They Might Be Giants have come out with a new album, which can only be a good thing, and with the release of Join Us comes a truly terrific music video! The video for Can’t Keep Johnny Down presents us with a young man who wants to be a champion bareknuckle boxer, only to come up against…wait for it…Rip Torn in the titular role of Johnny! I think I need to turn this one over to They Might Be Giants‘ John Flansburgh for an explanation (courtesy of Filmdrunk):
In this video, we were trying to figure out how to complement the idea of the song without illustrating the idea of the song. The Johnny character is this very uncivilized dude. There were a lot of different scenarios about how to make him a badass guy, but once it was clear that the character was going to be played by Rip Torn, it seemed like it was easy to connect the dots for the rest of it. You don’t need a lot of other ideas when you’ve got Rip Torn street-fighting at the age of 80.
We actually were on The Larry Sanders Show years ago. I met Rip then, and he was hilarious — exactly as you would imagine. He was very present. It was like he was made of electricity. But because of the way the scheduling worked, I didn’t get to meet him again this time. It sounds like he’s more eccentric now. Did you ever see that video of a young Rip Torn with Norman Mailer? It’s very hard to tell what is real and what’s super-real. Basically, Rip Torn comes over some grassy knoll in Italy somewhere and starts attacking Norman Mailer. With a hammer. And at some point, Norman Mailer does a Mike Tyson and bites his ear. It’s all just very strange. It makes you realize that with Rip Torn, there are no rules.
The hot sauce, the hand gesture — that’s all him. Basically, Brian [Palmer, who co-directed with Brad Palmer] just interviewed him and they talked about street fighting, and that was his improvisational spark. He’s a very physical dude. And as you can see in the video, he’s in really good shape! I think it would take me a number of years just to get to where he is now.
Now that’s just awesome. Here’s a second song from Join Us, but lemme tell ya, as good as it is, crazy Rip Torn is a hard act to follow.