In HateSong, we ask our favorite musicians, writers, comedians, actors, and so forth to expound on the one song they hate most in the world.
The hater: With two stand-up specials under his belt, including this year’s Paid Regular, Ari Shaffir is a comedy veteran. His latest project, Comedy Central’s This Is Not Happening, is airing now on the network after debuting online in 2013. The special finds Shaffir and buddies like Rob Corddry, D.L. Hughley, Keegan-Michael Key, Marc Maron, and Paul Scheer telling their most embarrassing, grossest, or simply truest stories from the stage at an L.A. strip club called Cheetahs. It’s often as cringe-inducing as you’d expect, with Shaffir’s banter holding the whole thing together.
The hated: Louis Armstrong, “Jeepers Creepers” (1938)
The A.V. Club: Why do you hate “Jeepers Creepers” so much?
Ari Shaffir: Well, when I was working at the Comedy Store as an employee, as a door guy, waiting for a chance to go onstage, they would play that song as people were coming in.
AS: Yeah. On nights that we had no piano player they would just play that song. It was so fucking creepy. I could imagine a suicide set to that song.
AVC: Why that song?
AS: I don’t know. I have no idea. Because Mitzi [Shore], the owner, liked old stuff. It was just a sign, too, of her liking older comics, more established comics, and not giving anybody younger like me a chance. It was just a sign of my frustration.
But I really had this image of my blood running out of me and into a drain as, like, I’m tied up with my eyeball—wide open, zooming in on it, as the life is bleeding out of me.
AVC: Maybe that explains the horror movie Jeepers Creepers.
AS: Yeah, that’s how the song shows up on YouTube.
I hate that song because of The Comedy Store. Not that I hear it much, but when I do, it just reminds me of frustration.
AVC: And you were working the door?
AS: I had to seat people and watch all these fucking shit-ass comics go up, who I knew I was better than. They were so bad back then, too. [Mitzi Shore] was barely around, so she would pass these people and then she wouldn’t see them again. So they would have like one good set in front of her, then they’d be garbage. Just throwing bomb after bomb.
AVC: When was this?
AS: I guess like 14 years ago? This was right around 2002, probably. 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004. A rough few years.
Mitzi Shore, God, she would torture me. She used to fire me because I was too tall. She’d be like, “People can’t see, you’re too tall,” and I was like, “Oh, well… okay. I mean, I don’t know what I’m going to do.” She’d say, “Nothing. You’re fired.” Like, what? “Can I just crouch over?” And she was like, “Okay.” So then I would just crouch the entire time I was seating people. Bend over. She would love it. She would laugh at me torturing myself.
AVC: Did you eventually get onstage?
AS: Eventually I got onstage. That took like seven or eight years.
AVC: Do you think it took longer than it would if you weren’t working there?
AS: It did take longer. She saw me and she liked torturing me. So it took extra-long. She enjoyed the fuck-with-him of it all.
AVC: Do you know the origin of “Jeepers Creepers”?
AS: No. It’s some standard, right?
AVC: It’s from a 1938 movie called Going Places that starred Ronald Reagan. Louis Armstrong played a horse trainer. One of the horse’s names was Jeepers Creepers, and that’s how they would make him run.
AS: By playing that song?
AVC: Louie Armstrong would sing it to the horse, and then the white horse owners joke around with him, calling him Uncle Tom and stuff. It’s one of those “acceptable at the time” things that’s absolutely not now. Or then, really.
AS: Wow. It’s like one of those old racist movies where they’re not even trying to be racist but it just had no choice. It was the times.
AVC: Is this song especially weird to you because it talks about eyes? Some people are weird about eyes.
AS: No. I mean, I can’t touch my eyes. I could never do contacts. I could never imagine like touching my eyeballs, that seems so fucking weird and gross to me, but it’s mostly because I was just sitting there. And it would play on a loop, too. All those nights it was dead at the Comedy Store, it was so slow, and if the show was supposed to start at nine we’d open the doors at 8:30 and then we had to wait until at least six customers were there. But we would have like two or three people sitting in there for like an hour. They would get there at 8:45, 8:50, and at about 10, they’d ask, “Hey, what’s the story? Are they starting?” And I’d have to say, “Not until there are two more of you.” And that song would just keep playing and playing. [Singing.] “Jeepers Creepers / Where’d you get them peepers?”
AVC: It’s really warming people up to laugh.
AS: Yeah. That song would really get them in the mood.