I picked up the debut album of The Lonely Island yesterday. You've heard of them even if you think you haven't. These fine gentlemen - Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone - are the brains behind "Dick in a Box" and "Jizz in My Pants", and are among the primary reasons why Saturday Night Live remains a viable property.
Their album, Incredibad, is as collection of these viral sensations, combined with some lesser-known material and some album-specific tracks. I had three reactions:
- I am insanely jealous. Making comedic hip hop with my two best friends would be just about the best gig ever.
- This is funny.
- This is really, really good.
The first two points are self-explanatory. But the third bit, which speaks to the relevance of the Incredibad album, deserves some further exploration. This isn't your run-of-the-mill gag record, for a couple of reasons.
The Lonely Island have discovered a basic truth about good parody, what I like to call "The Weird Al Principle". Simply: don't put yourself above the material. Quality parodies come from respect and knowledge, not from derision. It's clear The Lonely Island dudes are big fans of the hip hop and pop dance genres, and this fondness is reflected in their songs. Weird Al and The Lonely Island share a common trait: they know the conventions of the genres they're spoofing inside and out. This is why they can flip them to produce comedy gold.
Incredibad is also a nice piece of high-art-imitating-low-art-imititating-high-art-again sketch comedy. Yes, there are a lot of dick jokes. But a song like "Dick in a Box" just doesn't work if it relies on the bawdy jokes alone. Each track on the album - like each sketch in a killer set - is driven by a character. From the grandious yet inept organizer of the Space Olympics ("As you file to your escape pods, I'll distract the alien hoards. And as I stare death in the face, I know my sins will take me to hell.") to the desperate posers of "We Like Sportz" ("We're real men, and we like sportz, if you say that we're not, then we'll see you in court."), The Lonely Island brings us fleshed out, albeit bizarre, people. We don't laugh because the guy has his dick in a box. We laugh because we believe the guy is exactly the kind of person who would put his dick in a box to impress his girlfriend. This isn't an album of songs, it's a collection of good sketches set to music.
It might be easy to dismiss Andy, Jorma and Akiva as puerile, because there is plenty of 8th grade humor on display. But behind their adolescent capering, these are three comics who have a sophisticated understanding how comedy works and why people laugh. With Incredibad, they cement their place as one of the more interesting sketch troupes working today.
Incredibad gets a hearty Nunc Scio stamp of approval. Well worth picking up, especially since it comes with about a gabillion videos. And, in case you need another reason, here's "We Like Sportz" for your veiwing enjoyment: