Digital Short Face-Off
With Digital Shorts being such a big part of the “Saturday Night Live” lineup nowadays, it’s hard to remember that the medium of sketches was only introduced in December 2005. The first video, called “Lettuce,” was directed by Akiva Schaffer, written by Will Forte and starred Forte and Andy Samberg as two actors in a faux commercial for lettuce. Since, “SNL” has aired a total of 102 Digital Shorts, and their production quality has significantly improved since the early days of their existence. For the most part, the men of The Lonely Island –Schaffer, Samberg and Jorma Taccone — created the Digital Shorts, though new writers and directors have taken over since the trio has moved on from “SNL.” But the Digital Short ushered in a new era of sketches that they could be filmed ahead of time and include surprising celebrity cameos. Some of the most memorable Digital Shorts are the musical ones, which often feature songs from The Lonely Island’s albums and have included appearances from musicians like Justin Timberlake, Julian Casablancas, T-Pain and Michael Bolton.
“Lazy Sunday” might not have been the first Digital Short, but it is the first one that most fans remember. It debuted on “SNL” in 2005 and features Samberg and Chris Parnell singing a rap about their love of “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” and cupcakes, among other things. Thanks to the rising power of the Internet, this was the first Digital Short to really go viral. It’s not quite as polished as the later Lonely Island Digital Shorts, but it does go down as being the first Digital Short musical video and the first song off of The Lonely Island’s 2009 album, “Incredibad,” to be featured on “SNL.”
By the time “Dick in a Box” rolled around in 2006, The Lonely Island crew had perfected their Digital Short persona, and in this video they had a big name to help the skit break out. In the video, Justin Timberlake joined Samberg to serenade current “SNL” performers Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph with the ultimate gift: their genitalia. Having Timberlake on board definitely helped boost “Dick in a Box’s” popularity, but the overall genius of the sketch was its match of an absurd premise with faux seriousness. It’s no wonder that “Dick in a Box” went on to win the Emmy for Outstanding Music and Lyrics in 2007 and was the first single released off of “Incredibad.”
And The Winner Is…
“Dick in a Box,” hands down. “Lazy Sunday” might have been the first Lonely Island Digital Short to be featured on “SNL” and one of the most beloved, but it was “Dick in a Box” that made the Digital Short one of the most anticipated skits on the improv series. It paved the way for the likes of “I’m On A Boat,” “Jizz In My Pants” and “I Just Had Sex,” and also remains one of the most popular sketches of the 2000s.