RT Interviews Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, and Jorma Taccone of Hot Rod
The Lonely Island boys chat cool beans, stunts, and what you'll have to wait to see on DVD.Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, and Jorma Taccone have achieved the ultimate goal of most American high school kids: getting paid to hang out. The comedy trio have been friends since junior high, and after gaining an Internet cult following through their troupe The Lonely Island, auditioned and were hired for Saturday Night Live. Samberg was chosen to appear on the show, while Schaffer and Taccone signed on as writers, but all three gained instant notoriety with SNL Digital Shorts like Lazy Sunday and D--- in a Box. With their overnight success, it wasn't long before they hit the big screen.
This Friday, the Lonely Island boys make their feature debut with the comedy Hot Rod. Samberg plays Rod Kimble, a terrible daredevil trying to save his stepfather?s (Ian McShane) life by performing a death-defying stunt. Taccone plays Rod?s half-brother and Schaffer takes the director?s chair. Rotten Tomatoes caught up with the three during a San Francisco roundtable to discuss YouTube, their Berkeley origins, and their obsessions with obscure 80s teen comedies.
Q: What did you learn from making the shorts that you were able to apply to Hot Rod? And what working habits from those were no help whatsoever?
Akiva Schaffer: Well, the first part's easier to answer than the second, which is-
Andy Samberg: The second part's easy for me.
Akiva: Oh, really? Well, you'll take the second part. This is going to work out great.
All the shorts that we've been doing since we decided to move to "Tinseltown" as we called it, and tried to make it-
Andy: We do not call it Tinseltown.
Jorma Taccone: We do. I just found out recently it's called Los Angeles actually. I'd never heard of it.
Andy: He would give the DMV his address and it would say Tinseltown, USA.
Jorma: They would deliver my mail there. I got that officially recognized.
Akiva: But doing all those shorts, I was amazed how much on the set of a big movie, once you realize what the 200 people around you are actually doing and kind of know their names and so you're not as intimidated by the buzzing around of the 200 people -- you know, the wardrobe people that are just worrying about wardrobe and the lighting people that are just worrying about lights -- how much it would actually boil right back down to the three of us and a couple friends. Once everything got quiet and it was time to actually shoot, there was really actually kind of no difference between doing a short and doing the thing in terms of like, you're just trying to make the little scenes work. It gets very small right after it gets very big.
Andy: Right, because the creative battery was essentially the same and a lot of the other people we brought in were our friends or quickly became our friends, so it was pretty loose actually.
Akiva: Trying to be silly in front of a video camera in your apartment is very similar to doing it in front of the big cameras once you figure out what they're all doing and they're quiet and you're saying action. All of a sudden it's just kind of what's in the middle that matters anyways.
Q: But you were saying that some things are different when you leave the apartment.
Andy: I would say the SNL schedule specifically was the biggest obstacle for us. At SNL, [the schedule's] built for the kind of guys we are, which is sleep through the day and stay up late. And on a movie you're up really, really early every f---ing day. It's just so early and for me it's really excruciatingly hard to wake up in the morning. And when you're shooting for daylight, you gotta get up at, like, five in the morning. Which I'm sure for people with regular jobs they're like, "Stop your crying."
But we intentionally geared our whole life to not have to do that. And then you're like, "Finally it's the big dream of a movie and now you have to have a regular person's schedule." So that was the hardest adjustment to make. Especially from getting used to the SNL schedule, which is crazy in its own right, but much more suitable.
Akiva: [There are] a lot of times where you stay up 36 hours in a row on the SNL schedule. I think most people would prefer the movie schedule, just because at least it's the same hours every day.
Q: Do you think it's fitting that you guys are probably possibly responsible for YouTube becoming as big as it is? You guys were doing YouTube before there was a YouTube and doing user-generated content. How did you guys raise from that to SNL and now Hot Rod?
Jorma: We were doing these little smaller shorts and producing them ourselves before a lot of people might have been or putting them up on the web, but if it wasn't us it would have been somebody else. YouTube is built for what it's become.
Akiva: It's not like there haven't been other videos that have gotten very popular on there after Lazy Sunday. So I'm sure one of those would have drawn everybody over there. I mean, they got lucky because we made Lazy Sunday and that's how I feel inside, but also we got lucky because a hit sketch on SNL isn't exactly newsworthy. There's been 30 years of hits. Like, you didn't see 100 articles about Cowbell.
Andy: I mean, we wrote 100 articles about Cowbell.
Akiva: My senior thesis was about Cowbell.
Q: What was it like going to UC Santa Cruz having your sense of humor and tone? I went to UCSC and know they can be sometimes on the sensitive side.
Akiva: They definitely were. There would definitely be classes where I would notice people saying things just like, "Ugh. You are just missing the point. You're missing the forest for the trees 'cause you're seeing it through such a narrow open mind but actually very closed mind narrow viewpoint."
Andy: The actual basic political and moral fundamentals [that] people are so up in arms about [at UCSC] we do agree with. But it doesn't really do anyone good outside of yourself to treat it as seriously as a lot of people do.