“A Happy Hungry Man”: Breaking Bread with Phil Rosenthal

Somebody Feed Phil: Season 3. Phil Rosenthal in Somebody Feed Phil, Seoul. c. Courtesy of Netflix
Somebody Feed Phil: Season 3. Phil Rosenthal in Somebody Feed Phil, Seoul. c. Courtesy of Netflix /

The lyrics to Netflix’s “Somebody Feed Phil” fit Phil Rosenthal perfectly.

For my generation, television theme songs are a key ingredient in the success and appeal of a show. Fortunately for me, Phil Rosenthal is of my generation and fortunately for those far younger viewers who’ve been deprived of the musical art form, “Somebody Feed Phil” has graced us with this long-lost element from the good ol’ days of television.

"A happy hungry manTraveling all across the sea and the land,Just trying to understandThe art of pasta, pork, chicken, and lamb,He will drive to youHe will fly to youHe will sing for youAnd he’ll dance for you,He will laugh with youAnd he’ll cry for you,There’s just one thing he asks in returnCan somebody, somebody feed Phil?Somebody feed him now!"

Simply reading the lyrics above instantly paints a visual picture of what “Somebody Feed Phil” serves up with each episode. Layer in the actual music and you have a theme song that’s catchy beyond description. I defy you to hear it a few times and not smile at worst and find it embedded in your mind at best. For Phil, the theme song is a result of the Netflix genie granting wishes.

“When I went over to Netflix, they asked me the best question you could get asked when you’re embarking on a production. They said, what would you like to have that you didn’t have on the last show? So your eyes light up like, oh, you’re granting wishes?! The only thing I asked for was the theme song because like you, I like TV theme songs and I think it helps cement you to the viewer”.

“Somebody Feed Phil” evolved from a PBS show called “I’ll Have What Phil’s Having”.

“I knew this band, this band that I love, this band that I had actually met and loved their music. And so I called them, they’re called Lake Street Dive, and I sent them some lyrics and they fleshed them out and wrote the tune. It’s my favorite theme song. I think it’s so catchy and so great. And it harkens back to the sitcoms that we love and just the kind of good feeling that I want to impart to the viewer when they watch the show.”

Phil mentioned that he gets DMs from people who tell him that when the “Skip Intro” option pops up on their screen, they never click it. Anecdotally, I’ve seen similar responses from people and I myself never skip the song. As I suggested to Phil, it’s the amuse-bouche of every “Somebody Feed Phil” episode. And proving that so many can’t be wrong, the show and Lake Street Dive won an Emmy award for Best Theme Song.

Phil Rosenthal is no stranger to awards, having won 15 Emmys for “Everybody Loves Raymond”, as well as a James Beard Award for “I’ll Have What Phil’s Having”. I asked him which he would pick if he only had room to display one.

“Can I cut them in half and do half of each? My whole life was trying to be funny and entertainment and television were my whole childhood and my life. The winning of Emmy awards was like the fulfillment of a dream that you had when you were a kid, that you would not only get to work in TV but that you’d win an Emmy—the Oscars of TV-so that of course was very meaningful. The time we had on Raymond, where it was this wonderful troupe of actors and writers and directors and crew, we had a family of over a hundred people. So when we win those Emmys, that’s an evening of celebration that no one can take away from you for the rest of your life. It means that evening where you win and share it with your friends and your family, that’s way more than the award itself. The award is nice and serves as a reminder of when we won together.”

Phil also reflected on the meaning of winning the James Beard Award.

“Now 10 years after that, I do this food and travel show, which is the culmination of everything in my life combined with what I learned about how to make a show. I’m so thrilled that this thing I love very much, it’s almost like the James Beard Award was being rewarded for how you live your life as opposed to your work. Because I travel and I eat and I love it and I would do it anyway without the show. I’m so thrilled that people respond. And so to be rewarded for that, this almost seems extracurricular that I got an award for it. It was almost like getting an award for lunch.”

It’s one thing to get paid to eat, but to earn awards for it too?! As the words to the “Somebody Feed Phil” theme song illustrate, the world truly is Phil Rosenthal’s oyster.

"So come sit at his tableIf you’re happy, hungry, willing and ableTo see how breaking breadCan turn a stranger right into a friend"

I asked the Pied Piper of Prosciutto if he stays in touch with the new friends he makes in his travels.

“I would say that’s the best part. It adds more to what you have to do in life. In other words, if you never traveled, go travel. Pick it, pick a place. You go there, you make friends. Now next vacation you go to a new place and make new friends. And then you want to go visit the friends you’ve already made and that multiplies exponentially in life to the point where you don’t know where to go because you’ve got friends all over the world. This is called a good problem.”

You need only watch one episode of “Somebody Feed Phil” to see that philosophy come to life in living color. Phil is clearly at home with friends new and old, whether in their homes or at a restaurant. And at its very core, that’s what makes the show so special. Phil, food, and friends are a perfect recipe for great television.

Coming very soon, part three of our interview with Phil Rosenthal, where we talk about destinations and reveal if there’ll be a Season 4 of “Somebody Feed Phil”.

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What have been your must see moments from Season 3? Have the episodes left hungry for more?