It’s the television show where viral videos are made.
“Lip Sync Battle,” which got its start as a kooky segment on “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” and later on “The Tonight Show,” has remixed itself into a full-fledged half-hour program on Spike TV where big names like Channing Tatum channel their inner-Beyonce and face off with their celebrity brethren. The series boasts Fallon as well as Stephen Merchant and John Krasinski as producers — helping with its street cred among A-listers.
The celebrity vocal showdown, which is hosted by rapper and actor LL Cool J and features commentary by model Chrissy Teigen, is currently in its second season.
“The beautiful thing about ‘Lip Sync Battle’ is you don’t have to possess any skill whatsoever, other than a love of music and commitment to the song,” said Casey Patterson, who executive produces the show alongside Jay Peterson. “It is a little bit of a dream factory. They do get to dream up anything they want and we make it happen.”
And in case you’re wondering, there’s no book of songs participants are choosing from like you might at your local karaoke joint.
“It is blue sky on the music,” Patterson said. “Karaoke shows generally build a book that they can clear. People choose from that book or that list. But we don’t. We say, ‘pick anything you want and we’ll go get it.’ It’s a very unusual and challenging way to produce something. But that’s where the magic is. Fans get to learn about the personal music tastes of these celebrities that they love. “
We asked Patterson to walk us through some of this season’s major performances, each of whom’s essence is captured by director Beth McCarthy-Miller.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation”
Joe absolutely loves that song. Joe was one of the founding fathers of “Lip Sync Battle.” He did the show with Jimmy on “Late Night.” He did “Superbass.” And I still think, to this day, I think on the merit of lip syncing, that’s the best performance I have ever seen. He just crushed. So he knew that if he were coming back to do the show, he would have to do something to top that. And he didn’t do Season 1. He wasn’t ready, the timing didn’t work out, the song wasn’t there. He was really busy. And then in Season 2, he came ready. I think everything Joe does, he does to perfection. He came ready and when he does something, he commits all the way, which is the key to “Lip Sync Battle” — commitment.
There were no hiccups with the song selection. I think the minute Janet and her team heard that it was Joe, I think they were very excited to see how he would interpret that song. And Joe loves Janet. So he wanted to get it right for her because he loved her so much growing up and loved her music. He just thought, if he was going to do it, his approach would be to do the choreography, which has a copyright.
That choreography has a copyright associated with it. I think this is the first time we’ve actually ever told anybody that. There is a copyright that comes along with it so we had the original choreographer for “Rhythm Nation” join our team that week. Joe went method. He did it and he did it step for step to what Janet did. And she tweeted afterward.
The only thing you can remember is Joe on that show. But if you go back and watch Anthony Mackie’s performance, it’s one of the best we’ve ever had. He came flying out of a toaster — that boy band thing where you pop off the ground. And his pants ripped at that time so he’s holding his crotch the whole time and people thought that was a creative choice. But it’s actually that his pants are tearing away so he’s doing his best to keep them on his body for a minute. He deserved more credit.
Eva Longoria, Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda”
She had that song in her head. She was filming. She flew in from San Antonio that morning to make it happen. She was filming her show and she flew in from San Antonio. She wanted to battle Hayden [Panettiere]. Eva loved Nicki because she loved how ambitious Nicki is. She’s hard to do, but if you nail Nicki, you have a good shot at winning. And so she just visually liked the idea of being able to play with the workout scene. She wanted a big entrance. And so we were able to bring her in on the shoulders of the gorgeous dancers. She wanted something that had all those layers to it, where she could have a great entrance, and she could play with Nicki’s persona, and you know that song is a fan favorite.
Josh Gad, Divinyls’ “Touch Myself”
The person who worked hardest at it was Josh Gad. Josh is a member of our crew now. He is officially a member of the writing team, the producing team. It was so abstract. He had this whole high concept for it. He wanted to do something around Donald Trump. We even said, “God, will he even be in the race at that time?” and he was like, “I think he’s going the distance. And I think it’s going to be timely and I think it needs to be done.” We were having a hard time imagining it. And he was like, “no, no, no, I’ll show you.” And he came over and he showed us. Before rehearsal, before anything, before we agreed to the song, we didn’t understand, we didn’t get it because our brains aren’t as fast and awesome as Josh Gad. He said, “I understand you’re having a hard time wrapping your head around this. I’m coming over.” And he came over to the studio and he walked us all through it. We were like, “sold, this is amazing, you’re a genius. Will you join us as a producer full time?” And I think it aired the night of the Fox debate. So I would be alarmed if Trump were responding to our “Lip Sync Battle” performance. I can’t believe we escaped fire, actually. I would have liked to have heard those insults. But, yeah, Josh was the one who went meta.
Channing Tatum, Beyonce’s “Girls”
Oh, my God. Well, obviously, Channing would be incredible at lip syncing. He’s just such a multi-faceted performer and so good. Obviously loves music and is so good at the singing and dancing thing. And we all knew this. We knew it from “Magic Mike,” but you also just know that Channing can do anything music and dancing-wise. From Season 1, John Krasinski, who is really good friends with Channing, has been asking him. I think Channing had resisted because it’s like he knew. Our first phone call was like, “I hate you. You know if we do this, we have to do this all the way. I’m going to kill you.” And it was he and his wife, Jenna Dewan. We loved the couple of it all. Seeing the two of them together, doing what they do, doing what they love to do, which they have not done since “Step Up.” And the two of them are so deeply, frighteningly competitive just made it the best week of “Lip Sync Battle.” It was a house divided. They had separate rooms in their house where they would go through their routines. They would kind of split the house in two because they did not want the other to know what was going on. So it was a whole household thing. Jenna would come rehearse at the studio at crazy hours — I think she rehearsed at midnight one night — so he wasn’t anywhere around. She was like, “nope, I don’t want him to see any of this. I cant do it at the house. We only had stage light. We had no crew. And they didn’t need it. We used a boom box and it was just unreal. I mean, could you imagine? It was just unreal. That was a family affair. Their daughter came, they had family there.
And we had to ask Beyonce for permission. We called her people for the 1,000th time because she’s the most requested artist on this show. We explained in detail what you’re doing. He knew he wanted to do Beyonce because he knew he could do that choreography. He’s so wickedly competitive, he knew he wanted to shut it down. Which he did. We never warned him we had trouble in the past. Beyonce very quickly approved it. I think it was easy to see, if you’re Beyonce, and Channing is doing it you know he’s going to put everything into it. I think she had a sense of comfort that he was going to do something really interesting and fun with it. And it’s so brave. I’m sure she respected how brave it was for him to go for it. He went all the way.
So, she cleared the song, it was on her radar, and as the week evolved, and as he got more comfortable, he was like “oh, my God, it would just be incredible if she would come.” We called and we asked. She didn’t say no. She was thinking about it. And Channing got to a point where he was like, “If I’m going to do it, I have to do it right. I can’t look like a parody of her. I have to come as close as I possibly can.” So we hired her glam squad. It was Beyonce’s glam that did Channing. Those are her wardrobe stylists and her hair and makeup team. So I think once everyone came on board and she knew how much was going into this, he sent her a little video. A message for her from one of his final rehearsals. Only Channing knows what was on that message, but I know she got it. And the next morning, we heard that she was coming and the only hurdle was that we had her glam. We were like, we can figure it out.
We didn’t let anyone know. Only the people who would need to deal with her security and logistics, and the director. Absolutely no one knew. And they didn’t want to see each other. She was like, “I’m going to come out on stage. You do your thing and I’m going to come out.” There’s a little split second when he’s dancing and he knows she’s going to come out but you can see for a second he kind of repeated the move. And you would’ve thought you were in the O2 Arena. The noise was deafening. There were cameras we couldn’t use because the room was shaking so much. People were bawling their eyes out, screaming. It’s one thing to see him do it, but then she walks out. It was too much for people. It was almost like a computer, the crowd went haywire from all of it.
And we tried to get the real horse from the video. But the stage was the problem. We didn’t have a clear path to get the horse out unless it went around through the top of the stage and turned around and went back out the way it came. It was too much. But that would have been a live horse. That was a last-minute thing. Thank God that fake horse existed. It was a rental piece from Warner Bros. We called and were like, hey, we need a horse. They were like, OK, can do.