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.

by | August 2, 2007 | Comments


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.

Q: What
was life like before The Lonely Island?

Jorma:
There was just an abyss.

Akiva: I
don’t even know. Did the world even exist?

Jorma:
Before the internet…

Akiva:
We really were friends in seventh grade and [Samberg] was a year younger than
us. When we got to eighth grade he was in seventh, so we didn’t actually really
know each other that well. Then when we got to high school we all became
friends.  Basically, there were maybe eight dudes and just like we call
ourselves "the dudes" now, in high school we called ourselves "the fellas."

Jorma:
A
lot’s changed since then.  A lot.  I guess we’ve really matured and grown. 

Akiva: I
guess that kind of answers it. There was "the fellas" and it was eight dudes. 
Pretty much, when you’re in high school, your dream is to figure out who’s going
to pay you to continue to joke around with your friends and the three of us
figured it out. And the other five are chemists and studied American Studies at
Michigan and are getting their PhDs.

Jorma: A
bunch of them killed themselves.

Akiva:
They blew it.  They gave up too early. 

Andy: I
love that you said, "Eight dudes made up the fellas before we became the dudes."

Akiva:
That’s a great quote. It’s just the truth.  I can’t apologize for the truth.

Q: One
of the funniest parts in Hot Rod was the scene where Samberg and Taccone say “Cool Beans” to each other in weird voices for about a minute, almost like a bizarre electronica song. How did
that come to be?

Akiva: I
basically wrote it as a scene where they say "cool beans" to each other. And
they just keep repeating the words to each other and slowly start saying it
faster and in weirder and weirder ways.  Which led us to basically 40 minutes of
footage of them saying it.

Jorma:
No joke, probably like 40 minutes.

Andy:
And really bizarre takes.

Q: We’ll
see it on the DVD?

Jorma:
Worst DVD extra, most terrible DVD extra of all time.  And we’ll just have
commentary the whole time. 

Andy: I
think we lost a few people in the crew that day.  They were like, "F— this. 
I’m getting out right now."

Akiva:
It almost wasn’t in the movie.  We put it in at the very end. When it comes back
from a test it’s always the most liked and the most disliked. Because if you
don’t like it, it will turn you off of everything. And if you do like it, it’s
your favorite part.

Q: Is
there a roster of 1980s movies that you recommend as preparatory viewing for
Hot Rod
?

Jorma:
The one that we keep mentioning, just because I’m trying to get it re-released
on DVD, is RAD.  [And
Footloose]
was influential on so many levels.

Akiva:
We just wanted [Hot Rod] to look nostalgic a little bit.  Like, it’s
nothing like
E.T
.
but we wanted it to have the tonal quality, picture-wise, of
E.T
.
Just to remind us of the movies from our childhood.

Jorma:
The fact that the Europe album, The Final Countdown, [and]
RAD
[both] came out in
1986 [is making me] think that 1986 was my favorite year of all time.

Andy: I
remember being a young lad in ’86 and being like, "I think ’86 is my favorite
year of my life so far."

Akiva:
It makes sense because we were like around nine years old and that’s when you
first start striking out on your own a little bit.

Andy:
Until ’88, right?  ’88 was the s—.

Jorma: I
couldn’t get enough of 1988!

Q: With
Lonely Island all three of you acted.  Now Andy’s the face out there on screen. 
Was there any time when you were, "Let’s make a decision: Andy’s going to be the
guy?"

Andy:
Lorne Michaels
made that decision a while ago.

Akiva: 
[To Andy] But you were always the one, since you were whatever age, had the
dream of being on SNL, not me or [Jorma].  It would be truly sad if one
of us was the face on SNL and you were the one writing.  That would have
been infuriating. This is yours and we were kind of like, "Dude, that’s what
you’ve always wanted."

Andy:
And the one thing I did outside of these guys was stand up for seven years.
While you guys were writing your own stuff I was still dragging my ass to
terrible clubs and doing sets. And that kind of stuff came in very, very handy
for me [during the SNL audition].  But that being said, I would love to
see these dudes on screen a lot more. 

Q:
Speaking of your ass, how morally satisfying was it to be beaten up by Ian
McShane?

Andy: I
think that’s the first time someone’s ever started with "Speaking of your ass."

We were
huge Deadwood fans.  It was a delight, I mean he kicked the s— out of me and
not always fakely.  Some of those blows really connected.  He’s really tough so
I think he expected me to be as well.  It was a really good time.

Q: How
many of the stunts did Andy do?

Andy: I
was on the bike a lot, [but] I didn’t ever get airborne.

Akiva:
You went over a curb.

Andy: Oh
yeah, title shot.  That was me.

I had
never ridden a motor bike of any sort before and I was sort of terrible with
anything on wheels to start with.  Skateboard, BMX; you name it and I’ve crashed
on it when I was a kid.  So I’m starting from scratch and by that measurement I
did a lot of stuff.  If I had tried anything too dangerous I would have been
hurt.

Akiva:
You didn’t have to be too good on it to sell the character, luckily.  He’s not
supposed to be much of an expert.

Andy:
The tricky thing about the stunts in the movie is that they all go wrong, and
it’s a lot harder to make something look like it’s terribly array but still be
safe.  You have to actually have stunt training to do that stuff and sometimes
it doesn’t matter, you just hurt yourself.  So I wasn’t allowed to do that stuff
basically. 

To be
honest, it was the smart move.  I thought I actually could do the pool [stunt]. 
I was like, "But its water, I’ll be fine." And they were like, "You will die." 
"Whatever.  I’m a man!"  Then the guy did it and I was like, "Holy s—, I’m
glad I didn’t do this."

Q:  How
did everyone change Pam
Brady’s
script to make it more specifically for your talents?

Akiva:
She had written it for
Will Ferrell
and was envisioned as a vehicle for him. As a testament to how
well she wrote it, it was very much obviously for
Will Ferrell.  When
you read it, you couldn’t picture anyone else in the movie but Will Ferrell.  So
if [Samberg] had done those lines, it would have just been like an impression of
Will Ferrell.  We had to go through just to make it [feel] like it was ours and
his and all that kind of stuff. 

Q:
Hot Rod
has a great soundtrack.  Did you have a lot of input with the music
in the film?

Akiva:
It’s all ours.

Andy:
They’re going to release the soundtrack, actually. 

Akiva:
Which they don’t do all the time these days because soundtracks don’t make all
that much money.  We were very excited they were actually going to put out a
soundtrack.

Q: And
how will the soundtrack be different from Europe’s Greatest Hits?"

Akiva:
Oh, it’s much worse than that.  It might as well just be

Europe:  The Final Countdown.  Eight out of 10 songs that are on
The Final Countdown
album are in this movie.  We were trying to make it all
ten so you could just go to the store and buy it.  We went into

Europe‘s library and there’s a lot of great songs, but we just stuck to songs
from that one album, just to try to do that for the fun of it. 

Q: One
movie that’s referenced in Hot Rod is
The Whoopee Boys.

Andy:
Yeah!

Jorma: I
laugh every time I see that. This is our first
Whoopee Boys
question.

Q:
What’s that movie like anyways?

Akiva:
This is the first time I’ve gotten to tell this story. I’m happy to tell this
story. This is one of our proudest moments of getting a little bit of power by
making a movie for

Paramount.

It’s our
first day on the set where they built Kevin’s room and there’s a
Jimmy
Neutron: Boy Geniu
s
poster [on the wall] because I told them to put a
movie poster in there.  But I’m like, "That really doesn’t quite fit because
it’s computer animated and so digital looking.  Everything in their world is so
analog except for their computer.  What other posters do you have?"

So of
course they all have to be

Paramount
and it was Summer
Rental
with John
Candy
and The Whoopee Boys, which we had never heard of.  As soon as
we saw that poster, it’s on his wall.  [The poster’s] a painting, like they do
in those 80’s movie posters, with [
Marco
Keith’s and Paul Rodriguez’s]

pants down and they’re
looking at you from between their legs and it says, "They’ve got a thing or two
to show high society."  And we were like, "Oh. My. God.  Not only is this poster
going on the wall but we need to clear off space on the wall, so you can see
it."

Andy: We
were obsessed with it on set the whole time.  Our whole crew was into it.

Jorma:
We added lines [referencing The Whoopee Boys].

Akiva:
We kept trying to figure out how we could see The Whoopee Boys. I had my
assistant try to find it and all he could find were old VHS’s on eBay which
would have taken a week to get there.  It’s a Paramount movie so we had a
producer call Paramount to see if they had a DVD or something.  But they don’t
have anything. They don’t even have VHS at

Paramount.

So [the
producer’s] like, "All they have is a 35 mm print. We’ll overnight it."  They
got us a theater in Vancouver on a Saturday night.  We had the 35 mm print sent
out and we got a limo and invited the whole cast and crew.

Jorma:
You had to do a shot of Jagermeister to enter the theater. 

Akiva:
This probably won’t surprise you but the guy who played Rico [Danny
McBride
] was really into Jager Bombs.

Andy:
Ironically, we got way into Jager Bombs.

Akiva:
Which is a very fraternity kind of a drink.  It’s Red Bull and Jagermeister. 
It’s a terrible drink.

Andy:
I’ll tell you what though, it makes for a great Whoopee Boys screening.

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