The Lonely Island

By Vish KhannaArguably the hottest comedy team in the world right now, the Lonely Island consists of Saturday Night Live writer/performers, Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, and Jorma Taconne, who are the men behind the show's super popular Digital Short segment, which generally consists of song and music video-based comedy. Their hilarious, new record is called Turtleneck & Chain and we caught up with the trio for a chat about all things Lonely Island.

I watched the "Jack Sparrow" video starring Michael Bolton on SNL the other night and I was thinking about how, even though you guys are writing songs, your medium is actually really visual. Like, some of the most effective jokes kinda need to be seen or acted out to be truly appreciated. So, I guess my question is, why did you ruin ["Lazy Sunday" star] Chris Parnell's career?
The Lonely Island: (laughs)

He was doing fine, y'know?
Andy Samberg: (laughs) I love that that's where that question went. Not what I was expecting at all. Wait a minute, is this Chris?

No, no. Well, y'know, he might be slumming it; this could be him. You never know.
Akiva Schaffer: He's on Archer. It's a really funny cartoon.
Andy: He's Dr. Spaceman! He's a hit!

Okay, I'm sure he's doing fine! I was just making a little joke. I see him on 30 Rock from time to time; he seems to be doing just fine. No, my question is, what usually comes first for you guys, the short film ideas or writing the songs?
Andy: The songs.
Jorma Taccone: Yeah, always the songs. I mean, you have to make the song to make the music video obviously. You have to something to lip sync to.

Right, but there was a while there when I thought, someone like Eminem was writing raps specifically to make videos; like in certain songs, the lyrics don't really make much sense until you see the video.
Akiva: Ah, well we do too. When we're writing the lyrics, we're visualizing what the video will be. So, writing with the knowledge that it will be a video.
Jorma: Yeah, you try and think of visual jokes and, after we're done with the song and making the video, we try to add additional jokes wherever we can.

Okay, because I was listening to "Shy Ronnie" on the new record and was like, "I wonder if people would get this if they hadn't seen the clip?" y'know?
Akiva: Yeah, well, with that one specifically, definitely the visuals help it out.

All right.
Akiva: That's why we include videos in the package. There's a DVD.
Jorma: A DVD, nine videos are included.
Akiva: Or, if you buy it on iTunes, there's videos there too!
Jorma: Oh my God, it sounds so easy Kiv! And really, really a bargain.
Andy: It sounds to me like a great value guys.

All right, so the videos are out there and you have to watch them because they're complementary to the songs.
Akiva: Some of the songs, we hope stand alone.
Andy: I'm gonna go ahead and say, since we're selling it as a product, that they all stand alone.
Akiva: Oh! An interesting opinion.

Good call, good call.
Andy: That's me. That's just me.
Jorma: I'm gonna agree with you Andy.
Akiva: You've convinced me!
Andy: Let's say you're short on cash and you can't afford the deluxe version.
Jorma: I'm listening.

All right, all right, that's good to know guys. Thank you very much.
Andy: Yeah, we're done (laughs).

You guys are clearly huge hip-hop and R&B fans because, even though you're satirizing some of the musical and lifestyle conventions, to me it seems like you're approaching it as real fans of the culture. Is that fair?
All: Absolutely, absolutely.

But you guys seem super white to me.
All: [laughing]
Andy: Okay, but elaborate on that.

Well, on a whiteness scale of 1 to 10, where do you guys fall?
Jorma: You mean visually?

Yeah, sure.
Jorma: Visually, it's a 10.
Akiva: We just shot the Michael Bolton video. It was a cold day on the beach and my face is still red with sunburn from it.
Jorma: Oh, so you might be an 11 then.
Andy: I dunno, I got kinda of a nice golden brown tan.

Are you sensitive at all to getting flack about this idea of exploiting black culture? Has that discussion ever come up?
Akiva: We try to be very careful that we're paying homage to the music. We're using the music to tell jokes, rather than the jokes making fun of the music.
Jorma: The joke is usually self-deprecation for us.
Akiva: We're the butt of the joke usually, not the music.
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Article Published In Jun 11 Issue