Incredibad: The Best of The Lonely Island (And the Worst)

Another title for The Lonely Island’s first comedy album, Incredibad, could be “The Best of the SNL Digital Shorts, 2005-2008.” Dropping today, the CD/DVD set, also available for download on iTunes, features Lazy Sunday, Dick In a Box, and Jizz in My Pants, as well as most of the accompanying digital shorts (wherefore art thou, Natalie Raps?).

We have talked plenty about these shorts individually. But put together in one package, Incredibad stands out as a document of what the SNL-co-oped comedians have contributed to the world of online video, while also casting into sharp relief The Lonely Island’s strengths and weaknesses.

Because here’s the thing — of COURSE Natalie Portman gangster-rapping is going to be hilarious. No DOUBT Justin Timberlake crooning 90s-style about putting his dick in a box will make people laugh. But how funny is The Lonely Island beyond the gimmickry and guest stars?

Well, pretty funny. At their most engaging, The Lonely Island’s spoofs take the material and yank it to its most profane and obvious. A great example of that is the short that premiered last Saturday on SNL, I’m On A Boat, which mocks the lifestyle-obsessed nature of hip-hop music videos by simply glorying in the fact that yes, the dudes have a boat on which they can barbecue.

But when there’s no cliche they’re riffing on, it’s just a couple of guys singing about how much they want to show a girl…what they’ve got, such as in J*** In My Pants or Bing Bong Brothers. There’s definitely an audience for that kind of material, but it’s more limited. And the lack of sophistication is disappointing, especially since The Lonely Island wrote the gold standard on how to be both clever and profane: Dick in a Box is all about putting the merchandise on display, but it’s doing so by cutting to the chase and putting a bow on it, making the piece a clever parody of coy Luther Vandross-esque romantic ballads.

The album/DVD as a whole is a well-packaged compilation of the group’s greatest viral moments, and there are enough new songs, such as Sax Man, featuring Jack Black, to make the purchase feel worthwhile. But it’s taken The Lonely Island since 2005 to put this together. I wouldn’t expect to see a follow-up after a few more years — and a few more seasons of Saturday Night Live.

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