An Interview with MacGruber’s Jorma Taccone
Written by Dan Carson
Jorma Taccone is the closest thing you can find to a Swiss Army Knife in the world of comedy.
He has written sketches for Emmy Award winning actor Jeremy Piven and produced Digital Shorts with hip hop legend Justin Timberlake on Saturday Night Live. Along with fellow members Andy Samburg and Akiva Schaffer, his comedy group The Lonely Island released the 7best selling rap album of 2009. He composes beats, dabbles in acting, and just finished directing a summer blockbuster movie in under a month’s time. And then he Jizzed-in-His-Pants.
In an exclusive interview after the pre-screening of his new movie MacGruber, Taccone speaks about life before SNL, getting fired from dead-end jobs with Andy Samberg, and what it’s like to watch the star of the movie Will Forte pretend to have sex with a ghost on set.
When did you realize that a typical 9-5 office job wasn’t for you?
“When I kept getting fired from them. Andy, Kiv (Schaffer), and I first started The Lonely Island when we met each other when we were thirteen years old, but after college we moved to LA. Just to pay bills we got temp jobs all over LA. We had the weirdest jobs like ripping up tortillas for a movie, and we kept getting fired from them.
A lot of the times it was for trying to do creative things on the side like write scripts on computers, and it sort of slowly dawned on me that all the creative stuff we wanted to do kept interfering with these normal jobs.”
How did you get to where you are today on Saturday Night Live? Was it just a crazy idea you and the guys had that ended up just happening or were you planning it all along?
“When we first moved down (to LA), we were just hanging out, working crappy jobs, and making creative stuff on the weekends. We came up with a couple pilots for shows but we really wanted to write for the MTV Music Awards.
The MTV Awards were short and it wasn’t going to take us away from what we wanted to do, and we got to write for famous people. We did that for two years and the second year Jimmy Fallon was the host and all these producers and writers from SNL came out.
We got to know them and then when it came time to audition for the show they asked us to come out. Andy got the show, and we sort of waited around for a couple of days to see if they wanted me and Kiev. When they said yes we moved out to New York and started writing shorts right away.
We realized early on we weren’t very good at writing live sketches so we started making films the way we always had which is borrowing a video camera and just going out and just doing it and hope that it got on the air.
What inspired you to write the first MacGruber sketch? Did you watch MacGyver growing up or did inspiration hit more recently amid an ABC rerun marathon and a bag of Funions?
“I’m more inspired by the SunChips bio-degradable bag actually. It’s funny where ideas for pitches come from though. Every week you have to scramble to come up with a pitch for Monday which is when all the writers, cast, and producers all crowd into an office to pitch to some wildly famous host.
You go into this room and say your ideas out loud to 35 or 40 people, it’s really nerve-racking. That week I was scrambling for pitches and thought of the idea that someone could be MacGyver’s stepbrother MacGruber who defuses bombs using nothing but pieces of shit and pubic hair. It got a huge groan from the room. People didn’t get the idea, including Will Forte, so for the next three or four weeks I kept re-pitching it to Will and being like “Come on let’s just do it!”
The first (MacGruber sketch) we did was for Jeremy Piven. MacGruber keeps asking for really disgusting items for Piven to pick up and he keeps getting really grossed out. It was funny and we all started liking this character.”
What’s the best thing about working with Will Forte?
“He’s one of the funniest dudes on the planet. He is one of the most ‘committed to comedy’ actors I’ve ever seen. He is constantly giving 150% whether you want him to or not. (Forte) would routinely do a twelve or thirteen hour day… and he would come home, run five miles, then learn his lines for the next day.
He’s also one of the most generous people I’ve ever met. I don’t even know if I should say this, but Will gave away all of his ‘per diem’ to every single person who worked on the movie. He wrote individual cards to every single person, and it’s like ‘Who does that?’ He’s really an exceptional human being.
What was the funniest moment that occurred during the filming MacGruber?
“Will having sex with a ghost in a graveyard. He had to put his knees against this real gravestone. It being like four o’clock in the morning and Will thrusting the air like he’s having sex with a ghost, butt naked basically. He was really hurting his knees banging them against the stone and screaming back to us ‘How long do I have to do this?!’ and I kept telling him to keep going. We were all laughing our asses off.
I have to ask: In the music video for The Lonely Island hit single “I’m on a Boat” featuring T-Pain, you end up getting screwed out of a “Free Boat Ride for Three.” Not enough room for four emcee’s on daddy’s yacht?
“Often times the way that we work is that whoever is in the room is doing the idea. I was on vacation for my wedding anniversary with my wife and those guys made that song when I was gone. I came back and was super pissed.
I was like ‘WHAT THE FUCK?! YOU GUYS MADE A FUCKING HIT!’ But I love that song, it’s fucking awesome and when I got back we continued to work on it together. Hopefully we’ll do more stuff with all three of us though, those are usually my favorites.
Do you foresee continuing to directing and writing for SNL, or is there another path you want to take your career down in the future?
“I don’t know. I really do feel tremendously lucky to have the opportunities I have. It was great learning experience to write at the show and make music for the show, and now I’m getting to act and direct. I really just hope I’m lucky enough to continue doing all of those things in the future. I just want to be creative.”
Go see Taccone’s latest directing job MacGruber starring Will Forte, now playing in theaters.
Contacts for Authentication:
VICTORIA DEFELICE (Jorma’s PR Assistant) 150 West 30th Street, 19th floor, New York, NY 10001p: 212.334.0333 l f: 212.334.8444 l c: firstname.lastname@example.org