Creativity 50 2011: Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone

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The Lonely Island
The Lonely Island Credit: Scott Shafer

For those of you wondering what the key is to viral success, the definitive word is -- penis. At least that's the case with Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone, the comedy trio known as The Lonely Island, best known for their wildly popular Digital Shorts for "Saturday Night Live." The films, largely consisting of rap and R&B parodies, are known for their ridiculous lyrics and big-name celebrity guest stars such as Justin Timberlake and Natalie Portman.

"It tends to be the ones that get popular have something with penises," said Mr. Taccone, who also works as a commercials director out of Caviar Content. "Which isn't our fault. We make a lot of stuff." Some of those works he's referring to, of course, are the now viral classics "Dick in a Box" and "Jizz in My Pants." The popularity of the shorts led to the trio's release of their first album, "Incredibad," in 2009, and just last month, they introduced their sophomore effort, "Turtleneck and Chain." Advertisers have taken notice of the Island's ability to capture eyeballs, ears and hearts. Last year, the three entered into a partnership with Diageo's Rokk Vodka, leading to the fashion spoof "Dream" and the brand's sponsorship of the group's new album.

How do you define creativity?
JT: Sitting around with your friends for 24 hours a day, banging your head against a wall.

Samberg: Any answer a comedian gives about what it means to be creative is destined to make him look like a dumbass.

Schaffer: For me, it's not selling out and keeping it super real, you know? Keeping it trill.

JT: That's true and real. Combined.

What are your thoughts on risk-taking?
Schaffer: The only real risk is making something you know is going to be unpopular. That's not really a risk either. We're making jokes. There's not, like, a high risk factor.

JT: The biggest risk we take is making something people don't laugh at and getting fired. That's kind of our bottom line.

What's the biggest creativity killer?
Schaffer: Running out of weed, right guys?

Taccone: Thank you for saying that. I didn't have the stones to say that.

Samberg: Let's clarify, that's sarcasm.

Schaffer: I don't smoke. . . Or do I? You'll never know.

What are you most inspired by?
Schaffer: I would say other comedians, the ones from our childhood. The Zucker Brothers movies, like "Airplane." Monty Python. Steve Martin. Mel Brooks. Many, many others. Weird Al. Anybody who was doing surreal, genuinely silly comedy.

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