Andy Samberg may not be a household name, but his face
should be familiar to anyone who’s ever surfed the Web.
Samberg, 28, a two-season
veteran of Saturday Night Live and two-time
writer for the MTV Movie Awards, could
be on the verge of yet another breakthrough with the offbeat comedy Hot Rod,
in which he stars alongside fellow SNL
player Jorma Taccone, 30, as an aspiring stuntman. But Samberg’s rapid
ascent to the big screen might never have been possible were it not for the
unprecedented success of two short films, Lazy Sunday and Dick in a Box, which
became overnight Internet sensations.
“Without Lazy Sunday,
the movie wouldn’t have happened as quickly as it did,” he says. “The attention
it got from the press and the great timing, with YouTube technology coming into
its own just when we had the clip that people wanted to see, validated us in
the eyes of the public. It made Paramount think we were legit enough to give us
While Lazy Sunday put
the Berkeley native on the fast track at SNL, it also helped to ensure that his work with his
friends and longtime writing partners, Taccone and Akiva Schaffer, would
“The three of us went to Willard Junior High in Berkeley,
but Andy was a year behind us, so there wasn’t much interaction,” says
Schaffer, 29. “We used to take his lunch money. Then we went to Berkeley High,
and we became total jerks. So Andy fit right in.”
Although the trio was separated during their
they remained steadfast in their determination to translate their common
interest in film and their affinity for comedy into full-time jobs. So they did
what any aspiring performers would do – they moved to L.A.
“Everybody has friends that
they goof off with, and we
wanted to get paid to do it. So we moved to L.A. to trick people into paying
us,” says Schaffer. “We made a pact that we would be making short films within
a year, and it took us 10 or 11 months before we could afford a computer. We
worked crappy temp jobs, and we all got fired. We got fired as a threesome
once, working in a sweatshop on the FOX lot for $7 an hour.”
Undeterred, they began shooting
short films in their spare
time, assembling the footage into a demo reel of sketches that eventually
landed them agents and, soon thereafter, short-lived writing gigs at Comedy
Central and FOX. And then, as fate would have it, they crossed paths with Jimmy
Fallon at the MTV Movie Awards.
“We were hanging out, writing movie spoofs, and we hit it
off,” explains Samberg. “Jimmy called [SNL
producer] Lorne Michaels and told him, ‘You should check these guys out,
they’re pretty funny.’ That was in June of 2006. At that point, I’d done
stand-up, we had a pilot for a show called Awesometown, and we had the films we’d done for our website.”
The rest, as they say,
is history. Hired in a package deal
to work at Saturday Night Live, they
earned their first measure of massive exposure six months later when Lazy
Sunday, a two-minute clip about wannabe
toughs on their way to see The Chronicles of Narnia, became one of the most popular clips in Internet
history. Then came the deal to make Hot Rod
with Paramount, with Samberg slated to fill a role originally
conceived for another SNL
standout, Will Ferrell.
“When I first read it, it was very obviously written for
Ferrell,” says Samberg. “My major regret in taking the film is that I’m never
going to get to see his version. That said, once it all locked into place, we
tailored it in a way that suited me, and from that point on it became ours.
"The exciting part is
getting to come back home so that our families can read about us in the papers we grew up reading," adds Schaffer, who, thanks
to his work on SNL, was hand-picked by Michaels to direct Hot Rod.
"We always said we'd be putting out our own comedy by the time we reached 30, and we did even better than that."