The rest of the tracks off An Evening With Tracy Jordan have been lost to time, but the world will never forget “Werewolf Bar Mitzvah,” the album’s novelty party song that went gold and was featured for all of seven seconds on an episode of 30 Rock.
You remember how it goes
“Werewolf Bar Mitzvah” debuted on October 11, 2007, a terrific throwaway joke consisting of just a handful of lyrics — “Werewolf bar mitzvah / Spooky, scary / Boys becoming men / Men becoming wolves” — and Tracy (played by Tracy Morgan) dancing in a graveyard dressed like a werewolf. “I imagined that Tracy probably went to a bar mitzvah and thought, ‘Why are there no bar mitzvah songs playing at this party?’” 30 Rock executive producer Robert Carlock told The New York Times a few weeks later when explaining the inspiration behind the gag. It was such a goofy non sequitur that there was no reason for it to catch on. But 14 years later, and with another Halloween just around the corner, “Werewolf Bar Mitzvah” is the banger of the season.
What always made the bit funny was the preciseness of the thing it’s parodying. In a 2018 LAist oral history, Carlock referenced novelty tunes like “Zombie Jamboree” and “those terrible novelty Halloween songs that get radio time every Halloween. I think it was in About a Boy where Hugh Grant is living off the money made from his father’s terrible, terrible Christmas song. So I think part of the fun was, ‘Can we mash up — almost werewolf-like — these different kinds of music, in an effort to exploit all of them?’”
With a video that looked like a bargain-basement “Thriller,” and a melody that recalled the dopiness of “Monster Mash,” “Werewolf Bar Mitzvah” was so great because you didn’t need the whole song (or video). The small snippet was almost better because it gave us a tantalizing taste of the sheer awfulness of Tracy’s concoction — hardly a surprise coming from a man whose Thomas Jefferson biopic was an amateurish disaster. But for those who don’t know, an actual full-length version of “Werewolf Bar Mitzvah” exists. And it’s glorious.
In the oral history, Tami Sagher, who wrote the bit with Carlock, mentioned that the show’s musical director, Jeff Richmond, suggested they write the full song after the episode aired and was such a hit. Amazingly, Donald Glover (who was working on 30 Rock at the time) subbed in for Morgan. “[H]e could do a really good Tracy Morgan impression,” Sagher said. “And so he stepped in and did some of the vocals, to fill in, and then also did some other ad-libbing talking in it.”
If the seven-second version hints at the idiocy of the full song, the three-minute version is, hilariously, all about the fact that “Werewolf Bar Mitzvah” really shouldn’t be that long, as Tracy tells a whole ridiculous narrative about him preparing for his bar mitzvah and turning into a werewolf, all the while dropping random references to the Torah and the Talmud. “I think I’m the only Jewish person in the writing credits for it,” Sagher said, later adding, “I mean, honestly, it was me doing some Wikipedia-ing.”
Like any good parody, “Werewolf Bar Mitzvah” secretly loves the musical targets it’s satirizing. (The knowingly hokey “Let me tell you a story” concept is straight out of the “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” playbook, and like “Monster Mash” the tune sounds like it’s trying to start a dance craze.) So it’s kinda perfect that “Werewolf Bar Mitzvah” has become a popular novelty song in its own right — you know it’s meant to be ironic, but it’s so fun that you want to keep listening to it anyway. Especially in the longer version, I can’t get over Glover’s growing frustration that “Tracy” keeps adding new verses to his tale. (At some point, inexplicably, zombies show up — as well as “Draculas and Frankensteins.”) “Werewolf Bar Mitzvah” is stupid and catchy, an unstoppable combination.
Not surprisingly, “Werewolf Bar Mitzvah” gets a lot of spins around Halloween — in fact, a lot of Twitter users change their name to the song’s title during October — but both Carlock and Sagher told LAist that their kids have attended bar mitzvahs where the track was played. Nobody would ever admit to liking “Monster Mash” — it’s the normcore of Halloween novelty songs — and songs like “Ghostbusters” and “Thriller” are so old and overplayed that they’ve lost their specialness. But “Werewolf Bar Mitzvah” still feels like it’s just your thing — even though everybody loves it. There’s even an amazing mashup of the song and Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy” online. It’s scary how well the two go together.
Ultimately, what probably makes “Werewolf Bar Mitzvah” such a beloved annual tradition is that it’s the best of both worlds. We all recognize that it’s a sarcastic takeoff of a lame novelty song… but, y’know, there’s a reason why novelty songs are successful. Deep down, we’re suckers for their giddy good cheer — especially when it comes to ones celebrating Halloween, which is the most unbridled and carefree of the holidays. It’s not solemn like Christmas or filled with tradition like Thanksgiving. It’s a night where you eat a lot of candy, watch horror movies, wear sexy/scary costumes and just enjoy yourself. “Werewolf Bar Mitzvah” taps into that joyousness by marrying that feeling to one of the most important rituals in a young Jewish boy’s life — because, hey, why not?
“On some level, it makes sense,” Carlock told LAist. “If boys become men on this special night, then perhaps, what’s to keep men from becoming wolves?” Maybe, but on another, better level, it makes absolutely no sense, which is why it’s so funny.
Truth is, “Werewolf Bar Mitzvah” is my favorite part of Halloween. My costume always sucks, and I don’t have kids, so I don’t get to enjoy the holiday vicariously through them. But “Werewolf Bar Mitzvah” never lets me down. Now if someone could hunt down a copy of An Evening With Tracy Jordan, I’d be eternally grateful. You just know Tracy must have cooked up a great slow jam for Valentine’s Day.