The desire to laugh again with the 90s

If it were the 90s, who would you be partying with? Well…Mc Skat Kat and Paula Abdul” says Akiva Schaffer. The name may sound remote but her comedy is not: Akiva is part of The Lonely Island, the trident of absurd pop also made up of Andy Samberg and Jorma Taccone. Together they sharpened their teeth being the best thing that Saturday Night Live, the eternal nucleus of American comedy with city overtones, has given in the new millennium: their digital sketches, which were often the videos of their band The Lonely Island, became the first SNL virals and thus they were advancing at a time when the great “new” comedians were finished (Sandler is probably the last of his race, before the platforms changed the cinema forever). But let the obvious not take away from the dangerous: Akiva, as he jokes, is one of the three brains of a band that, together or through their separate paths, has always been leaving its trail in comedy.

Now it’s Akiva Schaffer’s turn directing Chip and Dale to the rescue, which when you know the DNA of Lonely Island is a perfect task. Akiva uses the nuclear arsenal of pop culture (nothing escapes them, they quote everything with the intelligence of someone who knows certain maps by heart and doesn’t need to point anything out) and creates a Who Framed Roger Rabbit? modern based on a sardonic update of the chipmunks Chip and Dale, and its classic cartoon seen around these parts in the late 90s (but associated with the late 80s in the United States). The film that will soon be released by Disney + shows Akiva in top form, responsible for directing with his friends Samberg and Taccone films like Popstar! (the This Is Spinal Tap! of the Justin Bieber generation), songs with more than 300 million views on YouTube like I Just Had Sex (every song on Lonely Island is pure comedy that understands almost like a scientist how to surgically mock, well , whatever and adding to his career from John Waters to Justin Timberlake) and shorts that, again, have millions of views. All that pop backpack that has generated and/or gone through shows like MacGruber and Brooklyn 99, defines a crucial aspect of comedy, which Akiva and the gang made present and gentle -in the warmest sense of the term- like no one else in these years. Ok, there is new comedy, without a doubt. But the absurdity that knows exactly what it does and settles in the line of Adam Sandler, from Saturday Night Live, has a clear heir in this gang.

Akiva will tell PROFILE exclusively: “I understand that sometimes our load of information seems very punctual and I don’t know how it is seen from another country, but I think that our generation, almost the first of truly shared global consumption -no one would say that the Beatles did not They are that, for example. I know you know who Chip and Dale are, whether or not you saw them in the early ’90s. I think that defines us and trusting that, as a director here or with all of Lonely Island (well, Andy Sanderg is the voice of one of the squirrels), is what allows us to laugh at those things, or how someone uses them when they speak. But as you know, it is super difficult to explain comedy, in fact, it is even one of the most boring things that can be done with it.

—There is a very detailed game with the world of animation, almost an update of the same game that proposed Who Framed Roger Rabbit? How was that job?

-It was one of the things that were already part of the project as an idea, therefore, it was very easy to be tempted and join. You talk about Roger Rabbit, and the film seeks to be totally something that walks the same path, understanding that Robert Zemeckis is a genius of cinema, of course, and I am not. But to think about Roger Rabbit appearing, being able to have him and being told “why don’t they bring the original voice?” it is something very impressive. Especially when Charles Fleischer, the original voice of Roger Rabbit, comes to the studio and out of nowhere starts recording as that character. I was a kid back. He is still magical. The same thing happened to us with many other characters. I wanted it to be a love letter to animation and honor the legacy of these creations. We all grew up with Disney, so to be able to peek behind the curtain of that universe was a huge pleasure.

—How would you define your comedy and the one you do together with Lonely Island?

—Knowing that talking about comedy is the least funny thing in the world, that it is very difficult to talk about it without sounding pompous (“this is comedy, and that is not”). When it comes to Andy and Jorma, the truth is that we are not very analytical. It really is the comedy that is born to us, that defines us, and mainly, that makes us laugh. And it usually comes from everyone together, in the room, playing, joking. We were lucky that they paid attention to us, but if not I think it would be exactly the same. It is the catchphrase of “what makes you laugh, works for me”. But yes, I understand that there are some things in us, but I prefer not to over analyze them.

—Your comedy usually works from the absurd but something happens here: you are working with cartoons in the real world. How did you solve that formula?

—Well, the fact that cartoons are in the real world and live with us helped a lot to have a series of rules that allowed Chip and Dale a base. They act like normal people, and maybe if a box falls on them it hurts, not as much as it hurts us, but it hurts and there is physical risk. In fact, this crossing between drawings and reality gives you a base to exploit. A lot of my favorite comedies have something, and that something keeps growing. I do not mean that it “repeats”, but rather that it grows. Monty Python is an example of that. The joke that spins, that jumps, that doesn’t stay still and never loses its strength. That adds layers and adds power. That is what I tried to do here.

—There is a lot of animation, many characters and not only from Disney, how did you manage to incorporate other franchises?

—That was very important, and that is the influence of Roger Rabbit. I didn’t want it to be an advertisement for Disney+. For example, My little Pony, which is Mattel. We went, we asked (I drove the Disney lawyers crazy), we made presentations and they understood what we’re doing, and they blew it. The truth is that it has been a very satisfying adventure, very fun. It is a world that is very fun to visit in this absurd way and at the same time that he loves the characters that appear.

animated fantasies of yesterday

—Another of the more playful aspects has to do with using different types of animation, and different types of recent animation, like, for example, the realistic animation of the beginning of the 21st century, which looked extremely strange. How was incorporating that layer?

—From the beginning, the surprise and what helps that dynamic is that Chip and Dale were going to be animated in different ways. One was going to be 2D and the other was going to be CGI. From there, the entire history of animation could be part of the matter: from an animated character in the style of the 30s to a character created in the style of Pixar and its cartoon, everything could be a reference to that realistic animation but it was not. it was so much. How was all that going to look together? I like slightly experimental comedy and I really liked the idea of ​​colliding those planets. It was all questions while we were making: did we shoot it with green screen or did we animate it in 3D? But the truth is that the question itself is a huge luxury that shows how gigantic this bet is.

“How’s the Lonely Island trail going?”

“I can’t talk much about it right now. But we’re always a bit into each other’s jobs. I directed two episodes of Brooklyn 99, Andy’s award-winning show. We check each other’s work, we laugh. It is rare to think about our jobs without the presence of the other, and at the same time it is not as rare as before. It’s a beautiful bond and it’s true that people’s response to our creations makes us very happy. We couldn’t be more grateful.

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