Q&A: Andy Samberg - Rolling Stone
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Q&A: Andy Samberg

The ‘SNL’ star on his joke-rap trio’s new LP, getting dirty with Michael Bolton and hanging with Weird Al

Andy SambergAndy Samberg

Andy Samberg visits the Apple Store Soho, New York City, May 9th, 2011

Paul Zimmerman/Wireimage/Getty

The best joke rappers alive are back: Turtleneck & Chain, the second album from Andy Samberg’s trio, the Lonely Island, collects new gems along with classic Saturday Night Live bits like the Justin Timberlake duet “Motherlover” and the Nicki Minaj collabo “The Creep” — a viral smash that has racked up more than 20 million YouTube views in three months. “It’s crazy, it’s awesome, and we’re ecstatic about it,” says Samberg, 32, who met his Lonely Island partners, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone, in middle school in Berkeley — before all three went on to SNL glory. Snoop Dogg and Beck guest on the album, but Michael Bolton steals the show with some seriously crude crooning. Says Samberg, “That dude is king!”

Did you write Snoop’s part for “Turtleneck & Chain” (Say you wanna be under my chest/This turtleneck is like one of my best”)?
Oh, you mean the Dogg-father? Our collaborator and homeboy? We sort of broke down the track with him, then said, “Do your thang.” I want to specify that I said thang with an “a.” He crushed it.

How’d you get into rap?
We grew up in the Bay Area, so it started with Too $hort. N.W.A’s Straight Outta Compton and Eazy-E’s Eazy-Duz-It were huge for us. We were up on the Beastie Boys and Run-DMC — Licensed to Ill and Raising Hell were the first cassettes I bought. First CD was the Boyz N the Hood soundtrack. We got crazy into the Pharcyde, all the Hieroglyphics stuff, Wu-Tang, E-40…. I could talk about it for a long time.

So you weren’t that into rock?
There was a superdeep punk scene in Berkeley, but it wasn’t necessarily our scene in high school. I’d definitely put on my headphones and listen to Pink Floyd when I was a sophomore. And Bob Dylan is my top artist ever. Blood on the Tracks is the best — every phase of my life that I go through, every time I come back to that record, it has a new kind of meaning to me.

Did you guys listen to a lot of Weird Al?
A ton. “Eat It” was a big one, and the Fat album. We’ve now met him, and that was a moment where time stopped for us. “It’s fucking Weird Al!” He’s one of the nicest peo­ple I have ever met.

Do you remember your first time onstage?
In preschool, we did Where the Wild Things Are, and I was one of the wild things. And I was Daddy Warbucks in my third-grade production of Annie. I had a big-ass head of hair — not very convincing. At summer camp, I used to do sketches about life at camp. For me, SNL is like the summer camp of the country. You pool all of the most important headline-y and gossipy things from the week, and put them into a show.

How did you get Michael Bolton to sing, “This whole town’s a pussy waiting to get fucked”?
We wouldn’t stop asking. We felt like that song was perfect for him – and we were right. He destroys that song.

I love your Jack Johnson bit on SNL. How do you get into character?
Man, you’ve just got to take your shoes off. Jack is the most chilled-out guy I’ve ever met.

I’ve read you also do an impression of Adam Duritz having sex. What’s the key?
There’s a lot of grunting, and “Mr. Jones” is thrown in.

Which musicians are genu­inely funny?
Josh Homme, Justin Timberlake, T-Pain. The Beastie Boys are the funniest dudes to ever work in music.

Ever parodied them?
There’s a video of me and my friend James in sixth grade, rapping along to “Paul Revere.” At some point he’s doing a verse, and I start mooning him right next to his head. Then he elbows me for basically putting my ass in his face, and I stumble back and smash my head on a book­case so fucking hard. Then I did that little-kid thing, where you’re supcrmad and embarrassed: “Turn off the fucking music, man!”

Who have been your favorite musical guests on SNL?
Arcade Fire kill it every time they’re there. Beyoncé was one of the craziest per­formers I’ve ever seen. Certainly Prince. I saw him play in L.A. last week — it was in­credible. At the beginning of the show, he’s like, “Are you guys down to stay with me all night?” and everyone cheers, and he goes, “We’ll see.” And then he’s right, because half the audience bailed. He did, like, eight encores. That dude clearly bones for hours. He’s the Sting of being Prince. 


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