It takes a certain amount of cachet for a comedy group to make a visual album parody centered on two Bay Area sports figures from the late ’80s. But not only did The Lonely Island pull off the concept, they turned it into the surprise Netflix launch “The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience.”
Andy Samberg and Akiva Schaffer star as Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire, the home run-hitting stars of the decade-capping Oakland A’s squad. Co-directed by Schaffer and Mike Diva, the half-hour special is a trippy cacophony of raps about region-specific attractions, the life of an MLB superstar, and a nimble rundown of every team in the league following the 1993 expansion.
Now that there’s been a small amount of distance from last month’s stealth drop and with the group’s upcoming tour on the horizon, Schaffer and Samberg talked on Vulture’s Good One podcast about what their next project might be. With that still up in the air, Schaffer’s most noteworthy response centered on where any future Lonely Island videos might end up.
“I don’t know where those videos are going to live next time,” Schaffer said. “The world of media is changing so fast. YouTube is not the same place as it was when we used to make videos that we wanted to have on YouTube. The way the algorithm works is completely different now, and the audience that’s on there is completely different now. You don’t get sent funny videos on YouTube almost ever anymore. It’s just vloggers and then the occasional Marvel movie trailer. So, that audience isn’t there in the same way.”
It’s a bold statement from a member of a group that came to prominence largely via the first wave of YouTube viral video sensations. The Lonely Island’s ascent quickly led to a handful of feature films and TV production efforts, but their early “Saturday Night Live” videos are still up on the platform. As Schaffer alludes to, YouTube has since faced widespread public scrutiny for its content moderation strategy (or in some cases, lack thereof). The platform is still making money off its creators, but it’s still significant to see one of the godfathers of YouTube comedy make such a direct statement about where priorities have shifted.
Bringing projects to other services, including Netflix, has given The Lonely Island a chance to experiment with other lengths. The pair explained that calling “Bash Brothers” a “visual poem” was a way to make a format-based joke, but to also help lean into the fact that the songs are more loosely connected than a film script would be. It was one of the group’s former co-workers that pushed them to make this new project as long as it needed to be.
“The whole concept is so obviously not a broad commercial concept. Why try to make it more commercial? Then you’re gonna make it for nobody,” Schaffer said. “There were times when we were like, ‘Should we shorten it?’ Even Seth Meyers was like, ‘Why? Anybody who’s watching wants the most of it they can get. Anybody who doesn’t want it, you cutting three minutes here and there is not gonna make the difference for them. So make it for the people who are gonna like it.'”
Listen to the full interview (including an explanation of who wrote the “steps” part of their classic “Dick in a Box” song) below: