Behind The Scenes

Before the NBA Finals, His & Hers spoofs Kurtis Blow’s “Basketball”

Hill: The scoop on the spoofs
Why are the spoofs important to the show?
The origin of the spoofs came from us making movie references in on-air discussion. It used to get on our producers’ nerves because they worried some people wouldn’t get them. We just didn’t care and kept making them. And during a conversation about how to commemorate Eddie Murphy’s 50th birthday on air, it spawned the “Coming to America” barbershop spoof we did. After the success and all the positive feedback, we didn’t want to stop there. And now, it’s a thing. There are a lot of commentary shows here at ESPN and sometimes it can be hard to gain separation from the pack. But doing these skits and spoofs puts us in a different lane as more than just a sports show.

How do you prepare?
We’ve been preparing for this all of our lives. We just didn’t know it. Who knew the countless times I spent watching “Coming to America,” “Step Brothers” and all these other movies would prove to be professionally useful? Mike and I know most of this stuff by heart, so all it takes is us watching the clips a few times to refresh our memories. The most important thing for us is to nail even the smallest details because we’re dealing with moments and movies that are beloved by people. If you get anything wrong, they will let us hear about it. It’s a lot of pressure to pull them off because the difference between something being great and lame is small.

You showed some dance moves in this one?
Saying I have “dance moves” is being kind. I have no moves. I have a half-move on a good day. I was blessed with a lot of talents, but dancing wasn’t one of them. I’m just trying not to embarrass myself.

At the end of every His & Hers ideas meeting, coordinating producer Ed Eck asks his team what the next spoof should be. When associate producer Nicole Peterson suggested the classic 1980’s hip hop video “Basketball” by Kurtis Blow to promote the NBA Finals, the group knew it was a winner.

His & Hers airs daily on ESPN2 at noon ET with hosts Michael Smith and Jemele Hill.

“We have set a pretty high bar with these spoofs,” said Eck. “If we are going to do another, it has to be great. Like most shows, we look ahead on the sports calendar and ask what can we do that is special for the big events. We are always on the lookout for the next spoof, but we never want to force it, and most importantly it has to speak to Michael and Jemele’s personalities.”

The updated “Basketball” debuted today and features cameos by ESPN Radio hosts Mike Greenberg, Mike Golic and Ryen Russillo. Additional versions will be shared during the show this week as the 2016 NBA Finals begin Thursday on ABC (9 p.m. ET) when the Cleveland Cavaliers take on the defending champion Golden State Warriors.

“As someone who loves to watch and re-watch movies and uses so many references in casual conversation as well as my commentary, it’s exciting and very natural to be able to spoof my favorite scenes and play iconic movie/TV characters,” said Smith. “Shoot, it’s the closest I’ll get to Hollywood so I might as well live the dream somehow. There’s both pleasure and pressure in playing an Eddie Murphy or Will Ferrell or Terence Howard or, in our latest spoof, Kurtis Blow. You gotta nail it, or come awfully close. So I like to observe and try to mimic some of the subtle gestures and movements of the characters. The goal, really, is for people to get a laugh out of it – there’s not enough laughter in sports, it’s so serious these days – and hopefully, the next time they see the real thing, they’ll think of us.”

The show’s first music video spoof and fourth overall was conceived and executed in three weeks. All video elements were shot in one day, and the video was recreated frame by frame, a painstaking process.

“It took a lot of planning and collaboration from various departments to bring the concept to life in such a short time,’ said Eck. “These spoofs are so much fun to produce, however, that everyone wants to be a part of it, including talent, as I often get stopped in the hallways by ESPN personalities asking me when they can have a role in one of those things.”

Previous His & Hers spoofs include:

  • Coming to America” in advance of the Floyd Mayweather/Manny Pacquio fight
  • Empire” to commemorate Halloween 2015
  • Step Brothers” to commemorate His & Hers’ one-year anniversary

Pivotal roles in the successful production were played by Therese Andrews, project manager for His & Hers, who along with Elizabeth Edwards, production coordinator, was involved in all aspects of production from creative development to overseeing all the logistics including makeup, wardrobe and hiring extras; His & Hers producer Jeremy Lundblad who wrote the lyrics; Dan Schwachter, producer, who directed the video; and Rachel Busch, senior project coordinator, who created and built the sets.

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