I’m sorry Lion-O, I have a new hero. If you have even a passing familiarity with YouTube, chances are you will have seen his now infamous duet with pop singer Justin Timberlake: ‘Dick in a Box’. The song quickly became one of the most watched videos on the website.
Andy Samberg is a man of the times. In a time when many people in the media are running scared from the unknown potential of the internet to disrupt everything that had once been secure, Samberg has harnessed the power of the web to get himself a job on one of America’s most famous television shows and, in the process, has made a sizeable impact on pop culture.
Samberg and a couple of friends decided to set up a website to promote the short films they were making in their spare time while living in Hollywood ‘chasing the dream.’ Under the alias ‘The Lonely Island’, Samberg and his buddies released a collection of videos which include a hilarious rap ode to a stalk and a brilliant parody of the teen drama series The O.C. called ‘The Bu’ (short for ‘Malibu’). The series manages to capture the lingering passionate looks and teenage angst of The O.C. while also managing to enhance it with ninjas, elements of 3-D viewing and some bizarre costumes.
In an unprecedented move, just on the strength of their internet presence the friends were signed up to work for Saturday Night Live, an institutional comedy show in the United States. In 2005, they produced a low budget video for the show, starring Samberg rapping about his plans for a Sunday afternoon. The catchy video centred around a play on watching the movie Chronicles of Narnia and ‘chronic’, street slang for cannabis (self-respecting Dr Dre fans knew that already, I am sure). My explanation does not really do it justice – you’ll really have to check it out for yourself.
The video became an instant hit online and is credited with giving the then fledgling YouTube site a massive boost as thousands and thousands of people forwarded the clip onto their friends. One American writer heralded the video as not just saving the television show Saturday Night Live, which had been in a ratings slump, but also – although this is perhaps a little over-the-top – for saving the entire genre of rap music itself. The playful, innovative nature of the song could certainly teach a thing or two to a lot of today’s rappers.
Coming back to the present day, Samberg struck gold once again just before Christmas when he starred in the aforementioned duet with Justin Timberlake, in a touching Christmas ballad describing some very special presents they had for their lady friends.
Now I may sound bitter, but honestly, some things are just plain unfair. I have been involved with York Student Television for a couple of years now and helped to make countless shows. Normally we’re lucky to get even a couple of viewers for one of our shows. At the end of last term, my housemate strolled up to the University of York’s first ever flash mob in Vanbrugh Dining Hall, filmed it with his mobile phone and popped it on Youtube. Within 24 hours he had had more people watch it than had I had ever had watch anything that I’d put on YSTV. Combined.