Comedian and filmmaker Charlyne Yi's work is defined by her charming awkwardness and quirky behavior. Her song choices are as revealing as her comedy – from a movie score that inspires her to scream from the mountaintops to a sitcom soundtrack that never fails to make her smile. Charlyne won the Waldo Salt screenwriting award at the Sundance Film Festival this year for her screenwriting debut, the romantic comedy Paper Heart.
For More: Paper Heart
Adrian Johnston: Runaways
Jesse Frederick: Everywhere You Look
Matt Davidson of Twain: The Paper Ship
John Lennon: Cathy's Clown
The Unicorns: Emasculate the Masculine
Anthony Valadez: Hi, I'm Anthony Valadez and I'm here with comedian and filmmaker Charlyne Yi. Charlyne won the Waldo Salt screenwriting award at the Sundance Film Festival this year for her screenwriting debut, the romantic comedy Paper Heart. Today we will be playing excerpts of songs she selected that have inspired her over the years as part of KCRW's guest DJ Project.
AV: Charlyne, Welcome, what do you have in your record bag today?
Charlyne Yi: The song is called "Runaways" by Adrian Johnston. It's the music score to Becoming Jane. I hike and when I get to the top of the mountain I put it on my player and it's so funny how it can affect how you see the world and it makes me really "Wow! I conquered this mountain and the world is so beautiful!"
Song: "Runaways" by Adrian Johnston
CY: Whenever I write a romantic scene or something, I put it in my headphones and I write to it. For some reason, it makes me feel compelled to say what's on my mind and if I was in love with someone I would want to be like, "I love you!" and have this music playing behind it. The lead-in where it's hindering… okay, I have something on my mind I have to tell you…and once the swelling happens, that's like the peak of what you're saying, like, "And I love you and why won't you marry me?!!"
AV: "Runaways" by Adrian Johnston as selected by our guest DJ Charlyne Yi. Let's pick up on another song. What's next?
CY: The next song is called "Everywhere You Look" by Jesse Frederick. It's mostly known as the Full House theme song.
Song: "Everywhere You Look" by Jesse Frederick
CY: If you just heard the song on its own, you're like ‘Oh, this is a catchy song!' But then when you add it to the credit sequence of Full House it just makes me smile. Like I'm smiling right now and it's hard for me to talk.
It's so important for TV or film to pick the right song. I know with the Drew Carey theme song, they had one song and I remember it used to get me pumped. Then they turned it into this weird jazzy song and I was like ‘change the channel.' You know, it's still the same show with or without the song, but it's not really the same thing.
AV: That was a selection by our guest DJ Charlyne Yi, comedian and filmmaker, part of KCRW's Guest DJ Project. How influential was TV in your development as a writer and filmmaker?
CY: I didn't watch too much T.V. I loved I Love Lucy and that had a good theme song…that's all. I think I mostly watched cartoons. I'm not sure how much there was an influence. I think I often spent most of my time locked in my bedroom just imagining things and drawing. With Paper Heart, we actually -- Michael Cera and I as well as Alden Penner and Zack Condon --composed most of the music for the film. It was strange seeing how music can affect the tone of a scene like we wrote the music for a Las Vegas scene and everyone was drunk and yelling and there was "man on the street" but with certain music it made it seem sweeter. It seemed less dirty. The people in Las Vegas are probably "grrrrr, we're not dirty!"
AV: What's next Charlyne?
CY: The next song is called "The Paper Ship" by this guy whose band name is Twain -- his name is Matt Davidson. We did this experiment in high school where our art teacher had us listen to music and we would get crayons, different colors, and we noticed that with each song there were similarities. Like, if we listened to one song, there were a lot of reds or a lot of circles. And the reason I chose this is because, with this song, whenever I paint it strangely inspires colors and shapes.
Song: "The Paper Ship" by Matt Davidson of Twain
AV: You also are notorious for creating YouTube videos. If Charlyne Yi were asked to create a YouTube video for Twain's "The Paper Ship" what would it look like?
CY: I wanted to! I actually started to make one and I wrote him and I said "Hey, I don't really know you, but would you mind if I just started to make one?" I actually started to film one. I made everything out of paper and I got a fishbowl and I filled it up with water and made a paper ship. I made this whole paper world with real water, but the footage got destroyed on the camera and my editor crashed, the editing machine. And so I never finished it and all the footage was lost. But I'm hoping to one day if I have money for a video camera, to revisit that.
AV: You talk a lot about art. Do you create for yourself? Is there a purpose behind this or are you trying to sell it or are you just "letting it all out?"
CY: I sell it when I need money but I usually don't sell it for that much, like as long as it pays for how much it costs unless I need a plane ticket. And I'm like ‘Oh, you know, pay what you want. I actually gave away like forty paintings for free at one of my shows because I want them to have homes. I just want people to be happy.
AV: "The Paper Ship" by Twain as selected by our guest DJ Charlyne Yi as part of KCRW's Guest DJ Project. Next song Charlyne?
CY: It's a cover by John Lennon. It's an Everly Brothers song called "Cathy's Clown."
Song: "Cathy's Clown" by John Lennon
CY: I never heard the original version. My friend Kevin Corrigan sent me a ton of John Lennon stuff with just him and his upright piano. I imagine it's like John jamming out in his bedroom and he's just recording this. I think the first time I got it, I listened to it the whole day. It has the most hits on my iTunes player. It makes me feel emotional.
AV: That was a selection chosen by Charlyne Yi our Guest DJ. Today. That was "Cathy's Clown" covered by John Lennon. What's the next song Charlyne?
CY: Oh God, I have to burp. I'm trying to hold it in. Alright, here it goes "brrrp." It's a little one. The next song is "Emasculate the Masculine" by the Unicorns. I think with each song, one brings out emotions, one brings out colors. But this one, I always listen to whenever I go hiking. It makes me just want to dance. It's so silly I'm kind of dancing uphill and it makes everything more exciting.
Song: "Emasculate the Masculine" by The Unicorns
CY: Music can move you in so many different ways, like emotionally. Or with classical music it makes your mind think -- you write faster, you write according to the pace of the song. Or it also affects you emotionally. This song definitely affects me physically. It makes me want to dance. I tried not to dance one time but my foot just kept tapping.
AV: "Emasculate the Masculine" by The Unicorns here selected by our Guest DJ Charlyne Yi as part of KCRW's Guest DJ Project. Charlyne thanks so much for joining us on KCRW.com.
CY: Yeah, thanks. I hope I made sense. A lot of times I don't.
This is Anthony Valadez. For a complete track listing and to find these songs online go to KCRW.com/GuestDJProject.