The last time Andy Samberg was at Comic-Con he was promoting his big screen, leading man debut in “Hot Rod.” Two years later, he’s won an Emmy for best original song for ‘[expletive] in a Box,’ become a staple on “Saturday Night Live,” released an album with his buddies “The Lonely Island” and was at the epicenter of “Twilight” mania as host of the 2009 MTV Movie Awards. And his journey to San Diego this time? To promote his supporting role as the voice of Brent in the new CG animated flick “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.”
Having met Samberg a few times during his stellar run, he genuinely seems to be one of the few successful actors or comedians who still come across as everyday, down-to-earth guys. Most stars you feel it slipping away bit by bit the more famous they become, but not with Samberg. Not yet anyway.
Q: Is Comic-Con just as overwhelming the second time around?
Uh, it’s different. It’s both more and less. it’s less because Im’ not headlining the movie, but more because more people know who I am now.
Q: So, you could sort of escape before?
I was flying under the radar last time. But, it’s exciting. I’m really proud of the movie honestly.
Q: Have you guys seen it?
Yeah, yeah. It’s really funny and really genuine entertainment. It’s kind of like a disaster movie [and] I love disaster movies.
Q: Can you tell me about your character in “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”? I know he’s not in the book. In fact, I heard none of the characters are.
The main character is Bill Hader – Flint Lockwood – and he lives in a town called Swallow Falls which was based on the sardine industry – their only export. My character’s named Brent and he was a baby actor who was in the sardine commercials and his catch phrase was ‘Uh-oh.’ (Laughs.) So he’s kind of a Mikey cereal ‘likes it’ kind of guy, but for sardines in this small town. So, he grows up sort of as a local celebrity because their only industry is sardines, but then when Hader’s character Lockwood creates the food machine, no one cares about it anymore. So, he’s a side character, but he’s got a proper arc where his life is meaningless.
Q: But he’s not the villain?
No. There is no outright villain. In a lot of ways the food machine becomes the villain and turns into its own self-generating death star of food. It’s so rad. The scene with the spaghetti twister and things falling down? There are things on the Great Wall of China and all over the world. Super cool.
Q: You’ve done animation before, but on a movie like this did they allow you to be part of the creative process?
Yeah, I’m really good friends with Bill and Chris, the directors, and they knew they had this character and they decided early on that they wanted it to be me. They were like, ‘Hey, would you do this?’ And I was like, ‘Sure, whatever. [expletive] yeah.’ So, they sort of tailored it to what they felt would be my strengths — as friends. (Laughs.) Like, ‘You know like Andy being screechy and yelly and that character.’ So, I came in and it was already a thing. There was a bit we’d do with the character. It was ‘Oh, big doofy guy who is really loud and obnoxious and super confident even though he’s super stupid.’ Then once we were recording we would just improvise and use some and not use some.
Q: Y’know, when I first saw the trailer I thought it was a pretty kiddy film, but when I saw the extended Comic-Con preview it was a little bit smarter than I thought it would be.
Yes, I agree with you. The first teaser I thought was kind of broad, but there is actually a lot of smart clever comedy, because if you’ve seen ‘Clone High,’ it’s all that. If you like the comedy and tone of ‘Clone High’ it’s definitely translated into this, but just on a much bigger scale.
Q: I know these are your friends, but after doing this do you think, ‘Oh, no, Pixar will never call me…
(Laughs.) I certainly hope not. I love Pixar movies, I love DreamWorks Animated too. I love both of those so much. But I really like Sony too. I think those are the ones making quality animated movies right now. I certainly would be down to do any of those.
Q: Well, I have to ask you, I sat in Hall H all day today and thought ‘How ironic “Twilight” is following Andy Samberg after what happened at the MTV Movie Awards. He can’t escape it…’
(Laughs.) Everywhere I go.
Q: Did you recognize that at all?
It was funny, I knew they were going to be doing it here. And then, obviously, everyone is talking about it. We were taking one of those carts from one panel to another and we hear the [roar sound] and like screeching loud fans and I was like, ‘Oh, that’s the ‘Twilight’ fans.’ And they were like, ‘Yeah, it is.’ I’ve only hear that sound once before and it was for all the ‘Twilight’ stuff at the MTV Movie Awards. There is this certainly frequency that only ‘Twilight’ fans make. I went to see ‘Harry Potter’ and there was a preview for ‘New Moon’ and the girls in the theater started screeching and screeching and I was saying ‘They can’t hear you!’ Like, you’re in a movie theater. Why do you love it that much? It’s crazy. I feel scared for those actors honesty. It’s super intense.
Q: You did get an Emmy nomination for ‘Motherlover’ after winning two years before for ‘[expletive] in a box.’ Are you gunning for the win the second time around?
I mean, I’m not gonna lose sleep over it, but it’s always nice to win something if you’re nominated.
Q: I’m a huge fan of The Lonely Island. Loved the album. I don’t think many expected a song like ‘I’m on a Boat’ to be such a great, catchy track.
I keep hearing more and more awesome stories about ‘I’m on a Boat’ that it comes on at clubs and people’s spin classes. That’s awesome. That song has like gone gold. It’s crazy and in Australia and Canada it’s gone platinum.
Q: So, are you guys working on another album yet?
No, Jorma is directing the ‘MacGruber’ movie so Lonely Island — the three of us projects are on hold.
Q: But it’s not dead?
No, I certainly hope not. I mean there is nothing I’d rather do more. It’s my favorite thing. Making songs with those guys is like absolutely my favorite thing to do.
Q: Was there one guest star or producer you couldn’t believe you landed? Like T-Pain, how did that come about?
We knew T-Pain was a fan of ‘Hot Rod’ because I met him on ‘SNL’ and he came with Mariah Carey and he stopped me and was like, ‘Hey, man can you stop and take a picture with me and do an ultimate punch?’ ‘I was like, holy [expletive] you do like it!’ And we were huge fans of his, so it was like a lovefest. So, when we started making that song we were like, ‘Omigod, what if we got Tedder Pender’ and he was down and did it. But, we got a lot of rad people on the record. We were so lucky.
Q: ‘McGruber’ is supposed to be happening really quick.
Yeah, they are shooting it this summer.
Q: Will you be having a cameo or anything small role in it?
Not that I’m aware of. (Laughs.)
Q: Did you have the opportunity to shoot anything during your ‘SNL’ break?
I hosted the Movie Awards. That was a big undertaking. We worked really hard on that. Including the promos and everything. There was a lot of time spent on the Movie Awards.
Q: Would you do it again? Or was it more work than you thought it would be?
Uh, I wouldn’t not do it again because it’s a lot of work, but I don’t know if I will or won’t do it again. It was a great time. It also went so well I don’t know if I’d want to mess that up.
Q: But I’m guessing you wouldn’t turn down the Emmys or Grammys?
Absolutely. Hosting an awards show is fun. Once you have the pre-taped stuff done it’s just like sitting in a room with really funny writers making jokes. It’s fun.
Q: Many first-time hosts talk about the pressure of being in front of such a big television audience for an event like that. Do you think being on ‘SNL’ helped alleviate some of that?
Yeah, it definitely helped not make me feel nervous being out there. There was only one moment when I first walked out where I was just a little overwhelmed with how positive the crowd response was. It was sort of this weird moment of, ‘Oh, wow. Everyone actually knows who I am. That’s crazy.’ (Laughs.)
Q: You thought it would be a little tougher room?
Maybe a little yeah. I just figured people where there to see…stars. (Laughs.)
Q: You still don’t think of yourself as a star?
It depends. You go to one room and you definitely feel like you are and then you go to another room and no one knows who the [expletive] you are and it’s like, ‘Oh, right, right, right. I’m just a dude.’ There is like a million people doing their stuff. I think my profile definitely went up a bit this year because ‘SNL’ got such huge rating because of the election and then we sort of piggybacked heat for our digital shorts off that and the album and ‘I Love You Man’ and the Movie Awards, I definitely got a lot of exposure in that way. Happily, because it was all stuff I was really proud of, but there is no way to know. There is now way to know from the inside looking out. Like where you actually fall in that sort of thing.
Q: Don’t people yell things out to you on the streets of New York?
Yeah, people yell out ‘I’m on a Boat’ to me the most. For the longest time it was ‘[expletive] in a Box.’
Q: Did that get old?
Eh, it’s fine. (Laughs.) People yell ‘Motherlover’ too. People yell ‘Jizz in my pants.’
Q: Can you talk about the inspiration for the sound of ‘Jizz’? It’s actually this great dance track.
We had the label send us a bunch of beats when we were doing everything to make the record. And that was one of the ones I singled out as really liking so I kind of sat in the room over and over again until I had an idea for it.
Q: Was the idea to mock dance songs or mock euro pop? Or did that come out in the video?
It came out naturally. I started recording with more of a regular voice and then Jorma went British and I was like, ‘Oh, that sounds really cool.’ Like, a lot of people say, ‘Oh, it’s so clearly Pet Shop Boys,’ but honestly when we were making it we were thinking more along the lines of Tricky or like kind of modern London-techo pop thing.
And with that our time was over. Samberg gave a friendly smile and the publicist swept Samberg back into the abyss of the Comic-Con publicity machine.
“Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” opens nationwide on Sept. 18. “Saturday Night Live” returns with original programming on Sept. 26.