If you don't ask your boss, he can't say no. And when you're new and young and your ideas are kind of weird, yes is a hard answer to get. So Andy Samberg, the new guy at the highly competitive Saturday Night Live ideas meetings, borrowed a friend's wife's camera, made a short film and never told producer Lorne Michaels what he was doing until he handed him the tape in December. "That had never been done before," says cast member Will Forte, who starred in the segment, in which he and Samberg had a serious conversation while eating heads of lettuce. "Andy just didn't know the rules. So he made up his own."
Samberg, 27, hit it big on his third self-made video, Lazy Sunday, a rap with Chris Parnell which boasted, gangster-style, of the wimpiest activities imaginable: buying a baker's dozen of cupcakes, seeing The Chronicles of Narnia, using Google maps, yelling out movie-trivia answers at the screen and spending $10 bills: "Roll up in the theater. Ticket buying's what we handle. You can call us Aaron Burrs from the way we're dropping Hamiltons." The video, thanks to the Internet, became an instant classic. Within weeks there were Bakers Dozen T shirts and rap video responses from people in Los Angeles, Britain and Muncie, Ind., all of whom apparently also knew people whose wives have video cameras.
The comedian is the first of the Internet auteurs to cross into the mainstream. Lazy Sunday is similar to the hip-hop--drenched absurdist stuff he and his two friends since junior high school--Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer--had been posting for years on thelonelyisland.com They are the kind of guys who spend very little time debating whether an idea for a sketch--or anything--is worth pursuing. "That's been our attitude from the start, inspired by Akiva," says Samberg. "He's a can-do kind of dude. He says what separates people is that some people talk about doing stuff and some people do it."
The sketch group that had never performed sketches anywhere became famous in Los Angeles comedy circles (the three of them lived there until they were hired by SNL and moved to New York City) for eight 3-min. episodes of The 'Bu, a parody of The O.C. in which a troubled ninja kid moves into Malibu. The 'Bu was shown on channel101.com an outlet for unemployed comedy writers and actors. Samberg and his friends actually already had an agent, a pilot deal at Fox for a sketch show (the failed Awesometown) and a job writing for the MTV Movie Awards. Still, they kept going out onto the streets with their cameras on unpaid projects, such as filming a fake mugging, one of which Kiefer Sutherland saw and tried to break up.
They got their SNL jobs after working with Jimmy Fallon on last year's MTV Movie Awards. He brought them to Michaels, who hired Samberg as a cast member and the other two as writers. Their humor, like a lot of those involved in channel101.com is playful, loose and not overthought. For his SNL audition, Samberg did an impression of an '80s jogger, which mainly consisted of wearing short shorts and breathing heavily while talking about the recession. "His comedy doesn't come from a place of anger," says Michaels. "He's got a kind of sweetness to him."