The Lonely Island Guys on the Best Time to Sell Out

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A less than fondly remembered Collins book. Photo: Courtesy of the Lonely Island

The Lonely Island, a hip-hop parody group made up of Andy Samberg and his childhood friends (and SNL writers) Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer, had been making rap send-ups like this for years before “Lazy Sunday” hit. Which means today's release of Incredibad — the group's debut, a collection of old songs, SNL Digital Shorts, and new tracks recorded this summer while they were living together in Encino, California — has been a long time coming. The trio spoke with Vulture about respecting the music and living with credit-card debt.

Hey guys.
Samberg and Taccone: Whoo! Amoooos! Yeah.

You guys are big hip-hop fans. Does any of your work stem from a desire to be legitimate hip-hop artists?
All three: No. No. No.
Samberg: Not in any way.
Taccone: We were always making little joke hip-hop songs. I think I made my first in like sixth grade. I was in a band called Strike Three with a kid named Winston Ross. I never told you guys about that.

How did the group start?
Samberg: We all moved to L.A. in 2000. We started off doing temp jobs, graveyard shifts, assistant jobs, that kind of stuff. And just kept shooting music videos on our downtime.
Schaffer: For the first year, we all lived together. And after that, Andy and I lived in the same place. When we’d get home after work, we could get together and write.
Samberg: After three or four years, we actually started getting paid to do some work, and then we got some pilots, and then we were able to quit our jobs.
Schaffer: Well, we started SNL with $15,000 in credit-card debt. It wasn't like we were hitting it big.
Taccone: No, no. We were barely keeping afloat. We were constantly doing six months of working, then, like, as many months as we could of unemployment.

Who are your influences?
Schaffer: We're definitely huge fans of Weird Al, Tenacious D, and Flight of the Conchords.
Taccone: I think the one thing that we tried hard to do is not make fun of the genre that we're in. We’re just trying to use the medium to make jokes.

Are you bigger music geeks or comedy geeks?
Samberg: We're pretty huge geeks of both. The comedy comes first, but I spend all my free time listening to new music and looking for more music and that kind of stuff.

Do you have early fans that accuse you of selling out?
Taccone: Luckily, we're not that famous. But even the second thing we made, "Regarding Ardy," I think people accused us of selling out. Because it was a little less weird, possibly? Even though it was still insanely weird.
Schaffer: As soon as you make that second thing of anything, there are gonna be people who are nostalgic for the first thing. Then you make a third thing, and then ten things, and then the next ten things, they go, "Oh, the first ten things were better." No matter what.
Taccone: God, what were we supposedly selling out to when we were making no money?
Samberg: I tell you when the best time to sell out is, and it's during a recession.
Schaffer: Well, it's never a bad time to just sell it all out. What are we standing for?