Like Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone, you goofed around with your best friends in grade school; perhaps, like them, you even extended that goofball camaraderie into high school and university and beyond, as they did. It is, however, fairly certain that you and your friends -- unlike them -- did not parlay that lifelong tradition of laughter into a series of virally infectious internet shorts (released under the banner "The Lonely Island") that earned you jobs at a cultural-institution sketch comedy show and then into the star, director and co-star roles in a major-studio motion picture. But, sitting around a gleaming table at a San Francisco four-star hotel, Samberg, Schaffer and Taccone still give the impression they're goofing off and trying to make each other laugh instead of promoting a major motion picture -- and that easy sense of friends-and-fun is up on the screen in Hot Rod. Samberg stars as would-be stuntman Rod Kimble; Schaffer took the director's chair; Taccone plays Rod's younger stepbrother (and videographer) Kevin. The threesome spoke about stuntwork, getting beaten up by your idols, the unavailable-on-DVD '80s epic Rad -- and much more; Cinematical's questions are indicated.
Cinematical: Let's start by talking about those Saturday Night Live digital shorts -- what did you learn from those that you were able to apply to Hot Rod, and what working habits did you have from those that were no help whatsoever making Hot Rod?
Akiva Schaffer: Well, the first part's easier to answer than the second part ...
Andy Samberg: Oh, the second part's easier ...
Akiva Schaffer: Well, I'll take the first part and you take the second! This is gonna work out great! ... And what you just saw happen pretty much answers the first part, which is that -- and it kind of goes before even the shorts, (even the pre-SNL shorts), since we decided to move to Tinseltown , as we call it, and tried to make it. ...
Andy Samberg: We do NOT call it Tinseltown!
Akiva Schaffer: We do ...
Jorma Taccone: I just found out recently it's called 'Los Angeles.'
Andy Samberg: He would give the DMV his address and say 'Tinseltown, USA."
Akiva Schaffer: But, doing all those shorts, I was amazed how much on the set of a movie, once you realize what the 200 people around you are actually doing, and you know their names and you're not as intimidated by the buzzing around of the 200 people -- the wardrobe people are just worrying about wardrobe, the lighting people are just worrying about lights -- how much it would actually boil right back down to the three of us and a couple of 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 this thing in terms of (how) you're just trying to make the little scenes work. It gets very small right after it gets very big.
Andy Samberg: Because the creative battery was pretty much the same -- and a lot of the other people we brought in were our friends, or very quickly became our friends, so it was pretty loose, actually.
Akiva Schaffer: And 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've figured out what (everyone there) is doing and they're all quiet and you're saying "Action!" All of a sudden, it's just kind of what's in the middle that matters, anyway.
Andy Samberg: As for the second part of your question -- what habits did we pick up from the shorts that didn't help at all -- I would say the SNL schedule, specifically, was the biggest obstacle for us. At SNL, it'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.
Akiva Schaffer: You need the daylight.
Andy Samberg: And I'm like (expletive deleted). Really early. And for me, personally -- I know it's bad for them, but for me personally, it's really hard to wake up in the morning. And when you're shooting for daylight, which we were, you got to get up at 5 in the morning. And I'm sure people with regular jobs are, like, 'Stop your crying." But we intentionally geared our life to NOT HAVE TO DO THAT, and then you're like "Finally! The big dream! A movie! And now you have to have ... a ... regular person schedule." That was the hardest adjustment to make, especially after getting used to the SNL schedule.
You guys were really cited in the rise of YouTube ... What was that like?
Jorma Taccone: It is funny because we are tied to, like, the rise of YouTube, but I think that was just because we were doing our own shorts and producing them ourselves long before maybe other people were, but... if it wasn't us, it would have been somebody else; YouTube would still be flourishing.
Akiva Schaffer: Other videos have gotten popular on there after our, after "Lazy Sunday," so one of them at least would have drawn everybody over there. They got lucky, because "Lazy Sunday" encouraged people to find the site; that's how I found YouTube. But we got lucky, because a hit sketch on SNL isn't exactly newsworthy; I mean, it's not like there were a hundred articles about '(More) Cowbell. ..."
Cinematical: I wish.
Andy Samberg: We wrote a hundred articles about cowbell ...
Akiva Schaffer: My senior thesis was on cowbell ... But we got a lot of free press out of the fact, because with the rise of YouTube we always had to be a part of that story, so it worked out to be pretty good press.
Andy Samberg: The way you say that, "The Rise of YouTube. ..."
Akiva Schaffer: I would never say, "The Rise of Us," but "The Rise of YouTube ..."
Andy Samberg: It sounds really scary, like (dramatic voice:) "The Rise of YouTube ..."
Akiva Schaffer: (Equally dramatic voice:) "The Post-YouTube World. ..."
You guys have been friends since junior high school, so before there was Lonely Island, there was...
Jorma Taccone: The world didn't even exist before Lonely Island. (Laughs.)
Akiva Schaffer: We were actually born in Berkeley, we all went to Berkeley High School... We got to high school and we all became friends and it basically was maybe eight dudes, and we just called ourselves "The Dudes." Now, in high school we called ourselves "The Fellas."
Jorma Taccone: A lot's changed. We've really matured and grown.
Andy Samberg: Pretty much when you're in high school your dream is to figure out who's going to pay you to just joke around with your friends from high school, and the three of us went off and the other five are like chemists and studied American Studies in Michigan and are getting their PhDs... so they blew it. They didn't make it.
Is there a roster of '80s movies that you would recommend as preparatory viewing for this film?
Jorma Taccone: The one that I keep mentioning -- just because I'm trying to get it released on DVD -- is (BMX-bicycling epic) Rad, which is influential on so many levels.
Akiva Schaffer: You guys all know Rad?
(Gathered press indicate that yes, they do.)
Andy Samberg: Oh, wow, we gotta go get a beer.
Akiva Schaffer: It is a rare thing to sit at a table with eight people, and they all know what Rad is.
Andy Samberg: There's more people than I (would have been) expecting; there are always one or two people at a Q&A who say "So, it was Rad on purpose, right?" "Yes!" But other stuff, too ...
Akiva Schaffer: Well, Footloose obviously. We just wanted it to feel nostalgic, a little bit; we wanted it to feel like -- (Hot Rod is) nothing like E.T. but we wanted it to kind of have the tonal quality, picture-wise, of E.T. just to kind of remind you of the movies of our childhood.
Jorma Taccone: Just the fact that that Europe album The Final Countdown came out in 1986 and Rad came out in 1986 ... I'm starting to think that maybe 1986 is my favorite year, of all time!
Andy Samberg: I remember being a young lad and being like 1986 is my favorite year so far!
In the earlier Lonely Island stuff, all three of you performed. But now, Andy's the face out there; was there ever a time when you made the conscious decision to make Andy "the face," the guy who's out there?
Akiva Schaffer: No, Lorne Michaels made that decision. (Laughter.)
Jorma Taccone: No, Lorne Michaels made that decision a while ago. (More Laughter.)
Akiva Schaffer: But, (indicating Andy) you're the one who, since you were whatever age, had your own dream of being on SNL ... I mean, it would be truly sad if one of us was the face on SNL and you were the one writing ...
Jorma Taccone: That would be infuriating..
Andy Samberg: And, the one thing I did outside of these guys is stand-up; I did that for seven years. These guys were working on their own stuff and I would drag my ass out to these terrible clubs and do sets, which I think in my audition for the show came in very, very handy. But, that being said, I would love to see these two on-screen a lot more.
Cinematical: Speaking of your ass, how morally satisfying was it to be beaten up by Ian McShane?
Andy Samberg: I think that's the first time anyone's started a question with ... "Speaking of your ass. ..."
Akiva Schaffer: It's an honor, after watching Deadwood; there were some of the best fights with (McShane) ever. ...
Andy Samberg: Absolutely, as soon as we knew he was going to do it, we all said "Holy shit, Swearengen's going to be in the movie!"
Akiva Schaffer: He was our first choice for the part ...
Andy Samberg: We're huge Deadwood fans. It was a delight; I mean, he kicked the shit out of me .. and not always fake-ly; I mean some of those blows really connected ...
Cinematical: Many of them landed?
Andy Samberg: Yeah; and he's pretty tough; I think he expected me to be tough, as well.
Jorma Taccone: Not the case.
Andy Samberg: It was a really good time; we had a great stunt supervisor, Nick Powell, who did The Bourne Identity and Gladiator and The Last Samurai. He choreographed this whole thing, and I learned fight training, and trained on mats, and learned to take a fall and take a punch .. all very contrary to my nerdy nature. But it was cool, and it was fun ... and McShane's a badass.
Andy, how many of the stunts in Hot Rod did you do yourself?
Andy Samberg: I mean, I was on the bike a lot, I didn't ever get airborne...
Jorma Taccone: Well, you went off that curb! You got some air, about six inches.
Andy Samberg: Yeah, about as much air as I could get... You know, I had never ridden a motorbike, and I was sort of terrible on any sort of wheels to start with -- BMX, skateboard, you name it, I crashed on it -- badly -- as a kid. So, I was starting from scratch and by that measurement, I did a lot of stuff.
Akiva Schaffer: You didn't have to be very good on it to sell the character, luckily; (Rod) wasn't supposed to be much of an expert.
Andy Samberg: But that being said, what we realized and what we had explained to us is the tricky thing about the stunts in the movie is they all go wrong. And it's a lot harder to make something look like it's terribly awry, but still be safe. You have to have stunt training to know how to do that stuff -- and sometimes, it doesn't matter; you just hurt yourself. So, I wasn't allowed to do stuff mostly, and to be honest it was the smart move. I think the one stunt I thought I actually could do -- and looking back I'm so glad I didn't do -- is the pool (stunt). (Rod attempts to jump his moped over a municipal pool.) "It's like, what? It's water! I'll be fine." But (the stunt team explained), "You will die." "Whatever! I'm a MAN!" The (actual stuntman) did it and I was like, (whispers) "Holy shit, I'm glad I didn't do that one."