When Andy Samberg was a sophomore at Berkeley High School, his teacher told his father not to worry about Andy’s falling grades: “It’s not that big of a deal. Your son is the funniest guy I’ve ever met.”
Samberg’s father, Joe, shot back: “Like that’s gonna pay the rent.”
Little did dad know, when his son grew up, he’d be hired by Lorne Michaels as a writer and featured player on “Saturday Night Live”, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary on Sunday.
Since departing "SNL," Samberg has become a leading man, taking home the 2014 Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Comedy Series for his role on "Brooklyn Nine-Nine."
The Lonely Island boys were "inseparable"
Berkeley Unified School District spokesman Mark Coplan, who used to work in the schools when Samberg was a teen in the 1990s, said Samberg and friends Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone, who joined the "SNL" writing staff at the same time as Samberg, were quite hilarious.
All three met as sixth graders at Willard Middle School in Berkeley and continued on as friends at Berkeley High and beyond. In 2000, they established a comedy group, called The Lonely Island, a name that reflected their time in Los Angeles as they struggled to make it big in comedy.
“They were inseparable at Willard and high school,” Coplan said, adding that Samberg’s mother, Margi, was an elementary school teacher in the district. “Then they met again after college and lived in a tiny apartment they referred to as ‘The Lonely Island.’”
All three were recruited to work for "SNL" in 2005, a job they held until 2012, popularizing and leading the "SNL" Digital Shorts division.
They never forgot their roots
In January 2012, the three pals helped facilitate the largest donation to the Berkeley Unified School District in history: $250,000. A total of $75,000 went to the “Metal Shop Theater” at Willard Middle School and the rest went to pay for a theater manager and other equipment to revive the “Berkeley High Tech Crew” at Berkeley High School.
“These guys are just so down to earth, they’re just regular Berkeley kids,” Coplan said, noting that when the three came back to visit recently, all were humble and joked around with the administrators and teachers.
Such acts of generosity did not surprise the friends' former educators. Nor were they surprised when the boys grew up to be world famous comedians.
Samberg’s third-grade class of future stars
In 1986, Kyle Wong was Samberg’s third grade teacher at Chabot Elementary School in Oakland, where he is now approaching his 30th year. Wong held onto Samberg’s class photo and even has a VHS copy of the school play, “Annie,” featuring Samberg as “Daddy Warbucks” and classmate Chelsea Peretti in a smaller role. Peretti, a highly successful comedic actor in her own right, co-stars with Samberg on "Brooklyn Nine-Nine."
“That class was very accomplished,” Wong said. 3rd Grader Andy Samberg Plays Daddy Warbucks in "Annie" Production in 1986
As for remembering young Samberg’s antics, Wong recalled that the third grader loved to be on stage, had “messy handwriting” and was “always wrestling around wearing a puffy jacket.”
Former classmate Eric Thompson remembers Samberg being super silly and "SNL"-bound from a young age.
“He was always funny and just doing crazy stuff,” said Thompson, 41, of Oakland. “He was the only white dude with dreadlocks at Berkeley High. He always carried around an old VHS video camera and was making funny videos. He was basically doing skits when he was young, just without 'Saturday Night Live.'”