Born David Andrew Samberg on Aug. 18, 1978, he was the son of photographer Ben Samberg and his wife, Margi, an elementary schoolteacher. Samberg's maternal grandfather, Alfred J. Marrow, was an industrial psychologist and noted civil rights leader who served as the executive chair of the American Jewish Congress. His grandson's childhood was steeped in popular culture - comic books, fantasy novels, science fiction movies and comedy records, with Jewish comedians like Mel Brooks being a particular favorite. He befriended a pair of like-minded students, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone, at Willard Junior High, and the trio spent much of their time together concocting comedy sketches. After high school, the trio split to attend college, with Samberg briefly attending the University of California - Santa Cruz before transferring to New York University in order to study film. Samberg reunited with Schaffer and Taccone after earning their degrees, and they headed south to Los Angeles with the intent of breaking into show business. Ensconced in a cheap apartment on Olympic Boulevard, they christened themselves "The Lonely Island," and began shooting short-form sketches and music parodies. Several of their shorts made their debut as part of the Channel 101 festival and accompanying web site; the most popular of these was "The 'Bu," a dead-on parody of "The O.C." (Fox, 2003-07) with Samberg and Taccone appearing alongside actress Sarah Chalke. The short was eventually expanded to 11 episodes, earning The Lonely Island considerable word of mouth in West Coast comedy circles. Meanwhile, Samberg honed his comic skills by working the stand-up circuit in Los Angeles.
While working as an assistant on the sitcom "Spin City" (ABC, 1996-2002), Samberg showed some of the group's shorts to a producer, who was sufficiently impressed and introduced him to an agent. Through the new representation, Samberg and his cohorts were hired to write for the 2005 MTV Movie Awards. The show's host, "Saturday Night Live" vet Jimmy Fallon, was equally wowed by the group's talent, and arranged for an audition for "SNL" producer Lorne Michaels. Though the chance to work on the influential sketch comedy series was a dream for Samberg, he privately worried that The Lonely Island's particular format - short form videos - would not work for Michaels. Undaunted, the group pressed ahead, shooting what would eventually air on the show in 2005 as a new regular segment called "SNL Digital Shorts." The bit, "Lettuce" - with Samberg and cast member Will Forte discussing the death of an acquaintance while taking large bites from raw heads of lettuce - set the tone for the segment with its surreal, self-reflexive tone (the entire short was a parody of a promotional clip for lettuce). Based on the strength of the short, Michaels hired all three members of the group, with Samberg signing on as a featured player and writer, while Taccone and Schaffer served as contributing writers and directors for the digital shorts.
While Samberg's initial digital short was an amusing goof, his second effort was a bon afide pop culture smash that thrust him into the celebrity spotlight. Aired on the Dec. 17, 2005 episode of "SNL," "Lazy Sunday" featured Samberg and cast member Chris Parnell in a parody of rap music and video tropes that replaced the aggressive, consumer-oriented subject matter with a hyperactive rant about attending a screening of "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe" (2005) after eating cupcakes. Response was swift and overwhelming, with over five million views on YouTube, dozens of response videos and parodies, and even t-shirts with catch phrases from the bit. Samberg found himself the focus of much of the media attention, as well as interest from movie executives, who viewed him and his partners as the future of comedy entertainment. Paramount quickly snapped up The Lonely Island members for a feature called Hot Rod (2007), about a clueless would-be stuntman that was originally intended as a vehicle for Will Ferrell. The trio reworked the script to Samberg's sensibilities, and Schaffer served as director; the result was a minor hit that developed a cult following as the audience for Samberg's digital shorts grew. His onscreen appearances also increased during this period, thanks in no small part to "Lazy Sunday;" among his more popular characters were amusing spoofs of laconic singer Jack Johnson and Michael Sessions, the 18-year-old mayor of Hillsdale, MI.
Subsequent Digital Shorts mined the same vein as "Lazy Sunday" in regard to playing against accepted notions of pop culture. Natalie Portman was revealed to be a foul-mouthed, near-psychotic drug addict in "Natalie Raps," while "Brian Diaries" gave a peek into NBC News anchor Brian Williams' day, which consisted of childish mayhem. Some were simply one-note gags pushed to absurd limits, like "People Getting Punched Right Before Eating," which was summed up by its title, while others were incredibly elaborate, like "Japanese 'Office'," which imagined an Asian adaptation of the popular NBC sitcom, complete with Steve Carell playing his Japanese counterpart. Some of the shorts duplicated the massive success of "Lazy Sunday;" most notably "I'm On a Boat," another berserk rap music parody featuring all three members of The Lonely Island as well as hip-hop star T-Pain. The bit went on to achieve platinum status on the rap charts and earned a Grammy nomination. Another short, "Dick in a Box," with Samberg and Justin Timberlake as corny 1990s-era R&B crooners who invent a novel manner of displaying their love for their girlfriends, received 35.5 million views on YouTube before NBC launched its own channel on Hulu; the bit also astounded many by receiving a Creative Arts Emmy for Original Music and Lyrics. A sequel, "Motherlover," which saw Samberg and Timberlake professing their love for one another's moms, Susan Sarandon and Patricia Clarkson, also received an Emmy nod.
Though the Digital Shorts were Samberg's main focus, he made occasional forays into feature films with offbeat supporting roles. He was Paul Rudd's over-confident gay brother in "I Love You, Man" (2009), and voiced an obnoxious mascot for a sardine company in the hit animated feature, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs (2009). A rare lead, albeit typically unusual, came with Space Chimps (2008), a likable animated feature about a self-absorbed circus chimp (voiced by Samberg) who joins the space program. A modest hit, it spawned a 2010 sequel, "Space Chimps 2," with Samberg repeating his role. In 2009, The Lonely Island released their debut comedy album, "Incredibad" which featured many of their "SNL" parodies, as well as several new songs. It broke the Top 20 in the first week of its release, and became the seventh highest-grossing rap album of the year. The following year saw Samberg and his Lonely Island cohorts receive their third Emmy nomination for "Shy Ronnie," a perverse tweak on inspirational pop songs with Samberg as a hapless nerd whose weak bladder ruins the number.
Samberg added to his film résumé with a pair of supporting roles as particularly bad ex-boyfriends in the romantic comedies Friends with Benefits (2011) and What's Your Number? (2011). Spurred on by the success of Incredibad, he and his cohorts dropped another hit single, "I Just Had Sex (featuring Akon)" prior to the release of the second Lonely Island album, Turtleneck & Chain, which topped the U.S. Rap Album chart and received a Grammy nomination for Best Comedy Album. Other non-"SNL" work included a hilarious cameo as an intense bartender in the "Mixologist" episode of "SNL" co-star Fred Armisen's comedy series "Portlandia" (IFC, 2010- ). With new ventures on the horizon, Samberg announced in June 2012 that after seven years as a cast member he would be departing "SNL" in order to pursue his film career full-time. But not before going out with a bang with a hilarious revisit to the piece that made him famous, digital short "Lazy Sunday 2" with Chris Parnell back onboard, both pumped to see the play "Sister Act." A product of his new focus came shortly thereafter with the raucous comedy That's My Boy (2012), in which Samberg played a son reunited with his horrendously irresponsible father (Adam Sandler) after having not seen the deadbeat dad since his 18th birthday.
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