Time Out New York Cover Feature
The Lonely Island Summer Preview Special
For the full package—including track by track, interviews with Akon and Michael Bolton and dating tips—click here.
“Throw your ass into it!” yells the photographer, across a floor spattered with ketchup and mustard. The Lonely Island boys duly lean into an enormous tray of hot dogs before retiring to change into tutus and, later, to smear ice cream over their faces. Such is life in America’s hottest comedy troupe. Headed by Andy Samberg—whose dad watches the shoot from the sidelines, saying sweetly, “Andy was never shy”—the trio brought life back to Saturday Night Live when they joined in 2005 and reanimated the comedy-music meme. (2006’s “Dick in a Box” video racked several zillion YouTube views long before the Gregory Brothers got their Auto-Tuning hands on Antoine Dodson.)
Two years later (following several movie roles, a debut record that sold 350,000 copies, and a Grammy nom for the single “I’m on a Boat,” which went platinum), Samberg and his childhood pals Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer are set to release their second album, Turtleneck & Chain, which features collaborators Nicki Minaj, Rihanna, Beck, Snoop Dogg and even Michael Bolton. Obviously, these are gents with enormous cultural acumen and a lot of experience in having a good time. Who better to steer you through your perfect summer?
It’s nearly summer. Are you guys tanners?
Andy Samberg: We don’t really leave the building. But I also just don’t like baking in the sun. And now what with all the depleting ozone layers…
Jorma Taccone: Thank you for getting that in there. I went to the doctor recently and she actually prescribed that I go out for ten minutes a day, I’m so depleted on vitamin D.
Akiva Schaffer: I take a lot of ladies’ vitamins, because I never buy my own and that’s what’s in the house. More iron…
Samberg: I wear a lot of ladies’ underwear for the same reason. If you want me to not wear it then wash my underwear!
What’s your favorite thing to do in the summer?
Samberg: Get a coconut frozie fruit little Popsicle. You can get it at any bodega.
Schaffer: One of the great things about living in a big city is that there are specialized ice cream places where there are just Popsicles and stuff. You know the special Popsicle place [Popbar]? The whole place was just Popsicles, and they were beautifully set up almost like the jewelry section at Barneys. A glass case and each one is perfectly lit.
You have some intense fans. Even back at a 2009 signing session for Incredibad with Paul Rudd, the kids were already going nuts.
Samberg: For us it’s always weird, because we’re comedy. You certainly never think, when you’re making songs about jizz and dicks, that teenagers will scream for it.
Schaffer: It’s also because we’ve been near actual pop stars that they would scream for.
Samberg: I think they think if they cheer loud enough that Justin and Rihanna will appear.
Kristen Schaal introduced you at the Comedy Awards in April as “the little Orson Welleses of the Internet”—do you see yourselves as pioneers of the comedy-song meme?
Samberg: To me, the only thing that’s unique about us is that we’ve done it with modern popular music, which is saying hip-hop and R&B. There have been joke rap songs since rap existed. We love Al Yankovic, he’s our hero. But we’re more in the Tenacious D category in that we make original songs. It’s not just direct spoof. Hip-hop is what we grew up listening to and loving.
Schaffer: And if we do poke fun a little at the grandeur, we’re doing it from a place of love.
Taccone: When we came out with “Lazy Sunday,” the greatest compliment I heard was that ?uestlove had it on his iPod.
You use a lot of rude words in your songs. With great power comes great responsibility.…
Taccone: A friend of my family had an eight-year-old kid who heard “Jizz in My Pants.” He had to ask his mom what it was, and she had to explain all of sex to him. So she thanks me routinely.
Did you feel sheepish, using mom and fucking in the same sentence in “Motherlover”?
Samberg: Well, Jorma’s mom was not into it; my mom really loved it.
Taccone: My mom loved “Dick in a Box,” thought it was great, and then really was not into “Motherlover.” Bizarrely. She found her limit.
Samberg: My mom thought it was a good message: that moms are sexy, that moms have sexuality too.
Taccone: She hasn’t been paying attention to what’s been happening online for the last ten years. [Laughs]
Samberg: [Nods] She does not troll MILF sites.
The guest list on Turtleneck & Chain is crazy. Did you have a list of fantasy collaborators, like Michael Bolton?
Schaffer: Bolton was our first choice for [the Pirates of the Caribbean–inspired track] “Jack Sparrow,” always. We worked very hard to make it happen.
How did Nicki Minaj get involved?
Schaffer: It was just through hearing her music, the way anybody does. It was in the summer before she blew up.
Samberg: It was a satisfying feeling of foresight on our part that we had asked her to do it in summertime before she got booked on the show. Like, yeah, told you she was great!
Taccone: She plays a good sexy nerd.
Does anyone ever say no to your requests? Have you asked for Kanye?
Schaffer: There have not been specific songs, but we always put the feelers out to Kanye. We always say, “We’re making an album and whenever you’re ready.” And that goes for now as well.
Samberg: I’ll say this now about anyone ever who we’ve asked and they’ve said no: You just have to want to. And there’s nothing wrong with not wanting to. People have so much to lose, and in certain people’s eyes, not as much to gain.
Schaffer: Yeah, he doesn’t need to be more famous or reinvent himself. He would just have to think it would be a fun thing to do.
Ever feel that you’re co-opting an urban genre?
Samberg: I hope we’re never co-opting it. We want it to feel like we’re celebrating it.
Taccone: I think we make a point of saying this is fake rap, we don’t consider this real rap.
Schaffer: It’s not like Elvis, taking the music and white-ifying it and replaying it. We’re paying respect to it.
Samberg: We always say that the joke isn’t that it’s rap, we use rap to tell the joke. And one of the other reasons is that none of us can sing or play any instrument.