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Samberg, Taccone And Schaffer: 3 Is Not A Lonely Island

As kids, Jorma Taccone, Andy Samberg and Akiva Schaffer were all obsessed with hip-hop and TV shows like <em>Yo! MTV Raps.</em>
Courtesy of the artist
As kids, Jorma Taccone, Andy Samberg and Akiva Schaffer were all obsessed with hip-hop and TV shows like Yo! MTV Raps.

With digital shorts like "D--- in a Box," "Mother Lover" and "Three-Way," the parody trio The Lonely Island is responsible for some of Saturday Night Live's funniest bits in recent memory, as well as funny collaborations with the likes of Justin Timberlake, Lady Gaga and Kendrick Lamar. When Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone's SNL video debut, "Lazy Sunday," first went viral, it seemed like the three came out of nowhere.

Not so: They'd been working together for years, having met as adolescents obsessed with hip-hop and shows like Yo! MTV Raps in Berkeley, Calif. Oakland and its vibrant hip-hop culture was just down the road, and their proximity to the city fed their fascination with its music — as well as their desire to make comedy that responds to it.

"We're tiny little white dudes," Samberg says. "We weren't living the rap life at all. We just loved the music. ... [T]hat's where our comedy comes from: It comes from a love for what that music is and what it represents, but also always drawing a clear line to let everyone know that we don't believe that we're part of it."

Their enthusiasm continues. The Lonely Island's new The Wack Album features songs like "YOLO" and "Diaper Money" — which reflect, yes, its members' own aging, but also a sense that hip-hop as a genre is growing up.

"There's a trend in hip-hop of being more mature and getting older, for real right now," Samberg says. "So it coincides really nicely for us, in terms of certain songs on our album ... that are more about being an adult and the joke of bragging about the responsibilities that come with being an adult."

Interview Highlights

Samberg on Justin Timberlake being on board with 'Mother Lover'

"When we did the second one — 'Mother Lover' — me, Akiva [and] Jorma were the more hesitant ones. We were like, 'I don't know if we want to go back to that well, because, you know, 'D--- in a Box' went over so well. I don't know if we want to mess with something that is generally liked. I don't know if we should do it.' And Justin [Timberlake] said, 'That's why you should do it! Because who would have the audacity to do it again?'"

Taccone on his mother's reaction to sexist, violent rap music

"My mother would go through and actually edit my tapes. I had a Fat Boys album that she edited, and I remember her hiding Run-D.M.C.'s album Raising Hell — which was one of my first albums I had on vinyl — and hiding it behind this bookshelf, and I'd have to go sneak and listen to it. And by today's standards, it's one of the tamest things ever."

Taccone on his mother lecturing him on how to treat women

"There was a moment where I, under my breath at one point, called my mother a 'b----' and my mother hit me so hard, and shook me, and looked me in the eye and said, 'Don't ever say that word about a woman ever in your life. It's the most insulting thing you could possibly say to a woman.' And then I remember my brother, years later, did the exact same thing, under his breath, called her a 'b----', and then she tried to go there with him and he said, 'I said witch! Oh my god!' And he tricked her, and I was like, 'Oh younger kids are just smarter.' But because of that, I never say that word ever. I find it very insulting."

Samberg on his shaggy hair

"When I had my final meeting with Lorne [Michaels] before I got hired ... [h]e asked me a few questions. He asked me, 'So you think you can do this?' And I said, 'Yeah, I'd like to think that I could.' And he said, 'You think you can live in New York?' and I said, 'Yeah, I actually lived here for two years when I was at NYU. I love New York.' And then there was a long pause and he said, 'Would you consider cutting the hair?' And I said, 'I will shave bald if that's what you want. I really want to work here.' And he laughed and said, 'Okay.' And then I left, and one of the assistants said, 'So?' and I said, 'Did I get it?' And they were like, 'Yes, you got it!' and I was like, 'Oh, great!' and then I called my parents and cried."

Copyright 2021 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.