Apart from Tina Fey’s portrayal of Sarah Palin during the presidential election season, the Lonely Island’s “Dick in a Box” is Saturday Night Live’s only truly culturally transcendent moment this century. The song, which featured Justin Timberlake, became a smash Internet video, and it wasn’t long before just about everyone with a TV or computer could quote the song (“put your junk in that box”), and it won an Emmy (seriously). And as tenuous concepts as a Mary Catherine Gallagher movie (Superstar) and a Ladies Man movie have taught us, it wouldn’t be long before the fellas behind the song (the writing team of Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer) would be given the opportunity to bang out a full-length (an album in this case) fleshing out of their signature shtick.
Incredibad, the group’s debut album, is the Lonely Island’s chance to stretch their dick jokes to album-length (boner joke redacted). A lot of the album is filled with (mostly funny) material that has already been on SNL and YouTube for years — “Natalie’s Rap” with Natalie Portman, “Lazy Sunday” with Chris Parnell, “Space Olympics,” “We Like Sportz” (originally “Just 2 Guyz”) and. of course, “Dick in a Box” — with less rewarding tracks tacked on.
Incredibad isn’t really musical comedy in the sense that current champions Flight of the Conchords travel in. Lonely Island are out to make a comedic parody of hip-hop albums, while trying to rap themselves. They unintentionally nail the unfunny-skit trend in hip-hop albums (three in all), try to start a beef with anyone who thinks they’re wack (“Who Said We’re Wack”) and beat a joke about rappers using boats in music videos (“I’m on a Boat” featuring T-Pain) for about a minute too long. The album’s best straight-up rap track, “Santana DVX,” is the album’s funniest newbie, as the guys wax hyperbolic about Carlos Santana’s sparkling wine and have E-40 play the role of Santana (“Santana DVX makes you want to have sex/ “I get laid all the time by ‘70s chicks”).
The most glaring problem with Incredibad isn’t so much that it is a long-form version of white-boy joke rap; it’s that it forgets to be funny way too often. Most of the tracks are funny for the first 30 seconds as the theme is established and then quickly become less so as the song (and same repeated joke) continues. As such, new smash “Jizz in My Pants” (which is a total jacking of Flight of the Conchords’ “Inner City Pressure”), “Sax Man” (which features Jack Black in an ode to a terrible saxophonist), “Ras Trent” (which “attacks” white rastas), and “Punch You in the Jeans” all ride their fragile singular conceits into the ground, which drastically diminishes (and often eliminates) the hilarity quotient upon repeat listenings.
The highlight of Incredibad is the accompanying DVD, which collects eight videos from SNL, and highlights the allure of the Lonely Island. When they can accompany a bunch of jokes about what makes them jizz (like eating grapes and opening a window) with images of themselves looking sheepishly (and worried) into a camera, or get Justin Timberlake to act like he should have been in a dirtier version of Color Me Badd, Lonely Island are among the funniest musical comedians around. But without video, their songs are more A Night at the Roxbury than Wayne’s World.