Mad Men famously paid $250,000 for the rights to use “Tomorrow Never Knows” by the Beatles in a season five episode (Don was not a fan), but a TV show simply quoting a famous song can still cost tens of thousands of dollars in licensing fees.
For this week’s episode of the Office Ladies podcast, via Mashable, former-The Office co-stars/current co-hosts Jenna Fisher and Angela Kinsey spoke to Jen Celotta, who wrote season three’s “A Benihana Christmas.” Early in the episode, Michael discusses his plan to surprise Carol with two “all-inclusive” tickets to Jamaica for Christmas. It was a pricey present for Michael, and, as Celotta revealed, a pricier expense for the show:
“I wrote a joke where Michael says, ‘I got two tickets to paradise.’ And he says, ‘Pack your bags we leave day after tomorrow.’ At the sound mix, I found out from [producer Kent Zbornak] that was a $60,000 joke… I was like, ‘It’s a fine joke, but none of my jokes I’ve ever written have been $60,000 jokes.’ But I remember not so long after that we had some of our music budget pulled away from us, and I can’t help but think… [I] had no idea that because we sang that song, the song had to be cleared, and that joke was $60,000.”
More like Eddie money.
“A Benihana Christmas” also memorably featured Michael and Andy singing “Your Body Is a Wonderland” to their holiday party dates, but the process of getting the rights to that song was smoother, as John Mayer was a fan of the show. “One of my favorite shows on television, The Office, wanted to use my song, but it’s safe to say I don’t get asked to use ‘Wonderland’ for strongman competitions. I get asked so that people can goof on it. I initially turned the request down, but after hearing the details on the incredibly funny sounding scene, I decided to go for it,” Mayer wrote on his blog at the time. His only request: that he get a Dundie. Congrats to John Mayer, tall music dude.
You can listen to the Office Ladies episode below.