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Still Toxic After All
These Years!
Songwriter’s Monthly - April ’11, #135
Lloyd Kauffman had no intention of heard of Troma Entertainment, Inc.,
making movies . . . until he went to let’s get you up to speed real quick . . .
Yale. The paragon Troma hero is a 98 pound
n e r d n a m e d M e l v i n Fe r d w h o i s
“I never thought I’d go into any kind of relentlessly tortured, ridiculed, and
a field of bullied at the
e n t e r t a i n m e n t ,” local health club
the iconic indie where he works
f i l m m a k e r as a janitor. One
r e ve a l e d . L l oyd d a y, his
has that perpetual tormentors go
grin in his voice, too far and a
you’re never quite pink-tutu-
sure if he’s being wearing Melvin
straight with you dives out a
o r i f h e ’s j u s t second-story
setting you up for window to
the next escape the
punchline. “I was a b u s e .
going to be a Fortunately, he
teacher or a social lands in a drum
worker, you know? of green,
It was the 60’s bubbling toxic
and I was going to waste. Melvin’s
work for peace, flesh blisters
make the world a and bursts into
better place, teach flames before
people with hooks the nearly non-
for hands how to existent muscles
finger paint, stuff b e n e a t h
like that.” grotesquely
“I don’t take myself too mutate, turning
“But I got roomed the scrawny
with a movie nut seriously . . . but I do maintenance
at Yale. My first take the movies not-quite-a-man
year there I was in into a huge,
a tiny little seriously.” misshapen,
bedroom with this super-strong
crazy movie nut and our beds were creature. Toxie (along with his trusty
head to toe so at night I would inhale mop) becomes a champion for the
his fedora stinking feet and the aroma underdog, a hideous monster with a
du Troma was born!” heart of gold . . . well, unless you are a
bad guy — Toxie shows no mercy to
For the handful of folks who have never evil-doers!
Songwriter’s Monthly - April ’11, #135
Sensitive viewers beware, Troma Growing up, Kaufman took piano
movies can be violent, gritty, gore- lessons, but it was the clarinet that
filled, laugh-a-minute romps that offer resonated with him. Broadway musicals
a cornucopia of nudity (and all that resonated with him, as well. So much
goes along with two naked people). A so that he jokingly refers to himself as
single film typically packs in more story a “gay married man.”
and plot threads than an entire season
of F RINGE while displaying tighter “I was a fan of Broadway musicals,” he
writing than a declared. “I sort of
blockbuster like “I can’t make a grew up in the 60’s, so
INCEPTION, yet there’s I saw every
never an attempt to movie without really musical . . . Lucille
slicken up or present believing that it’s Ball in WILDCAT, Sam
one of these B-movies Levene in LET IT
as anything other
going to be RIDE!, Phil Silvers in
than . . . well, a B- meaningful.” D O R E M I , and, of
movie. Troma films course, Julie Andrews
a l s o h ave a t e n d e n c y t o c a c k l e in MY FAIR LADY . . . I saw the hits, but
irreverently in the face of political I saw all the flops, too, and they always
correctness — SOUTH PARK looks like G- had at least one really, really good
rated Disney fare by comparison. song! WILDCAT had ‘Hey! Look Me
Got the picture? Okay, now that a bunch of good songs,” Lloyd gushed.
everyone’s on the same page, let’s get
back to our interview and address the
issue you’ve no doubt been wondering
about: Why is Songwriter’s Monthly
interviewing a filmmaker?! Let’s let
Lloyd address that concern . . .

“I wrote music for my early movies and

I sing and dance in the musical
DEAD. Trey Parker and Matt Stone's
is a Troma Movie. Trey and Matt also
have THE BOOK OF MORMON [a musical]
on Broadway. Lemmy from Motörhead
acts and gives us music! And, there is
the TromaDance Film Festival theme
song written by Count Smokula!”
“In Noel Coward’s SAIL AWAY, Elaine
In other words, music is an integral Stritch sings ‘Why Do The Wrong People
part of what Lloyd does. Travel?’ and it’s a show stopper, it’s an
Songwriter’s Monthly - April ’11, #135
amazing song! SAIL AWAY was a flop, “For those songs, the lyrics came first,”
but it’s a great, great show with Lloyd recalled. “I would sing a famous
wonderful lyrics.” song in my head and then write new
lyrics to that song. For example, in
POULTRYGEIST, there’s a young fast
“It took me five food worker and I play this older guy
years to make who the audience can easily see is him
in the future, but he’s too stupid to
TROMEO AND JULIET realize who I am. We sing a song
because I couldn’t together where I’m warning him that he
should go to school and not be a fast
get a good script.” food worker for his entire life or he’ll
end up like me. I wrote the lyrics to the
Kaufman took a moment to outline his meter of ‘Bewitched, Bothered and
process for composing the musical
themes in his films: “I would write just
the melody. Sitting at my piano or with
my clarinet, I could put the notes on
the lines of music,” he explained, “but I
wasn’t sophisticated enough to arrange
it. I could get it enough so that if I
showed it to someone who could, they
could. At Yale, there were all these
great music PhD types, so I was able to
throw a net over one of them and get
him to do the work.”


DEAD — a movie I urge you to see — is,
in fact, a movie with five or six songs
including some singing and dancing—”

“Didn’t you put out an open call via the

internet for cast and crew when you
were making that film?” I asked.

“Yeah, that’s how we met everybody,”

he responded. “The guy who scored
u bid=0&t mpid=1826&RD_P ARM 1=h t t p


DEAD is from Edmonton, Canada and he

just happened to respond to my call on Bewildered’ from PAL JOEY by Rodgers
the internet. He wrote the score and he and Hart. That kept the lyrics in a
wrote the melodies for the songs. Gabe certain meter. It had discipline. If
Friedman and I wrote the lyrics.” you’re going to write a song, you can’t
Songwriter’s Monthly - April ’11, #135
just write words, there has to be a makes you think. Beneath the graphic,
meter. Then, I gave the lyrics to the cartoon violence and steady stream of
guy who wrote the music and he vulgarities, nestled deep within the
finished the song.” marrow of his work, there is both a
message and, believe it or not, a whole
“Did POULTRYGEIST help you achieve lot of heart. In a way, Lloyd Kaufman’s
some latent aspiration to write a films are not unlike his unsightly
musical?” I wondered. malformed monster hero: on the
surface, they might appear
“If you go through my body of work,” frighteningly repulsive, but a pure and
Kaufman replied, “my valiant heart resides at
deformed body of work, the core. Furthermore,
my crippled, arthritic
“The French have the shock is always
body of work, you will written me up as fueled by truth.
see that there are being a kind of
songs scattered “ T h a t ’s o n e o f t h e
throughout. S QUEEZE underground secrets that you,
PLAY! had at least one movie making Vincent Canby and
on camera song. other intelligent people
WAITRESS! had an on Marcel Duchamp.” see: I take the movies
camera song. One of very seriously,” Lloyd
the TOXIC AVENGER films had a big fight admitted. “I don’t take myself too
scene where Toxie beats up a whole seriously, as you can tell, but I do take
bunch of bad guys to Duke Ellington’s the movies seriously. It took me five
‘It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got years to make T ROMEO AND J ULIET
That Swing).’ So, you’ll see quite a because I couldn’t get a good script. I
number of singing and dancing scenes can’t make a movie without really
in my work.” b e l i e v i n g t h a t i t ’s g o i n g t o b e
meaningful and that’s why I don’t have
“And speaking of musicals, don’t forget a lot of films under my belt. When you
that TOXIC AVENGER was made into a think about it, I’ve been doing this for
musical,” Lloyd added. “The music was 40 years and although Troma has made
composed by David Bryan [Bon Jovi] a lot of films, I’ve only directed maybe
and it’s great! The show ran for a year 25 or 30, it’s not a huge number. I
i n N e w Yo r k a n d w o n ‘ B e s t O f f h a v e n ’ t m a d e a m o v i e s i n c e
Broadway Musical’ and a slew of other POULTRYGEIST [2006].”
“The French have written me up as
Despite what the gore, the sex scenes being a kind of underground movie
and the slapstick comedy might lead making Marcel Duchamp — the artist
you to believe, Troma productions are who put the urinal up on the wall and
written very tightly and crafted with titled it ‘Fountain.’ They see me as sort
care. Kaufman confronts taboo topics of a Dadaist, stirring the soup to get
with a brute, in-your-face force that people to react.”
Songwriter’s Monthly - April ’11, #135

doing it in a

different way than


he’d originally
envisioned? Troma
films are definitely
not for the faint of
heart, but they are
fueled by truth,
there’s a message
behind the

“I do what is in my heart,” Kaufman For more information on Lloyd Kaufman

emphasized. “There are scenes in my and Troma Entertainment, Inc., visit:
films that people hate, but I’ve left
them in anyway. There’s a scene in
CITIZEN TOXIE: THE TOXIC AVENGER IV This year’s TromaDance Film Festival
where a black guy is dragged behind a will take place on Friday, April 22nd and
truck and all of his body parts except Saturday, April 23rd in Asbury Park, NJ.
for his head get scraped off by the “TromaDance is the first film festival
asphalt. He becomes Toxie’s sidekick, wholeheartedly devoted to filmmakers
Pompey, named after Woody Strode’s and fans. Unlike every other film
character in T HE M AN W HO S HOT festival, TromaDance does not charge
L IBERTY V ALANCE by John Ford — filmmakers to submit their films.
Pompey was John Wayne’s sidekick in Entrance to all screenings is free and
that movie. I show my movies to focus open to the public. Also, there are no
groups when they are in the editing VIP reservations or preferential
stages. I was down at NYU giving a treatment regarding films, panels, or
speech and showing the movie and the parties of any kind given. The
audience was laughing hysterically. organizers of TromaDance believe
Then, that scene came up and the films are meant to be seen, especially
audience shut down! It was like they hit when it comes to new filmmakers. Art
a brick wall. My wife told me to remove — in all its forms — is for the people!”
that scene, Gabe Friedman told me to For details and directions, visit:
remove that scene, James Gunn told
me to remove that scene, everybody
told me to get rid of that scene! But I
felt it was important because that
actually happened in Texas and it’s
something that shouldn’t be forgotten!”

Maybe Lloyd Kaufman hasn’t strayed

too far from his original intent of saving
the world, after all? Maybe he’s just
Songwriter’s Monthly - April ’11, #135