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Comedian Jon Benjamin's Jazz Album Is Full Of 'Real, Untapped Un-Talent'

Comedian Jon Benjamin's new jazz record is titled <em>Well, I Should Have...Learned How To Play Piano.</em>
Joel Gordon
Courtesy of the artist
Comedian Jon Benjamin's new jazz record is titled Well, I Should Have...Learned How To Play Piano.

You know his voice, playing the title roles on the animated TV series Bob's Burgers and Archer, not to mention a can of vegetables in the movie Wet Hot American Summer.

But none of that is why the 20-year comedy veteran Jon Benjamin spoke with All Things Considered. Instead, it was for the most "public radio" of reasons: He has recorded an experimental jazz album.

Benjamin's album — his first jazz release — includes several tracks titled "I Can't Play Piano." You can hear his conversation with NPR's Robert Siegel (and some of Benjamin's music) at the audio link, and read the conversation below.

Robert Siegel: It's obvious: You can't play piano!

Jon Benjamin: I really can't, and it really shows.

And yet here you are, playing with some guys who seem to know what they're doing.

They were very accomplished jazz musicians that I played with. And me.

The name of this album is Well, I Should Have...* subtitled Learned How To Play Piano.

Yeah, it's very literal.

Now, you're playing with professional jazz musicians: Scott Kreitzer on sax, David Finck on bass, and Jonathan Peretz is playing drums. Was this an act of friendship, or just a measure of the jazz economy — that you gotta do whatever gig comes along?

They were very nice to do it, and I'm not sure they realized what they were doing until we got there. And then they were mad. But not mad enough to stop altogether. So they went through with it, and they were great.

[Robert Siegel and Jon Benjamin listen to "I Can't Play Piano, Pt. 1"]

That is real untapped un-talent.

[About saxophonist Scott Kreitzer] He's good.

Yeah! He knows what he's doing.

He really does. But that's just not as interesting.

Do you think it lacks the complete sense of free-form surprise that you're after?

He's not taking any risks. He just knows how to do it.

How safe, to actually—

[Laughs.] I feel bad for people like that.

Are you going to do any live performances to promote this?

It's funny — I've been asked a couple times. But I'm not sure I want to do that. I'm really going to dedicate myself to learning how to play. Maybe by my next album, I'll be decent.

Is that right? Are you trying to learn to play?

I've started taking lessons, so...

I see. You're sort of charting a reverse career, which begins with the recording contract...

It's a real insult to people who try.

...and then eventually makes its way to actual lessons on the instrument.

I mean, look, there's a distinct possibility that I'll be very good. I don't know how it's going to turn out. I just started doing the lessons, so I might be incredibly good.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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