brosh McKenna had said at IndieWire’s Fan Favorite Showrunners panel in April, one way to get away with provocative material is to give it a double meaning. In particular, this lyric below required some finessing, not to mention another prop:
Josh: Let’s wrap this up with a big finish!
Greg: But where should we finish?
Rebecca: Please not on my chest. No, you’ll scratch it!
“If I remember correctly, I think Adam had that original joke, and then we had the [Standards & Practices] note: ‘You can’t say that,’” said Dolgen.
“It was always supposed to be, ‘Let’s finish on her chest,’ and they were going to jump on a chest of drawers,” said Bloom. It was a slight reword that we had to do basically of Rebecca saying, ‘Please not on my chest,’ and then immediately after, ‘You’ll scratch it,’ thereby actually talking about the chest of drawers. It’s the kind thing you could be like, “What are you talking about? She said, please don’t you’ll scratch it.” They’re clearly talking about the chest of drawers, so it’s always about plausible deniability.”
Dolgen also noted, “Our S&P really works with us and is really supportive of us creatively. They want us to do cool stuff, push the envelope. It’s pretty great.”
Overall, the staff of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” is pretty satisfied with the level of raunch they’ve been able to deliver via song.
“The songs from last season that we have dirty versions of that are online only, those are obviously filthy,” Bloom said. “Compared to those, ‘We Tapped That Ass’ is still pretty filthy. I would say this one and ‘Oh My God, I think I Like You’ are pretty up there. I’m shocked that we keep getting away with it.”
“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” will return for its third season on Friday, Oct. 13 on The CW.