- Category: Interviews
- Published: Thursday, 02 June 2016 12:39
- Written by Justine Browning
POPSTARS: NEVER STOP NEVER STOPPING is a laugh out loud funny view at music superstardom. Filled with culturally relevant humor, it also serves as a witty critique of fame and celebrity perception.
The comedy centers on childhood friends and former members of the hip-hop group Style Boyz - Conner (Andy Samberg), Owen (Jorma Taccone) and Lawrence (Akiva Schaffer). Now at the center of a successful solo career, Conner is one of the biggest entertainers in the world. Driven by ego, he decides to film a documentary that he’s the focus of. But what the film ends up being about is his fall from the limelight.
At a recent New York press day for the film, the three leads spoke about putting the flick together.
Q: When you three were actually roommates in that tiny LA apartment, was it obvious that Andy was going to be the big star out of the group?
Andy: Thank you for asking that.
Jorma: The first question is very easy.
Akiva: Absolutely, I mean, look at him, he’s gorgeous and multitalented.
Jorma: We couldn’t walk down the street without strangers stopping us and saying, “Who is your friend? Who is this Fabio-type, with that beautiful singing voice?”
Akiva: Uhh, no, because we didn’t expect for anything to work out necessarily. We were what, 21 or 22 years old in LA like everybody else, and weren’t expecting anybody to… We weren’t expecting anybody to be the star.
Q: When you decided to do this movie about the music business and the contemporary music world, what did you want to do with it that you felt hadn’t been done before?
Andy: The thing that I think was at the forefront of what we felt like [doing] was fun — to play around with was how much social media and the media and the number of outlets that exist nowadays has changed the landscape of the music industry. [We wanted to touch on] what is expected of an artist, what they give up of their own personal life, how real that is, the sort of relationship that musicians in the pop world have with their fans now, and how genuine [it is] for the sake of their career, and how it affects their actual friendships and relationships in their lives.
Q: Though we didn’t see shots of you modeling in your underwear, the Style Boyz — as you modeled them — seemed torn between being a New Kids on the Block or a Beasties facsimile. Who did you favor, and who you three personally favoring as a choice to listen to?
Akiva: Well none of us can actually sing, so we’re always going to favor the Beastie Boys, but that’s our personal preference; that’s who we were growing up with.
Andy: That’s definitely what we listen to, also. Nothing against NKOTB, Joey McIntyre has got the voice of an angel, we all know that.
Q: Ultimately do any of you want to do a doc on a particular music star now, a real doc, not an ersatz doc?
Andy: Who would be a good -- I mean, we would never spend time making a real documentary, that’s so long. If we were forced to make a documentary, I think probably the most fascinating person in music is Kanye. I would like to watch that.
Akiva: Yeah, a real documentary that really shows how his process is and stuff.
Jorma: But in a way, I wouldn’t want the mystery to be lessened with him and how his brain works. And I don’t know if that’s possible, but…
Andy: Weird Al? That’s something we should actually look into.
Q: What groups from that period did you actually listen to — were the pop stars or old school hip hop — what the actual music did you like from that period?
Andy: The Beastie Boys were huge for us. The Beasties and Run DMC, New Edition, Bell Biv Devo…
Jorma: But all the Native Tongues stuff for me, like De La Soul, Tribe Called Quest, Digital Underground…
Jorma: We listened to a lot of dancehall reggae as well, growing up. Cappelton, Sizzla, we could just keep going on.
Q: What would you say is the key to a such a long-lasting friendship as yours?
Jorma: We’re going to let Kiv handle this one.
Akiva: Honesty, communication, and [in unison]… “Keeping it interesting in the bedroom!”
Andy: Put on a wig, put on a little teddy…
Jorma: Whatever works.
Akiva: So to speak.
Jorma: And safe words are very important.
Q: What’s the funniest thing that happened on set?
Jorma: Like, that’s not in the movie?
Andy: There’s a couple of times when everyone lost their shit and got the giggles, and one of those scenes was… You all saw it? [right in unison]
There’s the scene where Tim Meadow’s character Harry is telling Conner that the label thinks that he needs an opening act. We tried it a bunch of different ways but the end of that scene was like “I’ve got one idea, but you are gonna like it!” “Are, or Aren’t?” “Are!” And we did that one.
Jorma: Everyone in the room was spiraling out of control.
Andy: That one… And then Tim — again — Tim Meadows makes people giggle, man, he’s just a funny, sweet man. When we were shooting the scene of us all on the side of the stage watching Hunter the Hungry for the first time, I would be like, “What do you think Harry? I don’t know about this guy.” He just kept saying, “The kids love him! I don’t know, I think it’s a good call. The kids love him!”
For some reason him saying, “The kids love him” for like the 15th time was probably my favorite moment.
Akiva: Everybody else started improvising new lines, and you go in a circle of like, different people taking their turns with new lines to get different reactions, and then every time we got to Tim, he’d say the same line, but with a new inflection. He didn’t bother to think of a new line, ever. For whatever reason that got everybody.
Q: Obviously Justin Bieber also comes to mind as someone that Conner is modeled after, so it surprised me that it actually almost gives you more empathy for someone like that. It was a more empathetic view of him, having to deal with fame even though he’s also a target of the movie. What do you think his impression will be if he sees this movie?
Andy: We would hope that he feels the way that you just described, because that is how we feel. We definitely empathize with Justin, and are friendly with him; we’ve worked with him a few times and think he’s a good guy, and actually we respect his music a lot. There’s a couple direct references, obviously, to his documentary, because we just felt like they were funny jumping off points for a crazier joke.
The title of the movie obviously feels like his title which makes it seem like it’s a lot more about him than we intended, I think. We hope he likes it, and we feel like the character of Conner is really an amalgam of everything that’s going on in the world of pop music and rap music for that matter.
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Q: And what was it like working with Michael Bolton again?
Andy: It was wonderful, although that’s one of the few things left that we haven’t announced so I don’t know if… we care about that…
Akiva: So it would be great to not ruin that surprise for people. Oh, you already wrote about that…
Jorma: It’s basically the only two surprises that are real surprises left, Timberlake and Bolton. Those are the things that people don’t…
Q: Everything else is in the trailers…
Jorma: Not everything, but I mean, one way or another, through all the different outlets somebody’s talking about various things. But those are two nice things to leave out! It’s a request it’s not… [laughs]
Q: Do you guys feel like you share the personality traits that your characters have? Is Jorma kind of the mediator of the group; is Kiva like the serious writer, and Andy, more the diva type?
Jorma: A good way to look at it is, Alvin and the Chipmunks is basically the analogy, like, I’m the Theodore, Akiva’s Simon, and Andy’s Alvin. Only that we all wear glasses, that’s a major difference.
Andy: Yeah, we’ve been saying that Popstar is kind of an unofficial squeak-uel. It’s fine if you want to say that.
Akiva: I think that’ll put butts in the seats.
Q: Given how subjective comedy is, how challenging was it to figure out what to keep, what not to keep, what works, what doesn’t work during the editing process?
Jorma: It was very challenging. And we have an hour and a half of deleted and alt scenes, for this movie, so there was a ton of stuff that we loved that we had to leave on the cutting room floor, that just didn’t feel like it, for whatever reason, furthered the story.
Andy: “Kiv, how did you approach it? What did you think? For you was it easy?”
Akiva: For me, it was very easy, but that’s just because I closed my eyes and would just hit buttons and some scenes would disappear and some would be in and I’d be like. “How ‘bout that?”
Andy: Sort of a Russian roulette.
Akiva: Yeah, I’d just play Russian roulette.
Jorma: And ‘Kiv was more of a painter than anything. He was just like “Ughhh,” sort of feels it out.
Q: Will the DVD have an hour and a half of deleted scenes?
Andy: It will. Including some musical stage performances of songs that are on the soundtrack but not in the movie.
Jorma/Kiv?: And then there’s more stuff that we obviously just didn’t want people to see. That was the good stuff
Andy: Some of that was just dog shit, we cut that.
Akiva: Like any comedy that you play for an audience, you’re surprised. Sometimes they laugh at the thing that we thought, “Alright we’re putting this in but it’s really just for us,”— it’s the thing we think is funny and the whole audience would laugh.
Then other times we’d be like “Oh, this is the one that the audience is going to go crazy for,” and sometimes they would and sometimes they wouldn’t… I don’t think that’s unique to this project, that’s just true of any comedy. You have your guess of what everyone’s going to like and then you put it out there.
Andy: It’s definitely fun and fascinating to go through that process, every time for us, where you put up a joke and it bombs and we all turn to each other and go “wow, I guess not!”
Or one where we, like he said, where it feels very throw-away but the whole theater falls down laughing and we’re like “nice! I guess that one was way better than we thought.” And we feel like we got the movie down to a length and a flow that felt right to us for that.
Q: How did you go about finding and casting the musicians that made cameos in the movie?
Andy: All kinds of ways. Some of them were people we worked with before so we would just call them, or email them. Some we did through reps, [and] some people, like Ringo Starr, Judd Apatow was the one who called [laughs].
Jorma: We don’t have his number.
Andy: No. we don’t have Ringo on speed dial. But we cast a really wide net and had a huge list of people we would love to be a part of it. We actually were really fortunate, because a lot of them said yes. Clearly, a ton of people.
Q: Do you have a favorite song in the movie?
Akiva: Yes [pause]. I am partial to “The Finest Girl aka Bin Laden.”
Andy: I think I might be too.
Q: Did you guys know you were going to make that an SNL skit when you wrote it?
Andy: No. We certainly hoped [it would be]. But you know, we’ve got to get Lorne [Michael]’s permission.
Jorma: We just shot that on Thursday, and we really did it like an SNL skit…
Q: What was your favorite?
Jorma: I think maybe, “I’m So Humble” — the one that starts the movie.
Andy: Musically, that might be my fave.
Akiva: I really like this one that you maybe didn’t even hear, because it’s at the very end of the end credits called “Legalize It.” It’s like a reggae song, but you would have had to listen to the very end of the end credits to hear it.
Q: Is that the cover of Peter Tosh song?
Jorma: It’s kind of a spin.
Andy: It’s a new take.
Jorma: A new take on the classic.
Andy: It’s a dumb comedy song.
Jorma: Not a straight cover of Peter Tosh.
Q: What’s your process, did the songs come first, or the storyline -- how did that come together?
Andy: It varies. We are a lot like real rappers — even though we’re fake rappers — where we get sent a ton of really awesome beats from various producers, and we’ll sort of lock ourselves in the studio and listen to a ton of them. Often times the beat itself will spark an idea, and we’ll start writing to it, or we’ll just love the beat and star it and say, “Let’s make sure to come back to this and try to think of an idea for it.”
Other times we’ll have an idea or premise for a song, and then we’ll search for a beat that matches it. Sometimes we’ll have an idea for a song and we’ll know it has to be a certain kind of beat and we’ll straight up ask a producer to craft a beat from scratch to match that idea.
Akiva: Everything Andy said is accurate, yeah.
Jorma: That is true.
Q: You’re also married to another wonderful musician, Joanna Newsom. Have you ever thought of doing a collaboration…
Jorma: Oh yeah, why don’t you ruin her career?
Andy: I think that her fan base would probably be pretty disappointed in that. Rightfully so.
Jorma: As fans of her work, I’d say that we would also be pretty disappointed.
Andy: I think we’ll make like the Offspring and Keep ‘Em Separated. Thank you.
Jorma: Oh yeah, very cool reference.
Jorma: Timely, what a huge bummer that was.
Andy: Always wanted to get an Offspring ref in.
Q: Chris Redd was very funny in the movie, but you had so many big names I didn’t know Chris Redd until this movie. How did you find him and pick him for the role?
Akiva: We didn’t do either. He was brought to our attention by our casting--
Andy: Allison Jones.
Akiva: Allison Jones, yeah…
Andy: The mythic casting director Allison Jones, who seems to find every awesome new person in comedy…
Jorma: He’s from Chicago, but he was also on Second City, not the main stage but the… What’s the other one? Maybe the ETC stage or whatever….
Andy: He just won the part with his audition. He auditioned a couple times and did, in his audition, a bunch of scenes, but the one that really blew us away was the after the Naked on Stage thing, where he’s saying, “I didn’t do any work did I.”
We were watching it just being like, “I love this dude!” We were so captivated by his performance. So we were really happy to get him.
Akiva: He had made some comedy-type stuff himself as well…
Jorma: It’s his first movie.
Andy: That was a hard character to cast because it was a lot of comedy but also someone who had to sound convincing musically.
Q: Was that based on any rapper?
Andy: Similar to Conner, it was sort of an amalgam of a lot of rappers. But any rapper or even like punk band whose thing is being anarchy and rebel…
Akiva: Like early Eminem — to some degree. I just don’t give a fuck but…
Andy: There was a little Odd Future vibe…
Akiva: Yeah, little bit of Tyler the Creator stuff.
Andy: Which again, like all our stuff, we love all of those folks’ music. So it’s always fun for us to draw from the things that we’re fans of.
Q: The TMZ parody seemed to be the only really vicious thing in the movie where you really present them as hyenas, cannibals, vultures. Is there a personal animosity there…
Jorma: No. We love Harvey and the gang!
Andy: We wrote kind of a small piece of the “CMZ” stuff and then we cast those four comedians. It was Judd’s idea to say, “Let’s clear out half a day to shoot, shoot them sort of commenting on the whole movie, sort of like a greek chorus.” We just kind of let them go and they took it from there — those four. They just went bananas.
Jorma: There’s some stuff on the DVD of them that is incredibly, they’re really funny.
Andy: It gets way crazier.
Jorma: That was another day that we were just doubled over, like Will Arnett’s a beast, he’s incredible.
Andy: But the “CMZ” stuff is another one where, when we put it in test screenings, we were like, we really like this but we’ll see if it’s maybe too crazy… And it was not too crazy. The audience was all, “More of that!” We were like, “All right, we’ll put more in.” I’m thinking, “We have it.” So it was yet another case where Judd’s instinct was spot on.
Q: Mariah Carey sort of had a meltdown after her big musical movie years ago, Glitter. Did she say anything about this while she was making her appearance to you like, “This seems a bit like my life.”
Akiva: I didn’t even remember that.
Jorma: No, she was completely game with everything and was really, really funny.
Andy: I think her records breaking a number of No. One hits probably gave her solace.
Jorma: Yeah, she could always fall back on it. She’s all right.
Q: Any other comedy discoveries in the casting?
Andy: Yeah, Edgar Blackmon who plays Eddie, he’s really funny.
Jorma: He’s one of those entourage kind of guys.
Andy: Yeah, and James Buckley…
Jorma: That’s not a comedy discovery, obviously, he’s incredible.
Andy: If you’ve seen “The Inbetweeners,” he’s incredible in it. But we were really happy to have him in it, obviously.
And we’re breaking in a young talent in Maya Rudolph, [all laugh] You’ll be hearing from from her — she has a new show…
Jorma: Yes, she’s got a new show.
Q: So is there going to be a follow-up movie?
Andy: We’ll see…
Akiva: That’s up to America.