It was the decade of decadence, Duran Duran and some dreadful styles.
While history may judge the 1980s harshly from a cultural and aesthetic standpoint, the decade managed to heavily influence the children who grew up in the time of punk hair-dos and some highly-formulaic films.
Comedian Andy Samberg counts himself one of those kids of the ’80s who just couldn’t let go of his youth when it came time to earn money in the real world.
Of course, the term ‘real world’ is a bit skewed for Samberg, who joined the cast of Saturday Night Live in 2005 and rocketed from relative obscurity to comedy prominence in the United States with a few choice sketches (namely his Emmy-nominated Dick In A Box spoof of ’90s R&B bands with Justin Timberlake) and a selection of extremely popular digital shorts.
It’s no surprise, then, that his first feature film Hot Rod is laced with ’80s in-jokes and humour directed straight at fans of his Lonely Island comedy troupe–Samberg’s Lonely Island partners Jorma Taccone and Akiva Shaffer co-star and direct, respectively–which gained a widespread following on the Internet with a series of parodies and original sketches. “We wanted a sort of nostalgic feeling to it, sort of a childhood experience kind of vibe,” Samberg says of Hot Rod, in which he plays the lovable but incompetent daredevil Rod Kimble.
When Rod’s domineering step-father Frank (Deadwood’s Ian McShane) develops a heart condition, the amateur stuntman takes it upon himself to train for the jump of a lifetime and save the one man he loathes–just so he can “kick his ass.”
If the plot sounds ridiculous, it’s because it is.
While Hot Rod was originally written for Will Ferrell (who would later earn an executive producer credit), Samberg was brought in to fill the comedy veteran’s shoes after Ferrell backed out, giving the 28-year-old the chance to alter the script and “me-ify” it, as he says.
That meant adding sly references and designing scenes which nodded to ’80s films such as the BMX racing drama Rad, The Goonies and–more conspicuously–the Kevin Bacon vehicle Footloose.
“I’m generally doing the best comedy, I feel, when I’m doing stuff that’s closest to the way I am when I’m goofing around with my friends,” Samberg says. “It’s the way I want to be acting. That’s generally what works best for me.”
Like Ferrell’s characters in Anchorman and Talladega Nights, Samberg’s Kimble is so stupid, well, he doesn’t even know how stupid he really is–which is the way the Berkely, CA-native likes it.
“I’m a fan of somebody where they’re the butt of the joke and they’re unaware of it. I keep bringing it up, but it’s so perfect, is (the 1979 Steve Martin movie) The Jerk. A guy who has just no idea how retarded he is.”
Unlike his Hot Rod character, Samberg has made some smart moves in his young career, namely signing on to a seven-year Saturday Night Live contract.
The one downside of a membership to the elite SNL club, he reveals, is the lack of sleep. But fatigue is a small price to pay for the comic job of a lifetime, according to Samberg.
“I would actually have dreams that I was on SNL and hanging out with the cast, and now I actually am which is just ridiculous. It’s amazing.”
- Hot Rod opens in theatres today.