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William H. Macy teaches us the art of the perfect roast

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William H Macy
Jeff Vespa/WireImage

If you’re the sensitive type, you probably don’t want to invite William H. Macy to your wedding.

When Macy called up EW to talk about his directing debut, the music-heavy Rudderless, he shared that he’s had quite a bit of musical experience of his own. In fact, he and wife Felicity Huffman went through a phase where they would write inappropriate songs to perform at their friends’ weddings. “We would just roast them,” he says, “Mercilessly roast them.”

“He’s a brilliant songwriter,” musician Ben Kweller, who has a supporting role in Rudderlesstells EW. “No one really knows this.”

Actually, there were a lot of music-related things we didn’t know about Macy, including what song took him from being the “shy red-headed kid” to “BMOC” (big man on campus) in high school:

Macy performed an “off-color” song at his high school talent show: “Music is big in my house. My brother taught me how to play a guitar when I was 13 years old, and I’ve been playing ever since. And that’s really how I got in this business. I went to a talent show in my high school and I sang an off-color song and I went from the shy red-headed kid to BMOC in three and a half minutes. It was an old Kingston Trio song, well, the chorus says it all: ‘Your papa ain’t your papa, but your papa don’t know.’ It’s a mother singing to her son. I can tell, all the teachers are looking at each other saying, ‘who vets out these songs before they sing them? We got to get the reins on this!'”

Kweller says he and Macy sang together during their filming breaks: “From the moment we met, we were singing together. On set, he had a directors chair, he always had a ukulele with him. He loves playing the ukulele. So I’d walk over to him, if we were taking a break, and we’d sing Beach Boys songs. ‘Surfer Girl‘ was one we sang almost every day together, we’d do John Denver’s ‘Country Roads.’ He’s a brilliant songwriter, no one really knows this. Really humorous lyrics.”

Macy reveals the secret to getting away with a roast: “I write these stupid little songs for peoples’ weddings and for birthdays. I write a song for my wife pretty much every year for her birthday and for my daughters, and I perform it for her. Felicity and I discovered a while ago, you know how you go through a period of about five, six years when all your friends are getting married? Well, we had two or three weddings a year, and we’re all actors, so of course we had to get up and say something anyway. But we discovered if you sing it and it rhymes and it’s got harmony, and you’re accompanied by a ukulele, you can say anything and people will laugh and be delighted. So we would write these songs for peoples’ weddings, people we knew intimately, and we would just roast them. Mercilessly roast them. We’d talk about ex-lovers, and stuff that’s so inappropriate to bring up at a wedding. People would just howl. If it rhymes, it’s cute.”

Rudderless arrives in theaters Oct. 17.

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