Once, the best way to describe Andy Samberg was as “the guy in ‘Lazy Sunday’ who’s not Chris Parnell.” So maybe the best way to describe Jorma Taccone—one-third, along with Samberg, of the Lonely Island comedy team and an SNL writer—is as “the guy in ‘Jizz in My Pants’ who’s not Andy Samberg.” You might also call him the man behind the popular “MacGruber” sketches and, now, the director of the improbable MacGruber movie. Taccone spoke to Adam Sternbergh.
What was the genesis of the MacGruber character?
Every Monday, the writers and cast crowd into Lorne’s office, and there’s some wildly famous host that you’re super-nervous to talk to, and you have to pitch your ideas. My pitch that week was a sketch about MacGyver’s stepbrother, MacGruber, who defuses bombs only using pieces of shit and pubic hair. It got a huge groan in the room. It was almost like a boo. People were like, Oh, God, shut up.
Clearly you won them over.
It was another couple of weeks of me pitching the idea to Will Forte. I don’t think he was that into it at first. I sort of wore him down. So to go from a really dumb pitch that failed in the room to a major motion picture is pretty exciting.
How did it become a movie?
We did the “MacGruber” Super Bowl spot for Pepsi, which generated some outside interest. Then Lorne came to us and said, “Do you want to do this?” At first we were like, We have a sketch where a guy blows up after 90 seconds. How are we going to make that into a movie? But we started writing it, and we got the character’s voice. He’s a guy with problems—super-narcissistic, a little bit homophobic, a little racist, a little sexist. And yet he’s lovable somehow.
MacGruber is not a spoof—it’s more like an affectionate homage to eighties-era action films like Commando and Die Hard with an idiot in the middle of it.
We wanted to plug this comedy character into a world he really shouldn’t be in. I had a conversation with Powers Boothe, where he said, “What is this? Is this Hot Shots?” And I’d say, “No. You’re dead serious.” He’d say, “So in the scene where he’s offering to fellate me, how should I play that?” And I’d say, “It’s heartbreaking. It’s genuinely heartbreaking.”
The film premiered at SXSW to a pretty enthusiastic reaction.
It was exceptional. We kept turning up the sound because it was getting laughed over. Which was good, because the movie is so dirty that it’s hard to show things from the movie in the trailer. Ninety percent of it you can’t show.
Have your parents seen it?
My dad saw it. My grandma’s going to see it. She carries a picture around in her purse of us winning our Emmy for “Dick in a Box.” But she can’t tell people what we won it for.