NEW YORK – In case you haven’t been tuning in, there’s a new star on the rise at “Saturday Night Live.” Andy Samberg, a 27-year-old Berkeley, Calif., native, joined the cast this season to help fill the void left by Tina Fey and Mya Rudolf, who are both on maternity leave.
But while Samberg might be an instant celebrity, thanks to the blog success of the skit “Lazy Sunday” – in which he and co-star Chris Parnell rap geeky lyrics – what most of his fans don’t realize is that he’s a package deal. Samberg and his friends, Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer, who form a collective known as The Lonely Island, were recruited by SNL as a writing team, a rarity for the show.
Friends since high school, the trio teamed up professionally after college and began creating short films and satiric music videos. But after a few years of unsuccessfully peddling their material around Los Angeles’ studio system, they grew increasingly frustrated. “If I had a pie chart of that time it would be like, ‘Year 1: no progress. Year 2: no progress,'” jokes Samberg. Fed up, they turned to the Internet, launching the Web site thelonelyisland.com to showcase their work. Thanks in part to the same word-of-blog pandemic that made their co-written “Lazy Sunday” skit a success, their Lonely Island site drew a large cult following, which in turn led to opportunities offline.
Then, in June, MTV recruited “The Dudes,” as they are sometimes called, as writers for the Video Music Awards, hosted by SNL alum Jimmy Fallon. As they tell it, Fallon was instantly smitten by their quirky alt-comedic stylings.
“I don’t want to say we charmed his pants off,” demurs Samberg.
“I’d say we got them halfway down,” offers Taccone.
They obviously did something right, because by the end of the summer, all three members of The Lonely Island were flown out to New York to audition for SNL’s 2005-2006 season.
When Samberg was cast as a featured player with no word about Taccone and Schaffer, the group faced the unhappy prospect of having to split up. But the show came through with writing contracts for both Taccone and Schaffer, and the three moved into their office in 30 Rockefeller Center, complete with three matching desks.
This story first appeared in the December 29, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Of course, fame has a funny way of tampering with even the most solid of partnerships, from Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis to Nick and Jessica, and as “Lazy Sunday” continues its blogosphere trajectory, Taccone and Schaffer have to reconcile with the fact that most of the attention – and credit – is being given to Samberg. For the time being, however, the three friends are resolved not to let a few uninformed fans come between their all-for-one team dynamic. Asked if there’s a leader of the group, they are decidedly diplomatic.
“We’re socialists,” jokes Samberg.
“It rotates,” says Taccone.
“Usually,” Schaffer explains, “it’s just whoever is the least hungover.”