Andy Samberg Discusses THAT'S MY BOY And His Post-SNL Career With Mr. Beaks!
With so much attention being paid to Kristen Wiig's bittersweet departure from SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE last May, many viewers might've been oblivious to the other long-time cast member who was all but announcing his exit at the same time. It was right there in the final lyric of "Lazy Sunday 2".
"On these New York streets I hone my fake rap penmanship/That's how it began, and that's how I'm-a finish it."
Andy Samberg, who became an overnight star with the first "Lazy Sunday", was dropping the mic and walking off into the rest of his career, leaving behind seven seasons' worth of memorable characters and, what will probably be remembered as his most important contribution to the institution of SNL, 101 Digital Shorts. And while there was no tearful sendoff, his absence will be just as noticeable as Wiig's - if only due to the absence of the shorts, which had become a fixture on the show. If you want to feel old, consider this: there are kids going off to college this year who have probably never seen an SNL without a "Digital Short".
Samberg didn't go official with his decision until the evening of Friday, June 1st, but, given that he'd be spending the next two days discussing his co-starring role alongside Adam Sandler in the big summer comedy THAT'S MY BOY, the timing was ideal. After all, when it comes to using SNL as a springboard to movie stardom, no one in the show's thirty-seven year history save for Eddie Murphy has had a better box office run than Sandler. If Samberg wanted to invoke a model for managing one's post-SNL career, he could simply point to the superstar who hand-picked him to play his son in his latest blockbuster.
But while Samberg is an avowed Sandler fan, he's in no rush to make the four-quadrant family films that have become the billion-dollar cornerstone of Sandler's Happy Madison Productions. Talking to him the morning after his big announcement, Samberg expressed a great deal of admiration for what Sandler's accomplished, but reaffirmed his commitment to Lonely Island, the comedy trio he co-founded with his buddies Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone. And why not? Their oddball work in the early 2000s essentially landed Samberg on SNL (where Schaffer and Taccone joined him as writers), while their inspired songwriting has resulted in Grammy nominations, a top-selling LP and some of the most durable memes in the history of the internet (e.g. "Dick in a Box", "I'm on a Boat" and "Like a Boss"). These guys have every reason to stick together.
In the below interview, Samberg talks about what he learned from the Happy Madison process, how he plans to move forward with the Lonely Island boys, the nightmarish lengths to which Will Forte will go for a laugh, and the one bit he couldn't get on the air at SNL.
Mr. Beaks: It's good timing talking to you today. You dropped a little bombshell last night.
Andy Samberg: Yep. It was a little crazy.
Beaks: We'll get to that. First, let's talk about this movie. It's interesting how this film fits into Sandler's career. It's incredibly dirty. After all these years, he's finally gone back to the comedy albums.
Samberg: That's what I've been saying to people. They're like, "So how's the movie?" I'm like, "Do you like his old albums, the ones I was obsessed with when I was thirteen?" "Yeah!" "Then you've got to see it!" It's definitely that tone.
Beaks: When it was presented to you, that had to be pretty appealing.
Samberg: I've been on record as being a huge fan of his from the second anyone wanted me to be on record about anything. (Laughs) When I read the script, I was like "This is the only chance I'm ever going to have to be in a movie with Sandler. We're the right age difference, we kind of look similar, and people already confuse me for him." It felt like it was a nice, easy fit - more so because I read it, and was like "This is properly funny." Coming from the perspective of sometimes having a more snooty comedian's taste, this is one where I was laughing reading the script, which was exciting. I know he does a wide variety of movies; he's got a production company, and he hits different quadrants and all of that kind of stuff. But for me, just because it was my formative years when he did all of that dirtier stuff, and his early stuff on SNL, and his first few movies... that's the stuff that crystalized for me, "This is my guy!" It was fun shooting it, and I'm also psyched with how it came out.
Beaks: Happy Madison is a machine. They churn out movies pretty much on a yearly basis. How did you fit in with the gang?
Samberg: They were super warm. It was definitely intimidating showing up because it's him and all his bros, and they've known each other a long time. But a few years ago, me and my Lonely Island buddies, Akiva and Jorma, we had a general meeting at Happy Madison. I think he was editing CLICK at the time. He brought us all in. It was him and all of his friends, and then we were all friends, and he was like, "You guys remind us so much of us!" (Laughs) That kind of work relationship is something that I think he really holds dear, and I definitely relate to that. It was cool to see somebody else's dynamic in that way, because I'm so used to the one I have with Kiv and Jorm. And it's the same thing: it's friends he's had since college, and they all built this huge movie empire together. It's definitely inspirational in a lot of ways, and it was also super cool to be included in the fold, and to get to see him work on a film day-to-day. It's like, "Okay, so that's how you are the star of a movie, and the producer on a movie, and also sort of a co-writer on a movie and constantly rewriting scenes as you go." There was just a lot of little things that he did every day that made me understand why he is who he is, and how he succeeds as he does. It was kind of like fantasy camp.
Beaks: So do you, Akiva and Jorma look at that as something you want to approximate?
Samberg: Definitely. We want to do more movie stuff together. Akiva and Jorma have both directed movies now. Kiv's new movie, THE WATCH, looks great. I'm really excited for him. We've been talking about wanting to do another movie. HOT ROD... we were proud of it, but it happened so early in our time at SNL. We were on the show, and then all of a sudden we were shooting a movie. I think there's a lot of funny stuff in it, but looking back we now feel like we know a little bit more about what we would've done differently. Just the way we interact with the studio, and making sure that everyone is on the same page about what the movie is going to be. We're excited to try, all three of us, to do it again in a new way. But we still want to make the songs, which have been huge for us and, in a lot of ways, the most satisfying. There's no one giving you notes. It's just your two best friends and a computer in a room. The only three people giving notes are us to each other. "Yeah, that could be better." "I don't know if this one is working yet." And then you decide on the album artwork, you decide which songs are on or off, you decide if something goes too far or not far enough, and then you put it out and it does what it does. But it's yours for real.
Beaks: With films, I know that if you keep the budget at a reasonable level, you're likely to have more control over what goes in the film.
Beaks: So would you rather make more modestly-budgeted films, or do you one day want to take a crack at making a four-quadrant comedy like Sandler?
<Samberg: Maybe some day. If there's the right idea that feels tonally like something we know how to do, I'm all for it. I love those kinds of movies. For example, when Will Ferrell did ELF... we were crazy huge Ferrell fans, but you go to see ELF and you're like, "That's just a good movie, and everyone can go see it." They play it every Christmas now. If that was something I ever got the chance to do with those guys, of course I'd want to. But I also think when it comes to comedy there's something to be said for keeping it a little smaller, so you can do things that not everyone has to find funny; you can do things that really make you laugh. That's a constant struggle when you're comedian, finding a balance between something that has "crossover" appeal, but also genuinely makes you and your friends laugh, and people who have seen a lot of comedy laugh, so it still feels fresh and catches people off guard.
Beaks: That's tricky. If you go even a little broad or mainstream, you'll lose the comedy nerds.
Samberg: Oh, and you lose them fast now with the internet. They get very angry. But that's why, hopefully, you get to do a lot of different kinds of things. For me, Sandler's a great example, Ferrell's a great example, and so is Stiller. They'll do something much more broad, but then Ferrell will do Old Milwaukee ads for no reason. You ask him, "Why'd you do that?" And he's like "I don't know. It just seemed funny." Or CASA DE MI PADRE, which is just actively trying not to make a blockbuster. "You know what would be funny? If we made this movie all in Spanish." Or Sandler doing [YOU DON'T MESS WITH THE ZOHAN]. That movie's insane. In the first five minutes, he's high-fiving a pelican. (Laughs)
Beaks: Or when John Turturro tries to put out a fire by literally, physically fighting it.
Samberg: (Laughing) Exactly. I was like, "Yeah! This one's for me!" So I think the people who have the most success with it, and maintain the respect of their comedy fans and their more broad movie fans are the ones who mix it up. Stiller, too. TROPIC THUNDER was an incredibly funny. It had a lot of rich, textured, weird jokes in it, but it also had broad appeal because of the budget and the scale of it. I walked out of that movie going, "That was properly funny." There are risky jokes in it.
Beaks: That's a deceptively tough and critical movie.
Samberg: Absolutely. And when Coogan explodes, I laughed for like fifteen minutes.
Beaks: So when I was watching THAT'S MY BOY, I couldn't figure out who was playing your boss. It drove me nuts. I knew it was someone famous, but I couldn't place him. Then I see the closing credits, and I'm like "Tony Orlando?" (Laughs) What the fuck is that? Just that he's in the movie is hilarious. So how was it working with showbiz legend Tony Orlando?
Samberg: I know everyone in interviews is always like, "He's the nicest guy," but Tony Orlando is properly the nicest man I've ever met in my life. He's got that old-school entertainment world joy. He's like, "Hey, how are you doing? You're doing great! I think you're great!" He was very confident, but not cocky. He was like, "Hey, this is comedy! This is your bag! I want help! You guys have got to steer me in the right direction!" He would constantly ask Sandler if he was doing it right, or take me or Forte aside and be like, "Is that funny? Does that work?" He's a very open, warm kind of guy. When they told me he was playing that part, I was so psyched. To have Tony Orlando, Vanilla Ice and Ciara all in the movie, it's like, "This is a music parade cast." And then to watch it back and say, "Tony Orlando is killing it! He's good!" He's got a couple of crazy lines in the movie, too, where you're like, "Whoa, did Tony Orlando say that?"
Beaks: Everyone gets to push pretty far in this movie. And so I have to ask, who would go further for a gag: you or Forte?
Samberg: Forte. Forte will do anything. I've been friends with him for almost ten years now. I have tested his boundaries with a bit many, many times, and he always takes it further than I ever thought it was going to go. If it's about nudity or something, he'll be like, "Oh, let me give you a sneak peek." And before you can even pull anything out, he's butt-naked spreading his butt cheeks open at you, and then taking pictures of himself and sending them to your mom. You're like, "Okay, buddy, you win! You're so much crazier than I am!" (Laughs) But I'm really happy for Forte. It seems like he's getting a lot of parts, and people are acknowledging how brilliant he is. We've been obsessed with him forever. MACGRUBER is probably my favorite comedy of the last five or ten years. It makes me laugh hard.
Beaks: It's one of those movies where you're constantly finding new laughs, either because you laughed over a line or you were just exhausted from laughing late in the movie.
Samberg: It's that Forte thing. He's very meticulous. Sometimes it can be really draining to write with him, because he'll go over it and over it; he'll add detail and tweak the way he says one little thing. But then by the time you get to the end of it, and you see him screaming it all out, you're like, "Oh, this was all worth it."
Beaks: So how's it going to feel this September when everyone goes back to SNL, and you're off doing something else?
Samberg: It's going to feel crazy. It was a really tough call. It's the only job I ever wanted. To have worked there at all, to have had Lorne choose me to be included in the list of people who've been in the cast there was... it's cliche, but it was a dream come true. Since I was eight, it was my dream, and it came true. And then to have gotten hired with my two best friends, and to get to do basically whatever we wanted every week with the "Digital Shorts", I can't even begin to express my gratitude to Lorne for having gotten to do it. But I'd also say that my decision was borne out of... so much of my time there was spent with the "Digital Shorts", and Akiva and Jorma both have moved on. Over the past two seasons, they were sort of in and out. They were nice enough to come help me here and there. I also felt like I started getting better and more effective at the live show, especially with the Nic Cage stuff. I had a lot of fun with that. But I will also say, in this way that I can't really put my finger on, it just felt like it was the time, it was the moment. You sign up for the contract at seven seasons, it's a really intense schedule, and in no way having to do with any other projects that I'm working on or are coming out... it wasn't influenced by anything at all. It's not like I was thinking, "Oh, well, now I've got this going I'm going to make the big leap!" It was more like, even if all of this other stuff goes away, I'm ready.
Beaks: Robert Smigel did "TV Funhouse" after he had left the staff. Has the door been left open for you to contribute "Digital Shorts" when you have a great idea?
Samberg: I hope so. I haven't talked to Lorne about it specifically, but if he would be up for it, I would love to do that. It's going to be hard to have an idea for a short and not be able to do it, especially when you're forced to do one every week for seven years. I kind of have a hunch that my brain isn't going to stop working in that way. So hopefully. My fingers are crossed that I can call up and say, "Hey, we've got this idea. What do you think?" But if not, I get that, too. It's just too soon, I guess. I didn't want to announce anything because I hadn't had a chance to talk to [Lorne], and the last few episodes were super intense. Getting those last two shorts, especially the 100th... that was a beast to put together. And I was glad that we ended with [Chris] Parnell. That felt nice. I'm very sad and torn about it, but it was nice to do it on my own terms and have it feel "right".
Beaks: We often hear about sketches that never make it to air. Some of them repeatedly go to dress, but just never get on for one reason or another. Did you have an idea that you really wanted to do, but just couldn't get it on the show?
Samberg: (Laughs) During one of the election years, I twice did this sketch where I was Kuato from TOTAL RECALL. And I tried to do a "Weekend Update" feature where I was Kuato talking about how John McCain had stolen my style. And they were like, "We're not doing that." Looking back, I get it. You can't do that. But it was so much fun to try and do this complete insane thing. I just love Kuato from TOTAL RECALL, and then to do it and try pass it off as topical, it was so much fun.
Beaks: (Laughing) So it would've just been Seth introducing Kuato?
Samberg: I think it would've been Bill [Hader] walking out and going, "I have someone who wants to talk to you." Then cut to Seth while we swap out for the dummy, and then I'd come through the dummy and go, "What's up!" That was one that, in my heart, I knew why they said "No", but I always wished that I'd gotten to try it because it just made me laugh so much.
That he got Kuato on the air at all was something of a triumph, but I'd still love to read the script for that one.
THAT'S MY BOY hits theaters Friday, June 15th. Come for the Samberg, stay for the Orlando (and, of course, the Forte).
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June 12, 2012, 3:54 p.m. CST
June 12, 2012, 3:54 p.m. CST
by Jaster Mareel
Cling to Sandler very closely Samberg, because he's the only one that will give you a job. Remember Hot Rod? Yeah.
June 12, 2012, 4 p.m. CST
As if we needed any further proof of what a shitfest this will be, the newest previews have glowing soundbites taken from TWEETS (random twitter users) after a sneak preview. Is that seriously what we're coming to? Jesus.
June 12, 2012, 4:04 p.m. CST
June 12, 2012, 4:06 p.m. CST
June 12, 2012, 4:09 p.m. CST
Say what you will about Andy and his SNL days, but Hot Rod was incredibly funny. One of few comedies I've watched repeatedly. I've shown it to many, many friends and no one's been disappointed even after I built it up. So what do you think is funny? Grown Ups? C'mon man!
June 12, 2012, 4:11 p.m. CST
by Gabe Vuotto
the movie review from Beaks will be kind.
June 12, 2012, 4:11 p.m. CST
Has Adam Sandler ever been funny? That stupid croaky old woman voice got unfunny very quickly but he still does it in almost every movie.
June 12, 2012, 4:13 p.m. CST
by a boy and his blog
seriously.....can't help but watch it whenever it's on.
June 12, 2012, 4:15 p.m. CST
Remember when AICN was quick with news. They still haven't reported on Happy Madison developing a Tonka Truck movie.
June 12, 2012, 4:16 p.m. CST
June 12, 2012, 4:18 p.m. CST
June 12, 2012, 4:21 p.m. CST
i'll have to check it out. i like Sandler. even when he's doing his 4Q movies. except for Bedtime Stories.
June 12, 2012, 4:21 p.m. CST
but for the life of me, I can't think of one individual character he's created.
June 12, 2012, 4:23 p.m. CST
June 12, 2012, 4:29 p.m. CST
but other than that, he was entertaining. The Digital Shorts definitely brought me back to watch SNL again and I'm glad they did.
June 12, 2012, 4:55 p.m. CST
by THE WALLACE
"If you want to feel old, consider this: there are kids going off to college this year who have probably never seen an SNL without a "Digital Short". This makes me think the shorts are 18 years old... or are you saying you don't watch SNL til you're 12?... cuz my kid's been watching for 2 or 3 years now and she's 8... you could say there are kids who are going into kindergarten who've never seen SNL without it... or say If a SNL digital short broke a mirror, the bad luck would be running out... but the college kid thing... am I missing something? You could just as easily say "There are elderly men who started watching SNL 7 years ago that are retiring from their bus driving jobs who have never seen an SNL without a 'Digital short'"
June 12, 2012, 5:03 p.m. CST
Is one of his best skits. Others would be Nic Cage, and......I guess that is it.
June 12, 2012, 5:09 p.m. CST
June 12, 2012, 5:12 p.m. CST
That movie was freaking great. The rage dancing. The never-ending mountainside tumble. "This is MY hat now. This is totally my hat." Parking lot dancing. Samberg driving Hader to the hospital. "BABE WAIT!" Spirit animals. Fake mustaches. "Cool beans." Parnell's AM Radio tattoo story. "I like to party." Also, FRANK. There's a word for people who can't find anything to laugh about in that movie, and that word is cantankerous.
June 12, 2012, 5:16 p.m. CST
I wouldn't change a goddamn thing about Hot Rod. Don't know what Samberg is talking about. Pretty much random humour/quotable comedy perfection (in my books)
June 12, 2012, 5:21 p.m. CST
June 12, 2012, 5:22 p.m. CST
AS: "Hey, business is pretty bad, man. I know I can act and do good work, but, fuck! I need money! Shit comedies pay my bills, thank you very much mediocre-minded American audience, you're the best!"
by Squinty CGI Flynn
June 12, 2012, 5:25 p.m. CST
Sandler isn't the idiot... tis all the folks who pay money to watch his putrid trash movies. actually i'll retract that statement. it's the suits upstairs who pay Sandler xmillions to "entertain" the idiots.
June 12, 2012, 5:57 p.m. CST
who keeps giving this fucker greenlights and money? WHO ARE YOU, CUNT????
June 12, 2012, 6 p.m. CST
It would have been pages of him asking Samberg "Do you think SNL stopped being funny before or after this sketch?"
June 12, 2012, 6:27 p.m. CST
June 12, 2012, 6:28 p.m. CST
June 12, 2012, 7:10 p.m. CST
by Steve Lamarre
hang it up Sandler.
June 12, 2012, 7:25 p.m. CST
June 12, 2012, 7:29 p.m. CST
You mean this one from 3 hours ago, doofus? http://www.aintitcool.com/node/56364
June 12, 2012, 8:22 p.m. CST
Sandler and Samberg's core fanbase are 13 year olds. The reason Sandler's last few movies have made any money is because families go to them. Funny People bombed cause of the r rating. This will bomb too. Also it doesn't help that the trailers look horrible.
June 12, 2012, 8:26 p.m. CST
by Christian Sylvain
Easily 2 of the 3 best driving forces of the show in recent years are leaving. It feels so abrupt.
June 12, 2012, 8:47 p.m. CST
by Obi Wanna Cannoli
SNL should have been axed so many times over the years but Lorne must have some sweet sweet love pictures of NBC execs.'' But any old farts who think SNL was so much better in the 1970s needs to watch the unedited shows from that era and cringe at the 90% dumb incomplete skits. We seem to only remember the funny ones that are on the Best Of DVDs.
June 12, 2012, 9:13 p.m. CST
June 12, 2012, 10:32 p.m. CST
by ajit maholtra
June 12, 2012, 10:34 p.m. CST
Anyone else find it odd how he brought Ben Stiller up almost out of no where?
June 12, 2012, 10:34 p.m. CST
Bill Cosby used to make funny movies. I once saw a movie where he was the devil. It was called The Devil and Max Devilin
by ajit maholtra
Then I saw a funny movie where he played a Ghost Dad. And then there was a funny movie where he rode and ostrich while shooting a laser gun. That was weird.
June 12, 2012, 10:38 p.m. CST
I just hope this guy just falls from the earth cus he SUKSSSSSSSS there nothing funny or creative from him
June 12, 2012, 10:50 p.m. CST
...and get cool-points from the interviewee. Sure, sure...
June 13, 2012, 1:13 a.m. CST
June 13, 2012, 1:20 a.m. CST
I watched that SNL LAZY SUNDAY embed. Verdict = that trash could only be transmitted for free...like an STD...yo.
June 13, 2012, 7:31 a.m. CST
RULES!!! and for the record THAT'S MY BOY was HILARIOUS. Stop being so hateful all the time, haters. You are going to hate your life away, miss all the cool stuff and die angry. Cool Beans
June 13, 2012, 7:38 a.m. CST
The digital shorts are of course great but so are his Cage and Wahlberg skits.
June 13, 2012, 8:52 a.m. CST
by the new transported man
Depth of field indicates that those dudes are like 1 foot tall.
June 13, 2012, 8:58 a.m. CST
To me anyone making a movie with Sandler is basically working side-by-side with Hitler every day for like seven months and not shooting him.
There, I said it.
June 13, 2012, 9 a.m. CST
by the new transported man
June 13, 2012, 9 a.m. CST
Wow that must have been one funny mother fucker!
June 13, 2012, 4:16 p.m. CST
...if you can stomach/like dumb movies. I was reliving Super Dave the whole run time. Much funnier than say, Adam Sandler's last ten movies.
June 13, 2012, 4:18 p.m. CST
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