Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. I'm a conversational interviewer. That's my comfort zone and one of the reasons I'm no good in a press conference or round table style throw-out-questions setting. Now, that's usually a good thing. My best interviews read as conversations that you're sitting in on, but the other edge of that sword means I can (and usually do) waste a little bit of my interview time talking about off-topic bullshit.
There's always a decision to be made about how much of that stuff to keep in and how much to edit out. I almost always default to “include everything” because to me that off topic bullshit is usually the most open and real the interviewee gets.
So, when you start reading this interview with The Lonely Island trio of Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone be warned we spend a good chunk of the beginning talking about food. Specifically Austin BBQ.
As I was waiting for my turn to chat with the boys I ended up consulting with the PR people about the BBQ run they were going to have between the interviews and their appearance at the Alamo for the early screening of Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping. That comes up at the beginning of this interview and stays the topic of conversation for quite a while.
I can tell you from personal experience being in the room they were very engaged and happy to talk about anything but their movie for a few minutes. Hopefully that energy reads and also bleeds into the actual conversation about the movie.
This chat is all over the place in the best ways. We talk about geeking out over The Ladies Man, wiener casting, the Natalie Portman Rap, the current scoop machine interview cycle and the freedoms of filming a faux documentary style movie. Oh, and of course I asked Jorma about MacGruber 2. Enjoy!
Quint: So, I've been contributing to the Salt Lick discussion going on outside...
Jorma Taccone: Oh, nice!
Akiva Schaffer: That's a lot to talk about.
Andy Samberg: What are the must gets? We said burnt ends and brisket.
Quint: You gotta go with the moist brisket. You don't want the lean, you want the fatty brisket. That's where the flavor is.
Akiva Schaffer: That's the same with Barrel & Ashes in LA. You have to get the moist brisket.
Andy Samberg: Thank you for clarifying that. We wouldn't have remembered to do that. I assume you've had Franklins, then?
Quint: Of course.
Akiva Schaffer: Is it way better?
Quint: Oh yeah. But it's different. Salt Lick is great overall. All the sides are good, the BBQ sauce is great. Franklins is more about just the meat, not the sauce.
Akiva Schaffer: But there's no way they could go over there and get some, right?
Quint: Oh no.
Jorma Taccone: It's already sold out by now, right?
Quint: You can schedule a pick up time a month or so in advance, but otherwise you have to be in line around 7am. It opens at 11am.
Andy Samberg: Seven in the morning and it opens at eleven!
Akiva Schaffer: Every day there are people who are like “I'm going to do the five hour wait today”?
Quint: Yeah. Sometimes you can get lucky and they won't sell out right away and you can run over in the early afternoon and get the left overs, but that's becoming rarer and rarer.
Jorma Taccone: Holy shit. That's amazing to be so incredibly popular.
Quint: They do huge amounts of meat, too. I think the manager said they do close to two tons of meat a day and it still sells out pretty much before it opens every day.
Akiva Schaffer: That's insane.
Andy Samberg: That was them in Favreau's movie, right?
Quint: Yeah, in Chef.
Andy Samberg: That looked damn good.
Quint: It was! I actually had one of those brisket sliders they made in the movie. I visited them when they shot that scene and Leguizamo actually made me one out of the food truck.
Akiva Schaffer: Did they have a chef with them every day?
Quint: I think they actually learned to do it themselves...
Akiva Schaffer: I mean, to set them up.
Quint: Yeah, they had the guy who started...
Akiva Schaffer: Oh, it was Roy Choi!
Andy Samberg: Really?
Akiva Schaffer: He is the King of LA food trucks. The Kogi truck was one of the first.
Andy Samberg: Do you go to LA a lot?
Andy Samberg: Have you been to Pot?
Andy Samberg: Oh, man.
Akiva Schaffer: He opened a restaurant.
Jorma Taccone: It's really good.
Quint: That's the one to do, then?
Andy Samberg: It's in the lobby level of The Line Hotel
Akiva Schaffer: Which is a hotel in Koreatown. It's so fucking good.
Jorma Taccone: Is it hard to get reservations there?
Akiva Schaffer: Not at all. He also has another restaurant at the top of the same hotel.
Andy Samberg: It's called Commissary and it's much more kinda high end. They have the best veggie sides you've had in your entire life. Like, a carrot tastes like a steak. That's incredible, too, but Pot is what you want.
Akiva Schaffer: But that's Roy Choi. He only had those trucks and this is his first big restaurant.
Jorma Taccone: It is so big. It's surprising they have a restaurant that size.
Andy Samberg: How long do we have with you?
Quint: Probably 10 more minutes!
Andy Samberg: I wanna just talk about food!
Quint: Sure. I'll just go through the press notes and pull some quotes from that and we can keep talking about foodie stuff.
Akiva Schaffer: (laughs) Have you actually seen the movie or not yet?
Quint: Yeah, of course.
Akiva Schaffer: Okay. Nobody tells us.
Jorma Taccone: What'd you think, man?!?
Quint: I wouldn't be here if I didn't like it.
Akiva Schaffer: (laughs) Oh good.
Quint: I would have been like “Man, I'm feeling a little bad. I don't want to give the guys my... flu...”
Andy Samberg: We were talking about how sometimes you'll be in an interview and all they'll want to do is talk about a different project and you can feel (they didn't like the movie). “So, what's going on with Brooklyn Nine-Nine?” Ohhhhh, okay.
Quint: I wouldn't read too much into that, actually. So much of what people want out of these interviews now is info on what's next. There's a lot of press out there who don't care about the now and only want to try to get some kind of scoop.
Andy Samberg: Right, yes.
Akiva Schaffer: Or they're just trying to get any kind of headline and they'll ask about Prince or something.
Quint: Before I ask you anything about the movie, I did want to thank you guys so much for producing the Natalie Portman Rap. That's one of my favorite things that has ever happened, period. I already loved it, but recently had it on in the car when I was with my 8 year old nephew and being the responsible adult I am I just thought “Oh, this is funny, he'll like it.” Then the lyrics started and he's like “What's 'head'?” and I'm like “Oh, hey. I should skip to something else...” It made me appreciate it on a whole new level.
Andy Samberg: (laughs) Nice! It was exciting for us when we finally got to put it on the album and take all the bleeps out. People were like “That's what she was saying?!? It was worse than I thought!”
Jorma Taccone: I'm not going to say who this was, but a friend of ours who is a director who you know was having sex with his girlfriend and 'Punch You In The Jeans' came on...
Akiva Schaffer: Oh, 'cause he had sexy music playing then it went on random.
Jorma Taccone: Yeah, it was on shuffle 'Punch You In The Jeans' came on. And he was like “You know, it went over okay.” (laughs)
Andy Samberg: By the way, we don't expect you to know what Punch You In The Jeans is. It's a deep cut album track.
Akiva Schaffer: It's a very goofy song. It's the opposite of what you want playing in the background during coitus.
Quint: So, the character of Conner is really funny by himself and the music, of course, is great. When you guys started this process did you have some of the music already or did you start with the character and the music came from that?
Akiva Schaffer: It was kind of all at the same time, really. It was all from scratch, from nothing. The idea of the movie was there and we said “We know we have this assignment ahead of us.”
Andy Samberg: We met up and had big brainstorm sessions about the general vibe of all our characters and sort of what the arc would be about and then we started writing songs before we started writing scenes. We continued writing songs the whole two years we've been working on it. In fact, we're still working on the songs.
Akiva Schaffer: The soundtrack's not quite done yet.
Andy Samberg: It's kinda the same way we would do it at SNL, where we do everything all at once to make it happen Thursday-Saturday... except it's been two years of those two days spread out.
Akiva Schaffer: We'd adjust on set. “Oh shit, we have this scene next week...” and on Sunday we'd have to go to the recording studio and change the song. In the middle of shooting!
Andy Samberg: A few songs we wrote just because we thought the idea was funny and it happened to work with the character. Some of them didn't work as well and those'll just be on the soundtrack. Some of them we wrote a song for the Style Boyz and it turned into a Conner song or as a Conner song and it turned into a Style Boyz song because it fit the story better. We were kinda just writing anything we thought was funny and making it fit more often than the other way around.
Jorma Taccone: Which is kind of a nice way to work because whenever you're burnt out on one thing you can always go “Well, let's just write a song!”
Andy Samberg: Yes. Writer's block on writing a song doesn't necessarily apply to writer's block while writing a script, so it was good to sort of release your brain in different directions.
Quint: They very explicitly told us not to bring up the cameos that aren't in the trailer...
Akiva Schaffer: Well, you can bring them up to us, just don't print it!
Quint: “It was great when ______ met [REDACTED].”
Andy Samberg: (laughs) I love [REDACTED]. (editor's note: I'm not actually redacting anything. That's exactly what Andy said.)
Jorma Taccone: Couldn't believe we got him!
Akiva Schaffer: I love [REDACTED]'s album '[REDACTED]'.
Quint: I'm a big Beatles fan, so I loved that you got both living Beatles in the movie... one voluntarily...
Jorma Taccone: Oh, you noticed that, huh?
Akiva Schaffer: Well, he had to approve it.
Andy Samberg: McCartney approved it. We did a Digital Short with McCartney...
Quint: Oh, that's right.
Akiva Schaffer: We almost got him as a guest. He agreed to it and the schedule never materialized.
Andy Samberg: Judd was pursuing him so I'm sure he meant it.
Quint: Ringo's said some goofy shit in his life. He wrote Yellow Submarine for God's sake, but the fact that you got Ringo repeating silly catch phrases is something to be proud of.
Akiva Schaffer: There'll be some more of him on the DVD extras.
Jorma Taccone: With every one of those people we spent at least an hour with each of them, so they're saying crazy shit.
Akiva Schaffer: There's an hour and a half of extras. They're real scenes...
Andy Samberg: Stuff we liked.
Jorma Taccone: It was really hard to cut this down.
Akiva Schaffer: We just wanted to make the movie tight. We just felt like this kind of movie should be 90 minutes. We didn't arbitrarily cut it to 90, but we had an idea that was right and as we were editing it just kept feeling better the closer we got it to 90.
Andy Samberg: We got it to 82 minutes before credits, right?
Jorma Taccone: It whizzes by, but it was a really hard process. We'd show it to people and then show them deleted scenes and consistently we'd get “You have to put that in!”
Akiva Schaffer: All the Christopher Guest movies and a lot of real docs, that seems to be the sweet spot.
Andy Samberg: We watched Bruno again and it's short. You just don't want to outstay your welcome. Also, it's edited super densely you probably noticed.
Akiva Schaffer: It's a lot to take in.
Quint: Comedies in particular don't seem survive that second act lull.
Jorma Taccone: Yeah. You want the YPM to be pretty high.
Andy Samberg: Yucks Per Minute.
Quint: Not only do you guys have all the awesome cameos, you have somebody like Tim Meadows who is...
Andy Samberg: He's a comedy machine.
Quint: I fuckin' love that dude.
Andy Samberg: He's the best.
Quint: He's been so underused and underappreciated.
Jorma Taccone: We absolutely feel the same way and still do. He's the fucking man.
Andy Samberg: On set we just kept giving him more and more and more and everything you'd throw at him he makes good.
Akiva Schaffer: We were also surprised at how sweet he is. Not in real life. In real life he's a jerk. No, in real life he's sweet, but on camera we didn't realize how nice and sweet he comes across.
Jorma Taccone: Side note: He gave me the shitty hippie headshop stoner candle that is on his desk in The Ladies Man.
Andy Samberg: What?!?
Akiva Schaffer: I didn't know that.
Jorma Taccone: He was just getting rid of it out of his apartment and I was like “Ohmygod! Oh yes! Yes! I will take this!”
Andy Samberg: We definitely waited about 15 seconds before we started geeking out on him and going “I am Julie's Piano...”
Jorma Taccone: “You're a bad mailman.”
Quint: So his part grew as you filming?
Jorma Taccone: It's not that we did a huge amount of improv on this movie, but we had a huge amount of alternative scenes we wanted to get per day and we had a 35 day shoot, so we were jamming in as much as we could. We had a 300 page script of alt bits and scenes we wanted to do while we were shooting and on top of all that we would improv as well.
Akiva Schaffer: We probably have so many deleted scenes as well because it's doc style, so we would light a scene nicely and be in the right location, play it, get that scene and just like any movie we'd do an alt version. “Now do it angry!” But unlike a normal movie we could go “Well, we're all in wardrobe and we have 10 minutes. Why don't we go out into that hallway and shoot another one and if there's no lighting that's alright, it'll feel just as real.”
Jorma Taccone: We got a ton of stuff. There's probably an hour and half of deleted scenes.
Quint: So you're saying you've already made the parallelquel. You've got an easy Back to the Future II ready.
Jorma Taccone: You've seen the Anchorman deleted scenes, right? It's like “Wow, there's a whole other movie!”
Andy Samberg: Wait a minute, there's Black Panthers robbing a bank? Then they're on a cannibal island? This shit is great!
Akiva Schaffer: There's a lot of iPhone shots in the movie and not just the ones that are obviously iPhone, but they have some ones that are really in the movie, like establishing shots.
Jorma Taccone: Akiva was driving down Sunset Blvd and was like “Oh, I need a shot of billboards for when Conner's album comes out.” He just got out and shoots it in 4k and it's in the movie.
Akiva Schaffer: That's part of the fun of making a fake doc. There's EPK footage in there. We were about to record Adam Levine and they're standing there behind the scenes and we're about to do the real record session, not in character, and we'd be like “Get in character real quick!” because there was EPK there. We'd go to real life things, but in character.
But we shot on the Alexa and did some Canon things. Like we'd be in the middle of editing and go “We should get a shot of him on a Hoverboard.”
Andy Samberg: (in what I'm assuming was a Lorne Michaels voice) You could almost say the film is a multimedia experience.
Akiva Schaffer: You could, yeah. If you wanted.
Jorma Taccone: It made it a fun experience because we had this beautiful Alexa footage. Brandon (Trost) shot it...
Quint: Yeah, BTRO.
Jorma Taccone: BTRO, yeah. The FP!
Quint: A long time ago I wrote a horror script that almost got made and Brandon looked like he was going to shoot it for us.
Jorma Taccone: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. I heard about that. What was the name of the script again?
Quint: It was called The Home. It was all about old people fighting monsters.
Akiva Schaffer: That sounds great!
Andy Samberg: So it's not like the Dreamworks film 'Home.'
Quint: No. We would have been ahead of the Home curve. This fell apart in 2011.
Andy Samberg: But that's a good idea. It's like a horror Cocoon.
Quint: Yeah, exactly. Well, before I leave we have to talk about you auditioning the penis for its big scene in Popstar.
Andy Samberg: Yes. Thank God someone is asking about this.
Jorma Taccone: As you know, we don't want to name names, but it's Judd Apatow.
Quint: I figured.
Akiva Schaffer: It looked like how he always described it in all his interviews.
Andy Samberg: We were talking about using (Jason) Segel, but everybody would know it's him. They'd recognize it from Sarah Marshall.
Akiva Schaffer: When we started writing, Judd texted us a picture of his penis and was like “Keep this in mind if anything comes up.”
Jorma Taccone: He was really good about it, though. He was like, “Absolutely no pressure. I know I'm a producer on this. I don't want to have that influence.”
Akiva Schaffer: He insisted that we open up the casting to others, too, because he thought the best person should get the job.
Jorma Taccone: We shuffled the deck once we had all our prospective candidates, which was about 30 people, and his just came to the top. It was a good looking penis.
Andy Samberg: We was adamant about being anti-weeny nepotism. Which is nice of him to say, but at the same time you could tell he wanted it.
Quint: You could have gone in many different directions. You could have done it performance capture...
Andy Samberg: (laughs) Mo-cap?
Jorma Taccone: Mo-cap wang!
Andy Samberg: We would have had to have gotten Andy Serkis. The master. Was it the Oscars this year when before he came out they showed clips of him so people would know who it was? I was watching that going, “Dude, I think people know who Andy Serkis is.”
Akiva Schaffer: That's also to show you how much it's his performance, right?
Andy Samberg: They did the same thing with Zoe Saldana for Avatar.
Jorma Taccone: Man, I want to get that job. That sounds fucking great.
Andy Samberg: You basically did it, you just had prosthetics on (playing Chaka in Land of the Lost).
Jorma Taccone: Yeah, and I also got a Razzie nomination for it. Kinda the opposite of an Oscar nom.
Quint: I know we were just talking about reporters doing interviews just to get scoopy headline stuff, but I have one last question and I swear I'm only asking because I'm a huge fan... But Jorma, what's going on with MacGruber?
Jorma Taccone: We have heavily outlined and we want to write it out, but it's so impossible with our schedules right now. It's all of our goal, we absolutely want to make it.
Quint: As long as you're still pushing that boulder up the hill, that's all I want to know.
Jorma Taccone: Yeah, I could tell you some shit, but I'm not going to because I don't want to ruin it for you, but it's gonna be funny.
And that's the chat, hope you enjoyed it!
For the record, I thought they were joking about the gratuitous cock in the movie being Judd Apatow's but that's the story they're going with all over the media, so I guess they weren't kidding. Either that or they're pulling one over on everybody right now. Either way, I'm glad they're doing what they're doing.
The movie's out tomorrow and, like every other movie that comes out now, has late night screenings tonight. Check it out if you like funny things. And Judd Apatow's wiener, apparently.