Andy Samberg always wanted to be a stand-up comedian. But it wasn’t until 2000, when the New York University graduate moved to Los Angeles with friends Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone, that he started writing musical comedy. “We would come home after going out for drinks, start screwing around and making jokey songs,” recalls Samberg. Those late-night jams would be the basis for their group The Lonely Island, the novelty-rap trio that ultimately led to Samberg’s Saturday Night Live role, three studio albums and the viral phenomenon “Dick in a Box” with Justin Timberlake. Today, Samberg, 36, is married to indie-folk harpist Joanna Newsom (also something of a double threat after appearing in 2014 film Inherent Vice). Last year, he won a Golden Globe for his role as Jake Peralta on the Fox comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine, but The Lonely Island will always be his favorite thing. “Making stuff with those guys is the reason I have the success that I do,” he says. “There is nothing closer to my heart.” It’s close to Hollywood’s heart too: The Lonely Island is featured on the single version of The Lego Movie‘s Academy Award-nominated best original song, “Everything Is Awesome.” Unfortunately for Samberg, that version isn’t the one up for an Oscar, but The Lonely Island nonetheless will perform the track with Tegan & Sara at this year’s awards ceremony.
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“I consider it all comedy — the difference is just, am I rapping, singing or saying it? Those are the three ways in which I deliver comedy with my mouth.”
“My buddy Timberlake has got the music game on lock, and he’s not doing too bad in the acting department either. Talk about a guy who took to comedy — he destroys every time he shows up. He’s kind of a flawless guy.”
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The Lonely Island’s Oscar Snub
“I’m disappointed. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to be referred to as an Oscar-nominated person. If the song wins, then I’ll be bummed. I’m kidding! I want it to win. But at least we get to perform — that’s better than a sharp stick in the eye.”
Any Musical Advice From His Wife?
“It would be an insult to her to even ask. What she does is just so far beyond me. Her music is incredible and interesting and complicated. Mine is mostly wiener jokes.”
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– The Lonely Island has lodged seven hits on the Billboard Hot 100.
– “Dick in a Box” won an Emmy for outstanding original music and lyric in 2007.
– Samberg’s greatest comic inspiration? “Weird Al” Yankovic.
This story originally appeared in the Feb. 28 issue of Billboard.