When one successfully skewers Wimbledon (7 Days in Hell, 2015) and the Tour de France (Tour de Pharmacy, 2017), what comes next? If you’re Andy Samberg, you get the band back together and take on your childhood idols. As comedy legends from the Bay Area, it was a no-brainer for Samberg, Jorma Taccone, and Akiva Schaffer to take on the poster boy for baseball’s steroid era, former Oakland Athletics star José Canseco. Oh yeah, and his teammate, Mark McGwire.
Samberg and Schaffer dazzle as Canseco and McGwire, respectively, in the visual poem The Lonely Island Presents: The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience, and Taccone excels in bit parts as a reporter, shortstop Walt Weiss, and, in an end-credits sequence you won’t soon forget, Joe Montana. With guest stars including Maya Rudolph and Samberg’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine co-star Stephanie Beatriz, the production was a hit. What couldn’t be known by a simple viewing was the tumult behind the scenes, and the darkness that threatened to derail the production. This is that story.
Andy Samberg: I was fresh off doing Tour de Pharmacy and Hotel Transylvania 3, and really wanted to do something personal. The only move was to call Jorm and Kiv.
Jorma Taccone: When I get a call like that from Andy, wow, how can I explain it? I feel that tingling in my balls, like when you’re on a rollercoaster, you know? Half the time, I don’t know what he’s up to, but I’m scared and happy. It’s exhilarating.
Akiva Schaffer: Typically, I’ve got a lot of shit going on. I’m producing something, directing another thing, or just mentoring a young artist. When Andy calls, though? He gets my best shit.
Jorma Taccone: Kiv, man, he’s a fucking genius. When we did Hot Rod (2007), we fought for him to direct. He was the only one that was ready for the big screen.
Andy Samberg: When I spoke to Kiv about what to do next, right away he was like, “Let’s fucking bash.” I had no idea what he was talking about.
Akiva Schaffer: I loved the A’s in the 80s. Dave Stewart, Carney Lansford, Mike Gallego. Those guys were my favorites, but Canseco and McGwire got the press because everyone loves the long ball, and how those idiots bashed their forearms after a home run. Fucking Bash Brothers.
Jorma Taccone: I was more of a San Francisco Giants fan. Will Clark had a sweet left-handed swing.
Akiva Schaffer: I always held a grudge against Canseco and McGwire for stealing the limelight from my guys, so when Canseco wrote his book and outed them both as cheats? I hated them even more.
Andy Samberg: Once I got the reference, I thought he was onto something great. When I was a kid, I worshipped José Canseco. Since we’re from Berkeley, it made too much sense. We had to do it.
Maya Rudolph: I only did it because Lorne Michaels asked me to. He’s got a soft spot for Samberg and wanted to help him out. If they would’ve called me direct it would’ve been a hard pass. Those three are fucking clowns.
Jorma Taccone: I was happy to get back in the lab with my boys, you know? It was setting up real nice, too. I was going to play Walt Weiss, Dennis Eckersley, and Tony La Russa.
Andy Samberg: People always tell me how much they love that one, and it’s all I can do to not tell them how great it could have been. If not for Kiv.
Akiva Schaffer: I wanted to make the best album and visual poem possible. Period.
Jorma Taccone: I remember going to a Knights of Columbus meeting and being psyched as hell to tell everyone I was going to play Tony La Russa. They were all so proud of me.
Andy Samberg: Everything was cool, and then Jorm came in one day, talking about how he wanted to approach playing Walt Weiss, who was the shortstop on the A’s championship team.
Jorma Taccone: I was talking about how smooth Weiss was with the glove and then Kiv was like, “He was nothing without Gallego.” Mike Gallego was the second basemen on the A’s, and Weiss’s double-play partner.
Akiva Schaffer: There are reams of film showing what Gallego brought to the table. It is objectively true that Weiss was riding Gallego’s coattails.
Andy Samberg: We would’ve been able to work around that, no problem, but Kiv started changing, and was angry all the time. I was worried he had a drinking problem.
Maya Rudolph: I don’t know what was happening, but that skinny fuck Akiva knew not to give me shit.
Andy Samberg: One day I was getting a sandwich at craft services, and I felt a jab in my left butt cheek. I didn’t have time to look before I felt hot breath on my neck and heard Kiv in my ear. “Are you ready to get fucking buff?” That’s all he said before I felt the needle come out. When I turned around, he was gone.
Akiva Schaffer: Like I said, I was trying to make the best product possible. That includes my body.
Jorma Taccone: I had never seen Kiv go method before, and it was freaking me out. After he jabbed Andy, he told me he’d been juicing for two months. He constantly pressured me to go to the bathroom with him. He kept yelling, “Shoot me up, Walt!”
Andy Samberg: He stuck me a couple more times, but I finally got him to stop. I told him my wife was starting to question the marks on my ass cheeks. If there’s one thing Kiv respects, it’s marriage. I was scared for a while, though. The roid rage was intense.
Stephanie Beatriz: Working with Andy for all these years, he’s always been confident. Totally assured of himself and having a good time. Around a pro like Andre Braugher, Andy doesn’t break a sweat. But on the Bash Brothers set? He was on edge. Whenever Akiva got near him, he would shrink.
Jorma Taccone: The anger was out of control, but Kiv was also the director, so we couldn’t rein him in. Years ago, he had mentored Mike Diva. He really respects Mike’s aesthetic, so we brought him in as co-director, thinking Kiv would relax. Mike never showed up.
Mike Diva: When my plane landed Akiva was there to meet me. He was dressed like Tony Montana and was all smiles, was like, “We’re going to make the most badass thing you’ve ever done!” We got outside and a couple guys grabbed me, put a bag over my head, and threw me into a van.
Akiva Schaffer: I heard they were bringing in Diva and I put a stop to that shit. I told him he’d still get paid, would still get a credit, but he would never set foot on my set.
Mike Diva: I was in a house with no windows for the next two weeks. Just me and the two guys that threw me in the van. I heard, much later, the house was in Vallejo and belonged to E-40.
Andy Samberg: After Diva never showed up, things got weirder. The steroids weren’t working and Kiv wasn’t adding any mass. That just pissed him off more.
Jorma Taccone: You know the 2 Live Crew song “Face Down Ass Up” right? Kiv’s theme during production was “Needles out butts up, that’s the way that we get buff.” Over and over, he was just yelling it as he walked through the set.
Maya Rudolph: Yeah, I heard him yelling about butts. He’s a skeezy dude, so what do you expect? All I know is, Lorne owes me for that one.
Jorma Taccone: Finally, I decided to stand up to him. The yelling and threats, it was beyond hostile. I confronted him and, at first, thought I was getting through to him.
Akiva Schaffer: One thing you need to know about Jorm is that, deep down, he’s a coward. I broke his arm and sent him on his way. We wrote it into the script and the project was better for it. You’re welcome.
Andy Samberg: After the broken arm, Jorm filmed his scene as Walt Weiss, but refused to work with Kiv. He wanted to scrap the entire project.
Jorma Taccone: I asked Andy nicely, and in a very genteel tone, “How do you expect me to work with him when he’s like this?” I fully expected him to pull the plug.
Andy Samberg: Being stuck in the middle of my two best friends was the worst experience I’ve ever had. On the one hand, Kiv was a steroid-fueled monster. But man, can he deliver. We had to keep going. We had to bash.
Akiva Schaffer: What can I say? Talent wins.