Jason Sudeikis got drunk at the Hurricane one night in the ’90s and insulted Frogpond (and is thoroughly embarrassed about it)

Even after eight years as a cast member of Saturday Night Live and multiple successful films like Horrible Bosses and Colossal, Jason Sudeikis’ connection to Kansas City remains strong. He’s back in town every year for Big Slick — the best fundraising event in KC, according to readers in the Pitch‘s recent 2018 Best of Kansas City issue — with Paul Rudd, Rob Riggle, Eric Stonestreet, and David Koechner to raise money for the Children’s Mercy Kansas City Cancer Ward, and he can be counted on to pop into a Jayhawks basketball game from time to time, as well.

As if a long weekend of fundraising every July wasn’t enough, Sudeikis is returning to Kansas City next month to once again host Thundergong!, a benefit for the Steps of Faith Foundation. Chance the Rapper will be there. The charity works with amputees who can’t afford prostheses to get the help they need. The foundation’s executive director, Billy Brimblecom Jr., has been friends with Sudeikis for years, and their close connection is what’s made this massive fund-raising event possible.

I recently spoke by phone with Sudeikis about Thundergong! and discovered he has some old-school KC music scene ties. Without further ado:

The Pitch: I’m most impressed by the fact that you do an annual fundraising event with Rob Riggle and Paul Rudd, but now you’re coming back later in the year to do another annual event.

Jason Sudeikis: At least annual, thus far. We’ll see — that’s the goal. They’re really apples and oranges. I suppose, in the big picture, they’re both charity events, but the Big Slick — all those guys and our family, we’ll have been doing it for ten years come this next summer. It’s like a big ol’ thing. It’s this big event that has all of these moving parts, all of these moving pieces. We’re bringing a lot of folks in, a lot of guests.

I’ve known of Paul probably the longest, and Rob and I both met when we auditioned for SNL back in 2003, but Billy has been one of my best friends since — ooh, summer of ’95? So, that right there is a big difference. I’m lucky to count as friends those guys that are peers of mine through show business. To have people in this business that actually know you and care about you and your family and your well-being, and your well-being as an artist, is nice, and I don’t take it for granted, but you know — Billy’s my boy. [chuckles] This is a different thing. I appreciate your assessment, but for me, it’s just, “Oh, I’m doing something with Billy that I’d do any other time.” It’s just that we’re kind of curating it ourselves, as well as with dozens of people that help behind the scenes.

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You’ve kind of been around the local music scene for years. You come back into town for the holidays and pop onstage with Summer Breeze to do a song or two, and I think I even once saw you introduce the Creature Comforts at RecordBar, right?

That would be correct. Between them and Ultimate Fakebook, those were two bands full of friends that I always supported. And then, later, kind of after, I became a big fan of the Get Up Kids, oddly enough after I left Kansas City and moved to Chicago. That was a whole world I didn’t know much about until Billy and I met at ComedySportz, doing workshops together one summer, and then I had an excuse to go to Lawrence to see a show at the Bottleneck. Got to be on the guest list and feel like a real hotshot, knowin’ people in bands.

And then, even when there’s not a show going on, Billy’s one of the great karaoke singers. He pulls out the deep cuts and knows how to harmonize, and that’s more my skill set, being a person who doesn’t know how to play an instrument worth a darn.

[Writer’s note: When I interviewed Brimblecom ahead of last year’s Thundergong!, he shared a story from his and Sudeikis’ past, and I wanted to see if it was really true. What follows is the true tale of one night at the Hurricane. I brought it up after asking about how Sudeikis came to introduce the Creature Comforts at their 2009 reunion show.]

Billy Brimblecom Jr.: I posted online a picture that Chris Tolle texted me, and it’s a picture of me and Jason, Brian Everard, Chris, and — you can barely see him — Rich Yarges from Truck Stop Love, and it was from the beginning of the Creature Comforts. It was at some crazy afterparty right after a show in Lawrence, but Jason and I are just old friends. He’s one of my best friends, obviously, so for him to do that for the Creature Comforts just made a lot of sense, because he was very much kind of like a “friend of the band.” He was around a lot at that time.

We played a show in the very early days of the Creature Comforts. The first year or so of the band, we were just a three-piece. J.D. Warnock wasn’t even in the band at that time. We played a show outside at the Hurricane one beautiful night one summer — ’97, ’98. I don’t remember who we were playing with. Jason at the time didn’t drink. But he had been somewhere and drank that night. 

Sudeikis: I can tell you this: I didn’t really drink until I moved to Las Vegas, and that would’ve been in about 2001, so I didn’t drink when I lived in Kansas at all. That was a night when I had like, three Rolling Rocks and was feeling myself.

Brimblecom: I only remember this so vividly because I have a cassette board mix of this [show]. He was kind of buzzed, and 21-22, maybe?  And he was just hollering from the audience all this stuff like, “Yeah! Creature Comfs!” [laughs] All this stuff, really obnoxious: “Creature Comforts!” And at one point, he started saying, “That’s right!”

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Sudeikis: The most embarrassing thing for me is that, when you’re in vino veritas — and even more so back in the ’90s, less so now — you don’t really hear or see yourself after the fact, in a sober state. But Billy had acquired the soundboard cassette and, I believe, gave me the only copy. I remember being in Chicago, months later, and I remember listening to it in my uncle George’s car that I was borrowing, and driving downtown and hearing myself and being mortified. Absolutely mortified.

Brimblecom: And then — and you have to know your KC music history for this — he starts hollering, “Frogpond ain’t shit! Frogpond ain’t shit!” Of course, then you hear me hush him on the mic. He’s just trying to be funny, but at the time, Frogpond were doing Friday and Saturday at the Hurricane. That was when they were having their moment, their heyday, y’know? All those girls were friends of mine from way back, and he was just trying to be funny. I think he even said it about some other band. I can’t remember.

Sudeikis: Frogpond was a really big band back then, and Outhouse was being played on 105.9 a lot, and I loved both bands, but I was being like, what? Like Styles in Teen Wolf? That sidekick friend, just hyping up your buddies. And, I guess to hype up my buddies, I had to take a few ungentlemanly swings at some local faves — and, lo and behold, they were there.

Brimblecom: He was trying to be celebratory, and all jokey, but it turned, because he could tell people were listening to him, and he was really just trying to get a rise out of us onstage, from the audience. It was packed, so it was crazy. We were like, “Dude! C’mon, you can’t say that!”

Sudeikis: Chris Tolle could not have been any more of a gentleman, sort of encouraging me from the stage to keep it down. I might have even smoked a cigarette that night, which I don’t do at all. [laughs] But, yes, that’s true. I believe “Frog. Pond. Ain’t. Shit” was the cadence. It was really just me wanting to saying, “Creature Comforts are great!” but we had just done a ComedySportz show, and they had given us free beers down there, so, yeah … it was a whole to-do. But, it is entirely true, and I remember it because of that darn tape. I don’t know where it is. I guess in my mother’s basement somewhere.

Is there anything you learned from your first Thundergong! hosting duties that you’re going to apply, going into this second installment?

Me, personally? Not yet, but I had considered the idea of maybe seeing if someone taped it, to watch it, to a certain degree. We started off with the idea of it being a drum-focused show, because that’s Billy’s passion, love, and skill set, and I’m a big fan of it. I know a lot of drummers. I always become friends with drummers, even if they become frontmen — someone like Ben Folds or Dave Grohl.

But then we just opened it up to rock ‘n’ roll, and I can see us exploiting the talent of the guests that we’ll have there, but also that band [Summer Breeze] that has the ability to do this. I think the idea is less of me. If I had to do one thing all over, to be quite honest with you — I don’t mind saying it, because he’d prove me right — instead of me singing “Taking It To the Streets,” I should’ve sprung that on J.D. Warnock, because that dude can out-sing me around the world and back, and I think it just would’ve been better for the show. [laughs]

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And me, as a fan of him, would’ve loved to have unleashed him on that audience that may have come for other reasons. There’s a lot of people in that town that know what a talent he is, but that’s the biggest thing I’ve learned: when you’re standing on stage with someone that can crush a song better than you, let them do it, regardless of whether I happen to know the words.

Thundergong! is Saturday, November 3, at the Uptown Theater. Details on the show here.