Look out Gaga, Julie Brown is back

by Jim Halterman

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Thursday January 6, 2011

It's hard to believe that it's been 26 years since Julie Brown's first five-song EP, Goddess In Progress, was released with the classic songs "Cause I'm A Blonde" and "The Homecoming Queen's Got A Gun." Since then, she's done more than a her share of song parodies such as her send-up of Madonna in "Medusa: Dare To Be Truthful" as well as hosting her own MTV series Just Say Julie in the 80s and appearances in film (Earth Girls Are Easy, Clueless), TV series (Laverne and Shirley, Six Feet Under) and lending her voice to the TV version of Aladdin and Batman: The Animated Series.

While Brown has never really gone away, there is a resurgence of her lately as she has been popping up all over the place with some newly released music targeting Lady Gaga and Ke$ha (along with accompanying videos), as well as lending her comedy writing to TV series (ABC Family's new hit sitcom Melissa & Joey), Disney movies (the first Camp Rock TV-movie starring the Jonas Brothers) and a recurring role on the ABC series The Middle as the kooky next door neighbor, Paula Norwood.

Plus her latest song parodies can be heard on her new album -- Smell The Glamour -- due out this month.

EDGE's Jim Halterman talked to the vivacious and hilarious Julie Brown recently about her legacy, why the gays have always flocked to her and whether she'd ever re-launch the memorable series Just Say Julie.

Love Lady Gaga

EDGE: What's the process for you to do to send-up one of these songs or the artist? "Big Clown Pants" (spoofing Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance") and "Another Drunk Chick" (her take-off on Ke$ha's "Tik Tok") are both hilarious!

Julie Brown: Usually it's a song that I actually really like or I like something about it or the artist is someone that I really like. I love Lady Gaga and when "Bad Romance" came out I knew I had to do something like that because I love the song so much! I came up with "Big Clown Pants". It's sort of like the comedic thing that she might do. The Ke$ha song is a weird, catchy song, but at the same time it's remarkably stupid! I thought if I do that I'm thinking about a girl and her friends who were way too old to be going out getting drunk and hitting on guys. I thought I would make it be an anthem for drunk chicks called "Another Drunk Chick." The song that she wrote is a celebration of being drunk but I thought I would push that harder and make it an anthem drunk chicks. That was my plan.

EDGE: So it sounds like you don't have to necessarily go very far to make fun of these people, right? They're easy targets.

Julie Brown: I think you're right. It's usually something that you just have to push it a little farther. Like when I did the satire of Madonna, I think I was just pushing what she does just a little farther.

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Watch Julie Brown's video of "Another Drunk Chick::

Not necessarily making fun

EDGE: Lady Gaga might be a genius but you can't help but sometimes thinking 'What is she thinking?'

Julie Brown: That's exactly my reaction! Her voice is so awesome but then you go 'Why is she doing this? Where did she come up with this?' But you still just love her!

EDGE: Just to be clear, then, you're just finding the fun stuff in these songs and artists and not necessarily making fun of them, right?

Julie Brown: Exactly. It's so funny because people think that I don't like Madonna, which is not true at all. I love Madonna! It's just that I also find her hilarious. I think she's both things at once. She's really great and she's really funny to me. One of the things that's really funny about her is she seems to take herself kind of seriously and that makes me laugh! It's so ridiculous what she's done along the way even though the music itself is very compelling and wonderful. It's easier or more fun to do more parodies of those people who have both things going on at once - they're good but they're also kind of funny.

EDGE: I love the album title, Smell the Glamour. What else do you send up on the album?

Julie Brown: The rest of it isn't really parody. I redid the Madonna song "Vague." I never really released any of that stuff from Medusa, so that's where that comes from; but the rest is all original stuff. I have a song "I Want To Be Gay" and I have a song about plastic surgery called "Angelina's Lips" but I also re-recorded "Cause I'm A Blonde" with a little updating because that had never been released on iTunes and because I never had the rights. The guy I wrote it with just said "Hey, let's just re-record it so we can release it."

EDGE: The way the Internet is now you can just release all these things all by yourself.

Julie Brown: That's also what compelled me to do it. If it was the way it was back then I probably wouldn't have done it because it was really hard. You had to press the records yourself, get the distribution, get the individual radio stations to play but now it doesn't matter. You can put it on iTunes and Amazon and promote it and there you go.

Her gay following

EDGE: The gays have always loved you but why do you think that is? What's the appeal?

Julie Brown: When I first started performing, I was in San Francisco performing in clubs and I was 20. I had gay fans that would show up and I thought "Why are they all coming to my show?" I think it was that I always did crazy, outrageous stuff and I think the gays have a great sense of satire and humor; they really appreciate it. I think it's that recognition. The thing is that I am also a little campy. I don't try to be campy but I think it just comes out that way a little bit. I had so many gay friends when I worked up there and it was fantastic! Over the years, I grew to realize that there is just an amazing gay audience. The great thing, also, is they'll stay with you over the years.

EDGE: How does it work getting the rights to the songs that you're parodying? Is that a big hoop to jump through?

Julie Brown: I've sort of found out about that. If you did an exact copy you would have to get the rights and that's the big problem. It's really difficult; you have to get lawyers involved... it's a nightmare! Weird Al does that but he's in a special category because he's Weird Al. The guy I work with just said, "We'll write our own version." We alter them enough so you know what song we're satirizing but they're not exact copies. Otherwise, it's so hard to do. If you look at YouTube, there are so many people who do satires of people but they can't always sell those songs on iTunes.

EDGE: Was it surreal working with those crazy popular Jonas Brothers on the first Camp Rock movie for Disney?

Julie Brown: It was insane. I wrote this movie for Disney and they called one day and they said "The Jonas Brothers want to do it" and I was like "Who?" This was May and by the time we started shooting in September they started to be a very big deal! They even had to change the name of the script because a bunch of girls found out we were shooting in the woods of Canada. They changed the title so the guys couldn't be stalked. Then, we had the premiere in New York and that was insane! Millions of little girls on the street. It was so crazy!

EDGE: Have you ever thought about re-launching Just Say Julie?

Julie Brown: People have said that to me a lot and I've been trying to think how would I do it? More than likely, I would do it on the Internet first because it's such a strange show. I don't know if you could pitch it right now. Also, I've been so busy I couldn't work one more thing into my life. I have a 16-year old, I'm a writer on Melissa & Joey [on ABC Family]. I'm a punch-up writer so I just go in twice a week, but it's still a lot of work and I have to write jokes ahead of time. The other thing was that there was a flood in my house so I had to move out of my house and I'm living in a condo while they're fixing my house. I was thinking about it so maybe once I'm back in my house I'll have some time to think about how I would do a show like that.

To watch Julie Brown's parodies, visit her YouTube page. You can download Julie Brown's CD Smell The Glamour (including the parodies "Big Clown Pants" and "Another Drunk Chick") can be found on iTunes and at Amazon.com.

Watch this interview with Julie Brown:

Jim Halterman lives in Los Angeles and also covers the TV/Film/Theater scene for www.FutonCritic.com, AfterElton, Vulture, CBS Watch magazine and, of course, www.jimhalterman.com. He is also a regular Tweeter and has a group site on Facebook.