The Lonely Island: The Hottest Thing In Fake Hip-Hop The Saturday Night Live joke-rappers behind the viral smash "Lazy Sunday" discuss their new album and the importance of teamwork in comedy.

The Lonely Island: The Hottest Thing In Fake Hip-Hop

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

Back in 2005, "Saturday Night Live's" relationship with the Internet changed forever when one of its short skits landed online. It was a music video about two guys catching a matinee show of the "Chronicles of Narnia" film - in short, a "Lazy Sunday."

(Soundbite of "Saturday Night Live" skit)

Mr. ANDY SAMBERG and Mr. CHRIS PARNELL (Members, "Saturday Night Live"): (Rapping) We roll up to the theater, ticket buying' what we're handling'. You can call us Aaron Burr from the way we dropping' Hamiltons. We're parked in our seats, movie trivia's the illest. What "Friends" alum starred in films with Bruce Willis? We had to go fast, it was scary. Everyone stared in awe when we screamed, Matthew Perry. Now quiet in the theater or it's going to get tragic. We're about to get taken to a dream world of magic. It's The Chronic - what? - cles of Narnia. Yes, the Chronic - what? - cles of Narnia. We love that Chronic...

HANSEN: "SNL" had mostly been appreciated via the airwaves, but it was now getting far more play on the web. Pulling in more than 7 million views, the mock rap "Lazy Sunday" was an immediate viral sensation on YouTube. And remember, this was back when YouTube didn't produce one of those every week.

The song was written by "SNL" cast member Andy Samberg, and SNL writers Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone. They are the comedy trio known as the Lonely Island. Their songs and music videos since "Lazy Sunday" have earned them an Emmy award and a Grammy nomination. Now, they have a new album, "Turtleneck & Chain," and the trio is in our New York bureau.

Welcome, everybody.

THE LONELY ISLAND: Hi. How are you?

(Soundbite of laughter)

HANSEN: I'm putting my hands up in the studio - is what's happening.

Mr. ANDY SAMBERG: Loving that, raising the roof.

HANSEN: Raising the roof.

(Soundbite of laughter)

HANSEN: Whenever the Lonely Island releases a new song or a video or a sketch -I mean, the Internet really overloads. But you started a lot earlier than "Lazy Sunday," and you actually worked on different coasts.

Andy Samberg, I'll start with you. Can you give us a brief history of The Lonely Island?

Mr. SAMBERG: Sure thing. We are all friends from junior high and high school. We grew up in Berkeley, California. And when we all graduated from college, we decided to move to Los Angeles together and start trying to make comedy stuff. And we put up a website called TheLonelyIsland.com and started shooting videos, and sort of went from there.

HANSEN: What do you think drew you to each other?

Mr. SAMBERG: Well, we all have parents from New York. So we all sort of attribute our immediate kinship to sarcastic parents.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. AKIVA SCHAFFER (Member, The Lonely Island): We were all short and skinny and white.

Mr. JORMA TACCONE (Member, The Lonely Island): Yeah, we're all the exact, same level of attractiveness...

HANSEN: Ah, OK.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. TACCONE: mildly.

(Soundbite of laughter)

HANSEN: But were you like, audio-AV geeks?

Mr. SAMBERG: I mean, Akiva certainly was.

Mr. SCHAFFER: What? I was like - we were more skateboard-ish. But Andy was just a jock.

Mr. SAMBERG: Yeah, I played soccer. I couldn't skate for nothing.

Mr. SCHAFFER: He would pick on us.

(Soundbite of laughter)

HANSEN: A bully. Bully. Andy...

Mr. SCHAFFER: Yes.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SAMBERG: I got like, 10 pounds on both these guys.

Mr. TACCONE: He still is. He still is.

HANSEN: I want to play a bit for everyone off your new recording. This is a little bit called "Momma."

(Soundbite of song, "Momma")

THE LONELY ISLAND: (Rapping) Even though I dont say it often enough, I appreciate everything you did for us. Never take you for granted cause it ain't hard see, the best parts of you are now a part of me. Oh, Momma. And when it was cold outside, you kept us warm and held us down.

Unidentified Woman: Hi, boys. Who wants a snack?

THE LONELY ISLAND: Mom, get out. We're in the studio.

Unidentified Woman: Just checking on my guys.

THE LONELY ISLAND: Get out of here. We're making a track, you idiot. Just leave. Go.

Unidentified Woman: Okey-doke.

THE LONELY ISLAND: You suck, Mom.

(Rapping) You're my one true love, my heart, my mom. I have so much respect, I wrote this song. So I'd like to...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SAMBERG: A tale as old as time.

HANSEN: Is it? Yes, absolutely. Is it a little autobiographical? I mean, you all put your songs together at home in high school, you know. Is it?

Mr. SAMBERG: It's an anthem for all the jerky little kids out there who scream at their moms.

Mr. TACCONE: Yeah, but it's relatable for everybody. You love your mom, but you still want to scream at her every second. It's so embarrassing.

Mr. SAMBERG: We all love our mom so much, but we also all take them for granted.

HANSEN: Was it inspired at all by "Wayne's World," that same conceit about being in the basement, and they were doing a cable TV show - and you guys are doing a, you know, recording?

Mr. SAMBERG: I think everything we do is somewhat inspired by "Wayne's World."

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. TACCONE: I think I saw that movie in the theaters like, five times.

HANSEN: Did you really?

Mr. TACCONE: Yeah.

Mr. SAMBERG: Oh, yeah.

HANSEN: Oh, man.

Mr. SAMBERG: That was a big one for us.

HANSEN: When you guys were growing up, who did you look up to, comedically and musically?

Mr. SCHAFFER: Steve Martin, Monty Python, Mel Brooks. A little later on, it was more Sandler and...

Mr. SAMBERG: Farley and Jim Carrey, Mike Myers and...

HANSEN: Sure. Not a Weird Al, though.

Mr. SCHAFFER: Oh, absolutely.

Mr. SAMBERG: We love Weird Al. Love Weird Al. oh, my God. Yeah.

Mr. TACCONE: Huge into him. I used to listen to "The Dr. Demento Show" and like, record things on cassette tape...

Mr. SAMBERG: We were also all big into "Police Squad" and the "Naked Gun" movies, and all the Zucker Brothers stuff.

Mr. SCHAFFER: Yeah, exactly. Yeah.

HANSEN: Oh, absolutely.

Mr. TACCONE: "Airplane" and...

Mr. SAMBERG: All the ridiculous, sort of surreal, silly stuff.

HANSEN: Right.

Mr. SAMBERG: Exactly.

Mr. TACCONE: My dad was a huge fan of like, W.C. Fields and Fatty Arbuckle, and all those kind of guys and been like, you know...

Mr. SAMBERG: Marx Brothers.

HANSEN: Yeah.

Mr. TACCONE: ...Jack Benny and that whole era, so I watched a lot of - we didn't have TV so he would rent these 16-millimeter cameras for my birthday and we would...

Mr. SCHAFFER: Projectors.

Mr. TACCONE: Yeah, projectors.

Mr. SAMBERG: We definitely went through a Marx Brothers phase when we were living in L.A. a bunch of years ago. We watched a bunch of old Marx Brothers movies, and decided that every time we told a joke that we all three appreciated, we would shake each other's hands and go: Very nice, very nice. Very nice. Congratulations.

(Soundbite of laughter)

HANSEN: So who was Groucho? Who was Chico? Who was Harpo?

Mr. TACCONE: It's very apparent. I'm definitely Chico.

Mr. SCHAFFER: Yeah, I'm definitely the silent one.

Mr. SAMBERG: And I'm definitely the one with the gigantic, fake-looking nose.

(Soundbite of laughter)

HANSEN: I want to play another song off your new album. This one is called "Jack Sparrow." And in it, you've snagged Michael Bolton as a guest singer on a rather extravagant rap song. And what we're going to hear is your recording session. And apparently, Michael Bolton can't stop talking about having just watched the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies.

(Soundbite of song, "Jack Sparrow")

Mr. MICHAEL BOLTON (Singer): (Singing) This is the tale of Captain Jack Sparrow, pirate so brave on the Seven Seas.

THE LONELY ISLAND: What?

Mr. BOLTON: (Singing) Mystical quest to the isle of Tortuga, raven locks sway on the ocean breeze.

THE LONELY ISLAND: (Rapping) Yeah, that was kind of weird but we're back in the club, buying up the...

HANSEN: You three have become masters of the hilarious cameo: Natalie Portman, Justin Timberlake, John Waters, Norah Jones, Snoop Dogg - that's just a few.

Is it an ever hard to convince them, to wrangle them in? And then is there any trick to getting them to be funny?

Mr. SAMBERG: We just dangle Jorma as the carrot.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. TACCONE: When I said that we were all equally attractive, I meant that I'm slightly more attractive.

Mr. SAMBERG: He's got a charm that you can't really put your finger on. We just kind of like, tell him to unbutton a few buttons on his shirt, go in there, and just give 'em hell.

Mr. TACCONE: I do it willingly.

(Soundbite of laughter)

HANSEN: When you are creating a song or a project, do you each have different roles, or do they kind of blend in?

Mr. TACCONE: We kind of do everything, and each of us has our own kind of strengths as well.

Mr. SAMBERG: I will say, in my opinion, all of our strongest songs have heavy influence from all three of us.

HANSEN: Do you all find the same things funny?

Mr. SAMBERG: Almost always.

Mr. SCHAFFER: Oh yeah, almost. And in general, if one person doesn't get it and is like, I don't know why that - you guys think that's so funny, they just need to leave the room and let the other two keep pushing forward with it; rather than naysaying it until it, you know, slows down or anything. That's our process.

Mr. TACCONE: There's no time in comedy for naysaying.

HANSEN: No. Andy, you did live stand-up, right?

Mr. SAMBERG: I did, yes.

HANSEN: What was that like for you? I mean, you can't pre-reproduce anything.

Mr. SAMBERG: I don't know. I loved it. I think part of me wanting to do stand-up was always having wanted to be in the cast of "SNL," which I knew was a live performance kind of a thing as well.

HANSEN: I want to play another song off your new album, "Turtleneck and Chain." And it's called "Threw It on the Ground," and it's about an overly suspicious guy who's also just sort of dumb, going through a day. Let's listen to it.

(Soundbite of song, "Threw It on the Ground")

THE LONELY ISLAND: (Rapping) At the Farmer's Market with my so-called girlfriend. She hands me her cell phone, says it's my dad. Man, this ain't my dad. This is a cell phone. I threw it on the ground. What, you think Im stupid? I'm not a part of this system. My dad's not a phone. Duh. Some folks...

(Soundbite of laughter)

HANSEN: And needless to say, he throws a lot of things on the ground.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SAMBERG: Very astute.

HANSEN: Right. Comedy really is, sometimes, reducing an idea to the absurd. What I love about you guys is, you don't really take yourselves too seriously. You seem to be poking fun at yourselves for not being able to live up to the hype that's around you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

HANSEN: I mean, am I reading too much into this here?

Mr. TACCONE: No, I think self-deprecation is a big part of our humor. We always want to be self-deprecating. Like, I still occasionally die laughing just thinking that my name is Jorma. Somehow, I think that's really funny.

(Soundbite of laughter)

HANSEN: Anyway, I really appreciated the fact that you could give us a PG-rated interview for the work that you guys do.

Mr. SCHAFFER: It was really difficult for us.

Mr. TACCONE: We do it for the kids.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SCHAFFER: We have huge potty mouths.

HANSEN: Do it for the kids.

Mr. SAMBERG: I like to think we're very family-friendly.

HANSEN: OK.

Mr. SCHAFFER: It's not true, but he likes to think it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

HANSEN: Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone are the members of the comedy trio the Lonely Island. Their new album, "Turtleneck and Chain," is out May 10th. And they joined us from our New York bureau.

Gentlemen, it has been a pleasure. Thank you so much.

THE LONELY ISLAND: Thank you.

HANSEN: And you can go to NPR.org to see the video for "Lazy Sunday," and to listen to one of the Lonely Island's new songs.

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Im Liane Hansen.

(Soundbite of song, "Lazy Sunday")

Mr. SAMBERG and Mr. PARNELL: (Rapping) Lazy Sunday, wake up in the late afternoon, call Parnell just to see how he's doing. Hello. What up, Parn? Yo, Samberg, what's cracking? You thinking what Im thinking? Narnia. Man, it's happening. But first my hunger pains are sticking like duct tape. Let's hit up Magnolia and back on some cupcakes. No doubt that bakery has got all the bomb frosting. I love those cupcakes like McAdams loves Goslin. Goslin, Goslin, Goslin, Goslin. Two, no six, no 12, baker's dozen. I told you that I'm crazy for these cupcakes, cousin. Yo, where's the movie playing? Upper West Side, dude. Well, let's hit up Yahoo Maps to find the dopest route. I prefer Map Quest. That's a good one, too...

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