Well-Lubed Machine: Andy Samberg on That’s My Boy and Leaving SNL

How Adam Sandler gave him the giggles and what Nicolas Cage thought of his Nicolas Cage impersonation.

Fred Topelby Fred Topel


An interview with Andy Samberg couldn’t have been timed any better. The day after he announced he was leaving “Saturday Night Live” was the press junket for his new movie, That’s My Boy. He plays Adam Sandler’s son, fathered through a hot teacher when he was in high school. In a hotel room with two posh chairs, we sat across from Samberg discussing his new movie and his big departure. We focused heavily on his “Get in the Cage” segments and Nicolas Cage impression, and also touched on his upcoming indie movie, Celeste and Jesse Forever, where Samberg gets to play a leading man in a bittersweet story about a divorce (Rashida Jones plays Celeste to his Jesse).


CraveOnline: This setup looks very Merv Griffin.

Andy Samberg: I was like, “I won’t do any press in a room with less than two chandeliers.


Are fans of your digital shorts humor the same as the Adam Sandler fan base?

I think there’s crossover there. I hope so certainly. I think the kind of Adam Sandler movie this is, is closer to the kind of Adam Sandler stuff that inspired us when we were younger and has influenced the shorts so I like to think that it’ll be simpatico.


How do you mean the different types of Adam Sandler movies? Like this versus the romantic ones?

The more family friendly kind, and then there’s this which is like a “Hard R” kind of throwback. It reminds me a lot of his first albums and his early stuff on “SNL” and his first movies in terms of the kind of character he’s playing. He’s kind of an over the top crazy guy.


Is there an ease of working on something with a guaranteed audience?

Gosh, I don’t want to jinx it. There’s an ease of working on something with a crew and team that’s done a lot of movies together already. I don't know if you can ever say there’s a guaranteed audience but I think he does have a pretty solid fan base.


Are you more likely to break on a film when it’s not live and you have the luxury of a retake?

I guess so. I don't think I broke too much on this movie but there were definitely days where I couldn’t hold it together and [started] giggling and stuff.


What was one scene that did that to you?

I’m trying to think. Generally, any time Sandler would be improvising a lot of different lines. A lot of stuff at the spa where he’d be like giving different things the cucumber water tastes like. There’s probably like 50 different things that he said that cucumber water tastes like and it’s all on the DVD because everyone on set was like, “Say it tastes like this, say it tastes like this.” Stuff like that. Any time I’m in a scene with Forte, it’s hard for me to keep it together. He just makes me laugh. Getting to see Tony Orlando and Vanilla Ice say crazy stuff was fun too.


Is there any humility in a sh*tting yourself scene?

[Laughs] I think there’s a quiet dignity you can take away from it. If it’s important to the story, which I can say safely that it sort of is.


So only because it’s integral to the story.

Yeah, it’s a symbolic sh*t. It’s indicative of the relationship’s tumultuousness.


How different was a big production like this to “Hot Rod?”

The food was a lot better. The trailers were better. You know, it’s just working with Happy Madison and then working with Sony, it’s a very smooth ride. It’s a well lubed machine. They’ve done it a bunch of times in a row. A lot of the crew is people that Sandler’s been working with over and over again so it’s kind of got a family feel to it and it all runs very smoothly. And it was a little less run and gun, a little less scrappy than working on Hot Rod. But I loved working on Hot Rod too. That was me and my guys so that was a good time.


You announced you’re officially leaving “SNL.” Are movies steady enough to even consider a decision like that?

I tried to not base that decision on anything outside of the show. It wasn’t an act of okay, so now I’ve got a movie or two coming out so now I’m ready. I don't think you can ever really know what’s going to happen with this kind of career, with working in comedy or entertainment or whatever but I kind of tried to make the decision as an isolated “this is the time it feels right for me to go.” It wrapped up nicely for me. I felt like it was kind of… I’m trying to think of the right words. It just felt like the timing of it was right. [Akiva Schaffer] and [Jorma Taccone] had both moved on and so much of my time there was working with them. I got to go out on the 100th and “Lazy Sunday 2” which was sort of a nice button to the whole thing, which was my dream come true childhood fantasy experience of getting to work with Lorne Michaels.


Was it easy to get all 100 digital short guest stars to come back?

No, it took a lot of work. I made a lot of phone calls that week. I can’t believe we shot that whole thing in three days. Two and a half days really, and edited it. But it was very helpful, Jorm came back for it, Kiv came back for it and we even had help from another friend who’s a director named Jake Szymanski so it was cool.


When Nicolas Cage came on “Get in the Cage,” was he into your impression or just promoting Ghost Rider?

He seemed like he enjoyed it. For him it was funny because when we first met, I was like, “It’s so nice of you to come. I’m such a huge fan” which is true. I’m a huge Nic Cage fan. He was like [in Cage voice], “It’s nice… because your impression… is not an impression at all… but more… an insane character.” I was like I’m glad that you see it that way because that’s kind of what it turned into for me. Almost the way Ferrell’s Bush became just a Ferrell character. I’m not saying it’s as good as that, but that’s my favorite thing at “SNL” when an impression turns into a whole other thing with a whole other set of rules and you can write the game for it, sort of outside of the laws of “this is a spot on impression and the reason it’s funny is because it sounds so much like the person.” Instead it turns into this is just an insane person who can say and do whatever they feel like. So it meant a lot to me that he found it funny enough and had enough of a sense of humor to come do it with me. That was definitely one of the high moments of my time at “SNL” was getting to do “In the Cage” with Nic Cage himself. That was definitely something I’ll hold onto forever as a highlight.


Were you doing more the blockbuster Cage than the indie movie Cage?

For sure. It’s a lot of National Treasure but even a little Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans. That movie’s incredible where you’re like what am I watching right now? It’s both intense and effective and also hilarious and bananas where you’re just like wait, now there’s an iguana? We had a screening of that movie at “SNL” and everyone was really enjoying that movie. It’s definitely a special thing so I think that helped too. He’s so willing to go into a crazy place with his characters and I think people enjoy indulging that side of him and I think a lot of that is why the impression that I did of him sort of turned into that more and people were happy to see more of it, because when he does it it’s great.


When you have actual celebrities on those “Cage” segments, do you give them minimal lines and just make them look good?

We always want to make them look good, for sure, if someone does you the favor of showing up. But I wouldn’t say we give them minimal lines. It just depends on the person and what they’re comfortable with. The cool part about the one with Cage was he was really funny. People forget how funny he is. Raising Arizona is one of the funniest performances ever.


Have you seen Vampire’s Kiss?

Yes. That is a good one. There’s so many good ones, man. Drive Angry was really great. That one really had us rolling.


I just couldn’t believe what I was watching in Vampire’s Kiss.

Yeah, he’s completely off the rails, just doing whatever. He’s one of the most inherently watchable actors that there is. You’re just like what’s he going to do? What’s coming next? What Cage move is going to happen here to make this special? He always seems to have something. The best case scenario when you have somebody come do a cameo is make them look good but also make them get to do something funny. That’s definitely the goal.


What kind of opportunity was Celeste and Jesse Forever to do a different character?

That was a much more realistic kind of acting part. I wanted to try it because A, I’m friends with Rashida [Jones] and I thought the script was amazing and I was a fan of Lee Krieger from his movie Vicious Kind. It’s more playing a version of myself than, say, That’s My Boy or something like that. It’s a much smaller movie, cost a lot less. It was kind of just a cool challenge to see if I could do something like that. It seemed like a good thing to try it on because I knew and trusted everyone involved and I connected with the character.


Do you think you pulled it off?

I was happy with the movie when I watched it. I was bracing myself to be embarrassed but I think it’s good. It helps that Lee did such a good job with it and everyone else in the movie is so good that I think it helps me seem legitimate.


Does it have a more interesting perspective on relationships than a Hollywood rom-com version would?

Definitely. It’s definitely a little more real which is why I like it. I would describe a lot of it as bittersweet and the reason that I really liked it was that it felt very real in the examining of that kind of relationship. I feel like a lot of people have had a really serious relationship with the person that they think they’re going to end up with and then that doesn’t end up being the case, and then the complications of that after it goes away where you’re so close with somebody but then you have to figure out what you’re going to do with your life when you guys break up.


Do you think you really can stay friends and hang out? Or is that self-destructive, you have to let go and move on?

I think a little of both. It’s case by case obviously but I think you have to give space to it. Ideally if it’s somebody that has meant that much to you, you want to stay in touch and you’ve got to figure out a way to move on and not let what you had stunt your life basically. That’s kind of the big challenge in the movie.


How does life look to you right now?

Right now it feels nice. The weather’s nice.