Hot Rod

Rising from internet filmmakers to Saturday Night Live writers and actors, The Lonely Island comedy crew have hit pay dirt with their off-beat brand of goofy-dumb humor.

Rising from internet filmmakers to Saturday Night Live writers and actors, The Lonely Island comedy crew have hit pay dirt with their off-beat brand of goofy-dumb humor.

Best known for their work on the SNL digital shorts such as “Dick in a Box” and “Lazy Sunday,” The Lonely Island crew (comprised of Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer) has been a refreshing presence on the otherwise gloriously unfunny recent years of SNL. The phrase “going viral” perfectly describes their work. And that’s because they are, in fact, funny.

But how did the trio–best known for 90-second bursts of hilarity–handle making their first full-length movie? Back in April, The Vanguard went to New York and caught up with the young filmmakers during the final editing phase of Hot Rod (out this Friday).

Based on a screening of the unfinished film, it seems like the production went well. The movie is funny, but hopefully the rough edges (and there were a few) were improved through the remaining editing process.

Hot Rod is the story of a young stuntman named Rod (Samberg) and his quest to save his stepfather (so he can beat him up) by jumping over school busses. The rub is that Rod’s a horrible stuntman who can barely ride his moped, let alone jump over a vast sea of vehicles. Rod sucks, but he earnestly sucks. And Samberg, who says that it took a while to work out the kinks of a role originally written for Will Ferrell, admires the “blind optimism” that his character inhabits.

Samberg, who said he doesn’t really consider himself an actor, describes working with industry vets Sissy Spacek and Ian McShane as “a whole different ball game.”

“They were so good that it just put me at ease and to have people of their caliber in our crazy-ass movie…it grounds it in this way that I don’t even feel like we deserve,” said Samberg.

Director Akiva Schaffer, who works as writer on SNL, said that he wanted to create a “really smart, dumb movie,” or a movie that is goofy but not insulting. He describes it as “controlled dumb.”

Schaffer, when asked what themes or ideas he and his friends like to explore with their comedy, said that they “take filmic cliches and turn them into jokes.”

“It’s just taking a moment that was in another movie and pointing it out. I mean, when people get angry, why can’t they just dance it out…but that’s what we try to do, is take those jokes and fuck them up. Deconstruct them.”

Flashdance references aside, Schaffer said that working within familiar territory is good for the audience, or at least easier.

“In comedy, if you try and make the story too original, then there’s not room for jokes as much because you have to explain the story, whereas if you make the story more familiar, it’s shorthand. People know what’s going on.”

As Hot Rod is The Lonely Island’s first movie, all three members agree that the process was better because they are friends. Schaffer said that directing his long-time collaborators and friends for his first feature made the process easier and less daunting.

“I didn’t have to be nice to them [Samberg and Taccone]…other actors might have taken offense, it was great.”

For his part, Taccone appreciated having Schaffer at the helm.

“It allowed me and Andy to fuck around constantly and try different things…hopefully the fact that we are friends emanates through the screen.”

And if one thing is true of Hot Rod, it’s the fact that the cast obviously had a great time making the movie. The strength of the film lies in this connection.

Schaffer knows “this kind of movie isn’t for everybody, it’s for people like me.”

The Lonely Island isn’t so lonely any more.

Hot Rod opens nationwide August 3rd.