How The Minds Behind Jim Carrey's 'Kidding' Made Believable, Fictional Children's Music

Erica Parise/Showtime
Carrey in Kidding.

When Dave Holstein assembled the team for his acclaimed new Showtime drama, Kidding -- starring Jim Carrey, in his first major onscreen role in years, as Jeff, the troubled star of the beloved (fictional) kids’ show Mr. Pickles’ Puppet Time -- he “wanted to reach for every tool in the box.”

The showrunner enlisted director Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) and longtime friend and collaborator, composer Alan Schmuckler. Friends since college, Holstein and Schmuckler, both 35, have written musical theater together for years, and are now the in-house songwriters for Mr. Pickles’ Puppet Time. “We both really value the intersection of humor and heart,” says Schmuckler. Here’s how they translate that into believable children’s music.

Learn From the Best

As soon as Schmuckler started, he says he “took a deep dive into Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. [Fred Rogers] was really well versed in music -- specifically in storytelling through music.” He and Holstein strove to emulate Rogers’ “earnest but not cloying” sensibility.

Rope in the Experts

Holstein’s first hire was former Sesame Street head writer Joey Mazzarino, who wrote songs for the classic kids’ show and advises on the kind of language kid-show songs should use. “Having him around is sort of our filter to be sure we’re never spoofing a children’s show, just writing a love letter to one,” says Holstein.

Remember Your Audience

“Kids aren't watching our show -- it’s adults who remember their own inner child,” says Holstein. “So it’s almost like you don’t want a song that speaks to kids, but to the kid in an adult.”

Let Your Star Shine

“It’s a very pleasant surprise that Jim could sing,” says Holstein with a laugh. He and Schmuckler welcome Carrey’s thoughts on the music, whether it’s a lyric tweak or a pitched joke. “His impulses are unparalleled,” adds Schmuckler. “What comes from him is always valuable.”

This article originally appeared in the Sept. 29 issue of Billboard.