FOR A STRETCH of the early aughts, screenwriting partners Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul struggled to sell scripts. It was an effort made no easier by their unorthodox style of pitching to executives. They’d go into a chilly glass office, explain the premise and characters, outline story beats, and start to sing. Daurio insists this wasn’t as weird as it sounds.
“In comedy, the big set pieces are often linked to music,” he explains. “Or something funny happening around music.”
“We’d just perform that moment,” says Paul. “Singing those parts in harmony.”
“Sometimes it was really awkward,” Daurio says. “You’d see people, like”—he mimes leaning away, palms up, looking worried—“Uhhhhh …” Sometimes the duo delighted their audience; sometimes they finished to crickets. Once, after pitching the head of Warner Bros., the hard no went simply, “Well, that was loud.”
“To be fair, we were really loud,” Paul says. “We sing all the time.” On drives, in public, in the office. “We kept getting kicked out of offices for noise complaints.”
What began in surreal pitch meetings is now coming to surreal prestige TV. In July, Apple TV+ will begin airing Schmigadoon!, Paul and Daurio’s send-up of classic musicals. In the show, Cecily Strong and Keegan-Michael Key play two mid-career New York City doctors whose long-term relationship is in a slump. They go on a hiking trip in an attempt to rekindle the spark, get lost, and wind up in a Blumhouse horror film with just a touch of whimsy. “What … is … happening?” Josh asks Melissa, as they stumble into a 1940s small-town square, an invisible orchestra swells, and a cast of singing, dancing, alltoo-jubilant townsfolk welcomes them to Schmigadoon, “where the sun shines brightly from July to June, and the air’s as sweet as a macaroon.” Thus begins a diabolical homage to the golden age of Broadway, in which the leads are cursed to find true love in order to escape. Or as Key’s Broadway-hating Josh says, “It’s like if The Walking Dead were also Glee.”
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