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The Halloween mainstay 'Werewolf Bar Mitzvah' was originally only 7 seconds long

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Halloween means costumes, candy, ghosts, green monsters and a novelty song to top them all.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MONSTER MASH")

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Singing) He did the mash.

BOBBY PICKETT: (Singing) He did the monster mash.

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Singing) The monster mash.

SIMON: Not Bobby Pickett's 1962 classic "Monster Mash." Well, yes, Bobby Pickett's 1962 classic "Monster Mash," but also another novelty song of later vintage from 2007 and originally just seven seconds long.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "30 ROCK")

TRACY MORGAN: (As Tracy Jordan, rapping) Werewolf bar mitzvah - spooky, scary. Boys becoming men, men becoming wolves.

SIMON: That's Tracy Morgan as Tracy Jordan on the NBC sitcom "30 Rock." Showrunner Robert Carlock wrote the first line.

TAMI SAGHER: So my contribution was just boys becoming men, men becoming wolves.

SIMON: That's Tami Sagher, a writer on the show.

SAGHER: And the whole inspiration for that is just what happens at a bar mitzvah. Boys become men. And men become wolves (laughter).

SIMON: Better to attack the dessert table. The song struck a chord.

SAGHER: It got a lot of attention, which we were very excited about. And it was also a time where, like, things were not on YouTube or, if they were, NBC would take them down. So it was on this NBC site, and they - people would watch, like, a full-minute commercial to watch this 15-second clip. So it was, like - we knew right away this was really big. And I think the episode was right before Halloween, and we were like, how do we capitalize on this?

SIMON: So they expanded the snippet to a full song.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WEREWOLF BAR MITZVAH")

DONALD GLOVER: (As character) Aw, man, Tray, look up at the sky. It's a full moon on the Sabbath.

MORGAN: (As Tracy Jordan) This is scary.

GLOVER: (As character) Break it down.

MORGAN: (As Tracy Jordan, rapping) I was working late on my haftarah when I heard a knock on my bedroom doorah (ph). I opened...

SIMON: Then it fell to Tami Sagher to flesh out the werewolf song, if you please. She wrote more lyrics and shared them with Robert Carlock.

SAGHER: His notes on it were, it's too straightforward. It's Tracy so it has to, like, fall apart and go off the rails.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WEREWOLF BAR MITZVAH")

GLOVER: (As character) I don't - I just don't think this - the idea of the song can sustain itself for that long. It doesn't - it seems a little sweaty now so...

MORGAN: (As Tracy Jordan) This whole premise is sweaty.

SIMON: Jeff Richmond wrote the music. They brought in Tracy Morgan to record the full track. Donald Glover, then a "30 Rock" writer and now a Grammy-winning musician, Childish Gambino, added lines as Tracy's friend.

SAGHER: But then also - there was a change in lyrics, or there was some stuff that Tracy just didn't record. So Donald went in and recorded some stuff as Tracy.

ALEXANDRA PETRI: I heard the song before I actually watched the episode, and I'm just like, this stands on its own merits. And I continue to feel that way about it.

SIMON: That's Washington Post columnist Alexandra Petri. She's obviously a fan. She ranked it the No. 3 Halloween song of all time in a list published last week, behind only Andrew Gold's "Spooky Scary Skeletons" and, of course, "Monster Mash."

PETRI: And it's such a great tribute to, like, you know, Bobby Pickett and all the novelty - like, it has that vibe while also having its own story.

SIMON: Alexandra Petri says she appreciates that the song features a holistic appreciation of werewolves.

PETRI: These werewolves - like, they have a faith tradition that means a lot to them. I just feel like it's nice that we - there's so much going on in the werewolf experience that isn't just about, you know, gazing at the moon and baying.

SIMON: Tami Sagher thinks one of the strengths is the song's attention to detail.

SAGHER: Honestly, like, we get into it about what a bar mitzvah is - like, Temple Beth Emanuel and the haftarah.

SIMON: Does she think it's a Halloween song that will last?

SAGHER: The fact that it is listened to and remembered is amazing.

SIMON: And she likes to hear the song in its native habitat.

SAGHER: They played it at my nephew's bar mitzvah, but I think that was because Aunt Tami was there.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WEREWOLF BAR MITZVAH")

MORGAN: (As Tracy Jordan, rapping) Werewolf bar mitzvah - kooky... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.