“The stuff that doesn’t make it is so asinine.” The Lonely Island are renowned for their ridiculous R&B and rap-infused comedy skits that surfaced on the internet before YouTube was a household world. The videos catapulted quickly rose to fame after a member of the Berkeley-bred trio, Andy Samberg, brought their madcap music videos to Saturday Night Live. With topics that range from sex with a friend’s mother to living it up on a “mother***ing” boat, it’s hard to imagine any song topic being sillier than it already is, but the boys from The Lonely Island explained in an interview that some stuff is just “not good enough” to put out.
One attempt they deem as a failure interlocked Zion from The Matrix, reggae music, and the Rastafarian concept of Zion. “All the lines are like ‘Agent Smith is ever looming,’” says the group, humorously bashing their brief adventure into “dread-locked” multiculturalism. “It toes the line.”
But The Lonely Island definitely don’t toe the line. The Wack Album, released today, features cameos from big name mainstream stars like Justin Timberlake, Lady Gaga, and Adam Levine, but also songs with topics too scandalous for radio entitled “3-Way (The Golden Rule),” “Spring Break Anthem,” and “I F***ed Me Aunt.”
Jorma Taccone jokes that his uncle recently texted him “So, should I be worried?” Taccone assured his uncle that he was talking about “a different aunt,” but Samberg couldn’t help but to jokingly provoke the situation, saying “on the record” that “Jorm’s aunt is super hot.”
The 30-something dudes from The Lonely Island have known each other since junior high and their art seems like the perfect collaboration of grown-up comedic timing and unfettered adolescent antics. Akiva Schaffer rounds out this reciprocal repartee that can really only be experienced between old friends. When they first started making comedy songs, it was in the prehistoric internet days. Connections were too slow for sites like YouTube and the art of music videos was dying out. Despite this cultural kickback, The Lonely Island persevered with making videos although they’d elongate them to make them acceptable for formats like television.
When asked why they stubbornly kept making videos, Samberg sarcastically replied, “You could almost say we were drilling for oil in an empty field. We just had this sixth sense that there would be this bastion of oil called YouTube.”
Now YouTube is rife with parody music, but the talent and tenacity of The Lonely Island quickly put them (and kept them) on the top of the humor-filled heap. Wining an Emmy for “D**k in a Box” definitely helped. Taccone said that it was “just weird that you can even print that on an Emmy,” while Samberg noted that the whole experience was “the exact opposite” of what he expected. “But a pleasant opposite,” he clarified.
The Lonely Island professes themselves to be terrible rappers, so as comedians, they might be doing the “exact opposite” of what they expected from their career, but it has paid off.
“We’re comedians and that’s all we ever intended to do, so we kind of view it like we’re delivering comedy through the vessel of music and through hip-hop and r&b and pop and stuff like that,” elaborated Samberg. “Especially now having worked with so many legit artists, you see how that really is.”
But without the guidance of The Lonely Island, these legit artists might not have been able to contribute so amazingly to the innocently insidious and well-constructed humor of each one of their songs. However, the group explains they give rappers an umbrella of bullet points to hit and most write their own songs.
T-Pain and E-40 are already hilarious though. “E-40 is pretty funny even on his own records,” said Schaffer.
Even though The Lonely Island isn’t officially connected with Saturday Night Live anymore after Samberg’s departure, the comedian said they “still have a great relationship there.” Working on the show, Samberg had the chance to meet Billie Joe Armstrong from Green Day and later texted him to appear on “I Run New York” from The Wack Album. Now the group is attempting to transition from live and pre-recorded television appearances to performing live onstage in a concert setting–if the planets become aligned schedule-wise between the three of them.
“If we do a stage show, we want it to be good and not thrown together,” says Schaffer, while Samberg mentions he wants the show to be as elaborate and maybe as infamous as Pink Floyd’s The Wall. And maybe one day they’ll be able to fulfill their dream of getting Bill Clinton onstage to play some “really sexy, sultry sax.” Or having enough time to just chill and smoke some marijuana. “Man, that would be nice,” said someone. “Just play some video games.”
The Lonely Island are too busy with their personal, professional, and parody lives to have a moment of real downtime; they are too busy taking risks that other comedians only attempt and therefore they garner the sort of haters you only get when you are truly successful.
“You can’t make anything and put it out into the world without having haters,” said Taccone.
“Very early on when we posted stuff, pre-YouTube, there was a comment which we always hold really near and dear to our hearts which was, ‘Wow. It’s the ‘Best Of Gay Retard Theatre,’” Samberg recalled. “And we read that one and we’re like ‘I think we did something right here guys.’”
Thirteen years and millions of followers later is proof enough that they were right.
The Wack Album hits stories June 11 via Universal Republic Records.
– Nadia Noir, CBS Radio Los Angeles