Four years ago, when “Saturday Night Live” comic Andy Samberg wore a National Organization of Women shirt to a Spike TV event, feminists wondered whether he was just ribbing us. Best known for the satirical rap videos he produces with his comedy trio, The Lonely Island, Samberg trades in dick jokes and fake vomit — not in feminist theory. So when Samberg said that his sartorial choice was “totally sincere,” in an interview with Nerve.com, even the most accommodating among us had a difficult time believing him.
But now, with the recent release of The Lonely Island’s new album, “Turtle Neck and Chain,” it’s safe to say that Samberg was, in fact, sporting his feminist bona fides at the Spike show. I’d even go one step further: Andy Samberg is the first Jewish feminist male comedian.
Samberg gets the feminist moniker not because of his portrayal of women — in fact, most ladies in his videos are stereotypical hotties with zero personality — but because of the way he depicts men. Samberg holds a mirror to the most loutish of American males, rendering Peeping Toms, self-righteous belligerents, and cocksure ladies’ men with heavy-handed mockery. The fact that Samberg so brutally lampoons sexist men and yet remains extremely popular among the “bro” cohort is a testament to his dexterity. Samberg is doing what feminists have asked of their male allies forever: Instead of marching alongside women, Samberg is talking to other men.
For example, in The Lonely Island’s debut album, “Incredibad,” Samberg and Jorma Taccone take on deeply insecure men who cover for their sexual and relationship failings by blaming female promiscuity. Check out this video in which he declares, “Don’t tell your friends or I’ll call you a slut, plus it’s your fault you were touching my butt.”
The wildly popular “SNL” skit “Dick in a Box,” which appears on the same album, also has a feminist message. As comic feminist blogger Lady T points out, “In this video, Samberg and Justin Timberlake make fun of the sexist guys who act like their penises are God’s gift to women…”
In “Turtle Neck and Chain,” Samberg and his Lonely Island collaborators Taccone and Akiva Shaffer (also Jewish) continue their crusade, taking a jab at men who aggressively ogle women, oblivious to their discomfort in “The Creep.” With slicked back hair, pencil mustaches, and high-water pants, Samberg, Taccone, and Shaffer “do the creep” one too many times and finally find themselves in court. But they can’t help themselves there either: “When the judge is a hottie and you can’t control your body, do the creep, do the creep,” they sing.
The most provocative track on the album, however, doesn’t deal with the way that men treat women, but with the way that heterosexual men treat each other — policing one another for latent signs of homosexuality. In “No Homo,” Samberg, Taccone, and Shaffer come up with a way for men to admire each other without seeming gay: “When you want to compliment a friend, but you don’t want that friendship to end, to tell a dude just how you feel, say ‘no homo’ so he knows the deal.”
The dialogue in “No Homo” is so spot-on that it’s hard not to wonder whether this phrase will get picked up in earnest by Samberg fans who are terrified of “seeming gay.” But perhaps that’s the risk with the most thoughtful satire. We’re lucky that Samberg sees through the gendered nonsense society churns out by, well, making more of it.
Naomi Zeveloff is the former Middle East correspondent of the Forward, primarily covering Israel and the Palestinian Territories.
Andy Samberg: Jewish Feminist