“What do you guys think about this Brexit?”
What if one of the year’s funniest movies opened wide in theaters and nobody came? Don’t worry, it’s a rhetorical question as we already know the answer. The Lonely Island – the comedic trio made up of Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, and Jorma Taccone – delivered their long-overdue sophomore feature on June 3rd with Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping.
Its cumulative gross fell short of $10 million.
For comparison, Generation Found, Hillary’s America, and the Ben-Hur remake all made more money. Shame on us.
The onus is on us not to make the same mistake again now that the movie is available on Blu-ray/DVD. It’s an extremely funny film, even across multiple re-watches, and the special features are loaded with numerous laughs of their own.
Keep reading to see what I heard on the commentary for Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping.
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (2016)
Commentators: Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, and Jorma Taccone
1. Some of you cinephiles may have known this already, but it turns out that the Universal logo “was made in 1934” by “Stalin’s mom” to help “the Axis powers” win the war. Douglas Universal saw it and decided it would look great in front of a movie. “The first movie he put it on was Jaws.”
2. The Style Boyz’s original DJ Francis is played by DJ Nu-mark from the hip-hop band Jurassic 5. He was unaware that his character was going to be turned into a dolphin killer and only found out once the film was released.
3. On a scale of 1–10 with 1 being the hardest and 10 being the easiest, Taccone says the film was a 2.5 in regard to editing it. He defends that number by pointing out it took seven and a half months to edit.
4. The concert scenes were shot in various ways. Most of it was shot at the Forum in Los Angeles, but some of the wide shots of a full stadium were from a One Direction concert film. They were given access to the dailies from the Morgan Spurlock-directed film, One Direction: This Is Us. “Shout out to the 1D fam!” Some were also a combination of digitally “tiled in” crowds added to the shots.
5. They recorded this commentary the same week it was announced Harry Styles was going solo. “By the time you’re listening to this maybe he’s a huge solo artist.”
6. Andy Samberg doesn’t like identifying people by labels (like “millennial.”) Schaffer feels that personal insights like that make the purchase of the Blu-ray worthwhile.
7. Schaffer shot the billboards on his iPhone while coming back from the dentist. They altered them to be for Conner in post-production.
8. That’s a tortoise, not a turtle.
9. Danny Strong, who plays the Perspective Manipulator here, is also a successful writer for film/TV. Samberg looks up his IMDB page as they’re talking and the trio is surprised to discover that he wrote Lee Daniels’ The Butler, created Empire, and wrote the last two Hunger Games films. “Oh my lord,” says Taccone, “what was he doing in our movie?”
10. They shot the equal rights song (“Not gay!”) on the Universal lot, and you can see the famous clock tower from Back to the Future behind Samberg.
11. Taccone’s infant son plays the infant Conner busting out the drum solo.
12. Taccone says he wrote an original draft of the catchphrase bit, but they canned it for being unfunny. “But that’s mostly because it was extremely racist,” adds Schaffer.
13. Schaffer points out some things he dislikes about commentary tracks including when the speakers simply point out what’s happening or when they pause to just watch the film themselves.
14. They ask listeners to promise not to tell anyone that the first fifteen minutes of this commentary is garbage.
15. Imogen Poots was a joy on-set and was known for telling weird jokes. “Everyone would laugh and laugh, she’d leave the room and we’d go ‘that was a weird joke.’ But it’s only because she’s foreign.”
16. Barack Obama was President of the United States when the movie was being filmed. “By the time you watch this you will all be pledging allegiance to Trump.”
17. The audio-only gag about the giant bee attack was inspired by the real bee harassing Samberg and Tim Meadows during the breakfast scene. Comedian friends watching early footage loved the bit and suggested that it happen again, so they added two more instances. “And then normal audiences were like, ‘we’re cool with one.’”
18. They hope that audiences pick up on Conner’s last name being Friel – Conner 4 Real – with only the introduction of his mom, Tilly Friel (Joan Cusack), to tip them off.
19. The quick change gag was inspired by a watch of the Katy Perry documentary, All of Me.
20. Conner’s accidental nudity required him to shave his pubes and tuck (and be touched up with CG), but Samberg was also wearing a tiny something to cover his junk on the backside. They were worried that an extra might snap a picture, but it never happened.
21. Some of the wolves play dire wolves on HBO’s Game of Thrones.
22. “Seal is really the Tom Cruise of R&B,” says Taccone, but the others aren’t so sure that’s an accurate portrayal of Seal’s musical genre. They decide “Fuck Songs” is better.
23. The shot of Taccone watching The Parent Trap on his laptop shows the movie blurred out for legal reasons – but psych! – it’s actually just iPhone footage of their assistants blurred out for fake legal reasons.
24. Schaffer asks Samberg where he got the idea for the “Ibitha” song, and he says “I thought it was funny to do a whole song with a lisp.” Schaffer wasn’t having any of it though, so Samberg waited for Taccone to get back into town knowing he’d agree to help write it. “You gotta go with the guy with the lower standards sometimes,” says Taccone.
25. The limo scene featuring the butt, boobs, and balls outside the window was the film’s only real re-shoot. It was recommended by producer Judd Apatow. He also suggested “shit waffles” which they modified into shit pancakes.
26. Samberg is the only one of the three who never got an ear pierced. “I regret my ear pierce,” says Schaffer. Taccone meanwhile wants to get his second ear pierced.
27. Conner’s makeup for heading out into public was inspired in part by Taccone showing the guys a Pink Panther film.
28. For the record, they “really like” Jason Segel. It doesn’t sound very convincing, but whatever.
29. Per the film’s costume department, Conner wears 160+ outfit variations.
30. Schaffer says he suggested the film end with Conner’s phone call offering him the awards show. He wanted to just cut to black, play a pop song, and leave it as a cliffhanger.
31. They tested early cuts where Hunter (Chris Redd) doesn’t get slapped by Harry (Meadows), but audiences were left unsatisfied with his comeuppance.
32. The Poppies producer is played by Liz Cackowski who also happens to be Schaffer’s wife. He’s not convinced she’s also the mother of his children though. “Who knows though really the way I get around.”
33. They regret not identifying Michael Bolton onscreen as “Lord Boltron.”
34. They think their film may hold the record for most “himself” and “herself” listings in the credits.
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD)
Best in Context-Free Commentary
“It’s kind of like you’re getting the director’s dvd commentary, you’re getting the actor’s dvd commentary, you’re getting the producer’s dvd commentary, you’re getting the writer’s dvd commentary, and you’re also getting one voice that sounds like dog shit on a cell phone.”
“Imogen Gay Poots. Her real name. A delight.”
“This movie moves fast. It’s hard to do commentary.”
“You may be shocked to learn this, but a lot of that was improvised.”
“Seal was maybe our most delightful guest.”
These guys are funny and provide multiple laughs across the commentary. Surprisingly, Samberg is the quieter and less spontaneous of the three. Schaffer and Taccone seem far more rapid-fire with the jokes and gags, but it’s clear the three of them are comfortable riffing off each other’s material. Watch the movie, watch the special features, and give this track a listen.
Read more Commentary Commentary from the archives.