Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Graphic: Nick Wanserski
Graphic: Nick Wanserski

Michael Bolton will be lonely this Valentine’s Day. Or at least, he says he will. That’s the conceit that Bolton, Scott Aukerman, and Akiva Schaffer kept up when we sat down with them last week in New York to discuss their Netflix special Michael Bolton’s Big, Sexy Valentine’s Day Special—a collection of zany sketches unified by the notion that nothing is sexier than a Bolton ballad. The A.V. Club asked the trio about their respective opinions on the titular holiday and their plans for this year’s edition. Silliness—and singing—ensued.


The A.V. Club: Before you came to this, were you generally a fan of the holiday?

Scott Aukerman: It’s a terrible holiday, I think. I was talking to a co-worker the other day, and she said that her boyfriend had broken up with her out of the blue, unexpectedly. And I said, “Wait, it’s not unexpected, because it’s right before Valentine’s Day.” That’s, like, prime breaking-up time. There’s so much pressure related to it. It’s 20 times worse than Christmas.


Michael Bolton: That should have been the title of the show.

Akiva Schaffer: This whole thing’s a hit piece. We wanted to take down Valentine’s Day.


SA: There should be a new holiday in January, like January 25th, which is Break Up With Your Significant Other Day Before Valentine’s Day.

MB: Wow.

AS: I don’t agree with anything he said so far.

MB: I would never say it’s the worst holiday. It’s the second worst. No, I’m just kidding. If you have a very important significant other—that’s redundant, isn’t it?


SA: Very significant. Extra significant.

MB: Extremely. Enough to spend Valentine’s Day with. Then it’s great. You can just make your plans, and the plan is to sit down—


AS: What is the plan?

SA: Yeah, what’s your plan this year?

MB: My plan this year is—where are my—oh. [Looks at his hands.]

AS: You need your wedding ring for Valentine’s Day?

AVC: You’re looking for your wedding ring?

AS: Yeah. No one’s told him that he’s divorced yet.

MB: It’s been a long time, too.

AS: You know, you’re allowed to celebrate Valentine’s Day with someone that’s not your wife. You can just find somebody and sweep them off their feet.


MB: Oh, I’ve been adding all this extra pressure.

SA: You don’t have to marry someone just to celebrate Valentine’s Day.

MB: Why are you telling me now? I was so close.

AVC: Scott, you seem to think this was intended as a hit piece on Valentine’s Day. Is there disagreement from Akiva and Michael?


AS: I love Valentine’s Day. I’m a very romantic soul.

SA: That’s why there’s three of us. It’s a lot like the Supreme Court—with only eight, it’s not great. That’s a little slogan I’m trying to get going. There’s three of us so that we can vote on things like this. They voted on Valentine’s Day and said that they thought it was really good and that we should do a special, and I was outvoted. But that’s how it works with us, you know. We get a quorum—


AS: It’s a democracy.

MB: That was before I realized I was single on Valentine’s Day coming up. But there’s still time.


AVC: Yeah, you’ve got to find somebody.

SA: There’s still, what, almost five more days until Valentine’s Day at the time of this recording?


AVC: What is the funniest thing about Valentine’s Day for you? There’s plenty to lampoon, but what specifically did you want to hit on?

SA: Well, Akiva and I met and were like, “What are we going to lampoon?”

AS: Yeah. I wanted to really skewer something, and then we were like, “What’s been asking for a skewering?”


MB: And then they thought about me. “Let’s just spear Michael.”

SA: You know what was interesting? When we thought of doing the special, we were originally thinking it might have to actually do with just all of February as well, where we would talk about, you know, Groundhog Day and all sorts of stuff. And then we kind of narrowed the focus just to Valentine’s Day.


AS: It’s a natural fit for Michael. We were both obviously conceived to his songs.

MB: They were both actually named Michael originally.

AS: As a tribute.

SA: And we have the same parents. That’s the other thing, we’re twins, Akiva and I. If you’ve seen Spin magazine—that’s an inside joke.


MB: Clearly.

SA: There was a Mr. Show piece that featured everyone involved in Mr. Show, and they used his picture for me.


AS: We didn’t even really know each other at that point.

SA: Yeah. I will say, Andy [Samberg] wrote something to me saying, “Hahahahaha,” and just had a screengrab of it.


AS: It was really funny.

MB: A good Andy’ll do that.

Michael Bolton (Photo: Brandon Hickman/Netflix)
Michael Bolton (Photo: Brandon Hickman/Netflix)

AVC: As you recruited people for the special, did people come to you with segments they wanted to do?

AS: For the most part, it was all the writers’ room that we put together. We all came up with stuff, and then we would be like, “Oh, who would be great for this key-change song? Maya Rudolph. Let’s see if she’ll do it.” That kind of thing.


SA: Occasionally, something would happen—like Fred Armisen said, “Hey, I want to play a chocolatier,” and that’s all he had—and then we would write a bit for them. But then Tim Robinson wrote his bit—

AS: We called Tim and said, “Do you have a bit?” He and Zach Kanin are working on Detroiters, so they wrote that sketch together.


SA: But it was really an all-hands-on-deck situation, which is a lot like when you made “I’m On A Boat.”

AS: Yeah, we definitely had all hands on deck on that video.

MB: You did another one with “All Hands On Dick.”

AS: Yeah, there was “All Hands On Dick.” That’s almost 90 percent of our catalog, actually.


MB: Decks, dicks, on… I’m just noting that, because I’ve [done] nothing for the last five minutes. I’ll be back.

SA: By the way, Michael tried to get that catchphrase going—“I’ll be back”—and we were like, Arnold Schwarzenegger already has that.


MB: Who?

SA: Yeah, he didn’t know who that was. And then he started with, like, “It’s not a tumor.”


AVC: The cinephile Michael Bolton of “Jack Sparrow” fame did not know that “I’ll be back” was Arnold Schwarzenegger’s catchphrase?

AS: Somehow he has missed that whole swath of American cinema. Mainly, he hadn’t seen Kindergarten Cop.


SA: The whole cinephile thing has really worked out for you. Your new record is all about being a cinephile.

MB: Oh, yeah, there’s music.

SA: Yeah, his new record is all about cinema, right?

AS: Genuinely. It’s called Songs Of Cinema. But it’s earnest.

MB: I keep forgetting that. That we wound up being able to use the music in our project.


SA: That’s a lot of how this started, too. He had a CD, a Songs Of Cinema CD, and so there were a bunch of songs on that that we could use. And we said, “Okay, well, what do we do with ‘Old Time Rock AndRoll’? That was how a lot of the ideas started.

MB: And then the great new, intimate version of “Jack Sparrow.”


AVC: With the ballet. You can’t really beat that.

MB: It was amazing to watch while I was singing. They were phenomenal. They were great dancers.


AVC: Michael, what was it like for you reliving “peak ’90s Bolton” with the hair?

MB: [To Aukerman.] Do you mind if I say that word again?

SA: Of course.

MB: Traumatic and then exhilarating. Fun because of what they did with the character and then moving—whatever I was moving—the Earth. Just the power of the voice. The longest note I’ve ever held in my life or will ever hold in my life.


SA: Right before the take, I showed Michael old Bill Bixby changing into The Incredible Hulk videos.

MB: I need to be taught by pictures? “Do I have to draw you a diagram?”

SA: It was really interesting, reading in the script, “My clothes are going to fly off in an explosion.” You get it conceptually, but I showed Michael the Bill Bixby thing, and he went, “Oh, yeah, I get it,” and then boom—perfect recreation and reenactment of it.


MB: Without the green.

AVC: Is the ’90s the sexiest era?

AS: 100 percent, yes.

SA: For me? I had a bit of it back then.

AVC: Michael?

MB: The ’90s were pretty sexy.

SA: What’s your—and I’ve talked about this before on Comedy Bang! Bang!—what’s your hump year? The year that you had—you know, we all know Hump Day, Wednesday. What’s your hump year? The year that you had the most sex?


MB: ’92 until yesterday.

SA: Wow! That’s a long year.

AS: But it’s done now.

MB: Yeah, it’s over as of yesterday.

AVC: Goddammit, right before Valentine’s Day.

MB: Another problem. Another issue.

AS: Hump Year: That’s a really good romantic comedy title. Like, really good.

SA: Better than The Watch?

AS: Romantic comedy?

SA: Just titles of movies in general.

AS: That’s cool. There was one called Leap Year, wasn’t there?

AVC: Yes, there was. With Amy Adams.

AS: There you go. Was that the one where she has an Irish boyfriend or something?


AVC: I haven’t seen it, to be honest.

AS: Oh, I definitely have. I see them all. Can’t wait to get my little grubby hands on them.


SA: What was that one with Janeane Garofalo, Ireland movie? Oh, The Matchmaker.

AS: Hm. I don’t know if I’ve seen them all.

MB: Pyromaniac.

SA: The sequel to Firestarter. “Janeane Garofalo is The Matchmaker.”

AVC: You’re on Netflix, and there’s this concept of “Netflix and chill”—

SA: You know what’s weird? We tried—this was one of our big ideas for the special. I don’t know if you know this, Michael. When we were in editing, we got the great idea that this was going to be the very first “Netflix and chill” special. And we were going to brand it as that, so it was going to have, like, a logo at the top that was like, “[Makes Netflix intro noise.] Netflix [Makes explosion noise.] and chill!”


AS: It was the only real strong note we ever got from them.

SA: It was the quickest “no” that I’ve ever gotten in show business.

AS: Netflix was very hands-off. Barely any notes the entire time.

AVC: So is it a good special to Netflix and chill, do you find?

AS: Yeah, well, it’s designed to make people get horny and make love, and that’s what Netflix and chill is all about, right?


MB: Except they’re going to be so completely mesmerized by the brilliant footage that it’s going to have to wait until after the whole thing is done.

AS: They can just make love but keep eye contact on the screen the whole time.

SA: I mean, that’s the way I like to make love anyway, is pretending to make eye contact with Michael Bolton, so in my mind, that’s what I’m doing.


MB: And I use a mirror.

AS: Naturally.

AVC: Naturally.

MB: That’s a horrible thing to say.

AS: Well, it’s the truth, so you’ve just got to live with it.

MB: The truth just got worse.

AVC: Akiva, Scott, what was it like to be in the same room as and up close with Michael Bolton when he’s singing?


AS: When he’s singing? Well, you can find out right now.

SA: Michael, hit it!

MB: [Sings to the tune of “When A Man Loves A Woman.”] When a man sings this song again.


AVC: Wow.

SA: It’s powerful, isn’t it?

AVC: Yeah, very powerful.

AS: [Sings.] He wants to blow his brains out.

MB: [Sings.] 52 million times.

AS: So, what was it like? Exhilarating.

MB: Loud.

[Note: You can hear how loud for yourself in the clip below.]

AVC: It was very loud.

SA: That’s the key to being a singer—try to do it audibly.

AS: Volume. That’s first day of singing lessons. “You know, maybe a little louder.”


MB: I noticed that. I used to have a guitar box where people would throw money, and I would play on the street. And the louder you sang, the more people would actually come and gather around.

AVC: When was that?

SA: Like last February, right?

MB: Tuesday, yeah. Tuesday at 4.

AS: How old were you when you were doing that?

MB: 15?

AS: And where was it?

MB: Berkeley, on the street.

AS: Like Telegraph Avenue?

MB: Yes. Oh, my god, yeah.

SA: Wow.

AS: Maybe I saw it. No.

MB: I’m sure you didn’t.

AS: Maybe I was a baby. Maybe my parents saw it.

MB: A long time ago. That was lunch money.

AS: That’s where I’m from, Berkeley. So my parents were there in the ’70s.

MB: Maybe—that was just before then. That’s how I would feed my band, actually. We lived in a loft where we rehearsed, and that’s how we ate.


AVC: What is the ideal Valentine’s Day for all of you?

MB: Here we go again.

AVC: Back to it. I’m sorry.

MB: You just made me feel lonely.

AS: You’re breaking his heart here. He’s a very sensitive man.

MB: You’re hurting my feeling. I have one left.

AS: Just kicking him while he’s down.

MB: I don’t know. You guys tell me. You’re the happy, married ones.

AS: My wife’s going to be very happy this year. I haven’t thought about it yet. I have made no reservations. So I’m sure there’s a very good restaurant in Los Angeles that has a romantic table for two just sitting there unclaimed.


AVC: Is that the way to do it, just a romantic dinner for two?

AS: You want to buy your flowers at Ralph’s grocery store. That’s the classiest place to buy your bouquet. You want to get a classy bouq from Ralph’s, right before you walk home.


SA: I lived next to a Trader Joe’s for a period of years, and it was the greatest, because, on Valentine’s Day, you could just go get a bouq. Pick up a fresh bouq.

MB: What do you do? Do you read a bouq after? Oh, that’s bouquet.

AS: I also have children and I don’t think we have a babysitter, so probably going to keep it at home this year. What day is it?


SA: By the time this comes out, I will have already celebrated two days earlier at a restaurant, Son Of A Gun. I have reservations already.

AS: Whoa, but now everybody knows exactly what day and where to find you.

SA: No, this’ll come out after. I won’t be there.

AS: Maybe you’ll do a follow-up with him on the 13th to find out how it was.

SA: That’d be great, yeah. Do a follow-up interview.

MB: Can we maybe run this early and let people know I have no one to spend Valentine’s Day with?

Illustration for article titled Michael Bolton needs you this Valentine’s Day

AVC: Yeah, maybe we should run this early so Michael can get a date.

SA: That’s the interesting thing that I never really expected about Michael—he’s very lonely, and women don’t like him. And so it’s just very, very depressing.


MB: I don’t blame them.

SA: I hope that women all around the world—and I believe Netflix is worldwide—I hope they really see a new side of Michael and want to date him because—


MB: I’ll put some makeup on, we’ll do a picture.

AVC: It’ll be sort of like a Craigslist ad.

AS: Like Backpage.

SA: How do you know what that is?

AS: How do I know what that is?

SA: It’s called being a human being.

AS: Yeah, I buy a prostitute and have sex with them.

MB: That was not me who said that.

AVC: Were you on set for everyone’s bits in the special?

MB: I was on the set quite a bit, but not for everything.

SA: I don’t think you were there for Fred Armisen.

AS: We let him sleep in occasionally.

MB: Not for Fred, not for quite a bit of the phone calls that were coming in.

SA: He also was in makeup a lot.

AS: Hours. Six hours a day. He would do six hours in the chair, and then we’d get about one hour to shoot with him a day. It was Jim Carrey-The Grinch-level, I would say. Prosthetics, and—


SA: Also, because he got into show business in the ’90s he’s subject to these really interesting child labor laws that were around back then, so he has to have a tutor on set with him at all times.

AS: Just grandfathered into that stuff, and they never changed it.

AVC: What is the most romantic song?

AS: From this thing, or just in general?

AVC: Just in general, though it could be from this thing.

AS: One song that always did it for me is obviously “Bird Is The Word.” You know, [Sings.] “Bird, bird, bird, bird, well, the bird is the word.”


SA: [Sings.] “Everybody heard that bird is the word!”

AS: I’m getting too horny. You guys, that is getting me very excited.

MB: You can only do so much in front of Akiva, or we all have to leave the room.

SA: Michael, what do you like to make love to?

AS: I can answer this for him: K-Ci and JoJo. The later Jodeci records that were just K-Ci and JoJo. Not a DeVante fan. Just liked K-Ci and JoJo.


SA: For me, it’s the Hi-Town DJs. Their entire discography.

AS: Oh, the Hi-Town DJs. Will you sing us one?

SA: Uhhhh…

AS: An album cut.

SA: Oh! That joke backfired on me.


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