13 May 2009

I'm In No Way Responsible for Their Success But Will Gladly Accept Any Credit Offered


One of the nice things about being a teacher (there are nice things about being a teacher -- who knew?) is seeing your former students years later when they've grown into wonderful adults.

Most, no thanks to my influence, are charming, lovely people whom I'm proud to have had some association with. Many have gone on to academic success. I've had students go on to all eight Ivy League schools, just as a fer instance. Many others enjoy professional success. At least one of my former charges is an engineer, another is a doctor, one is a professor, one played pro football, several have become teachers (don't blame me!) and three have gone on to successful careers in show business, which, I've been given to understand, there is no business like.

What's particularly astounding about these these lads is that they've attained fame and fortune (or at least solvency) together. The trio are all currently employed by Saturday Night Live. Andy Samberg is a featured cast member and Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone are writers for the show. The three are also the brains and braun behind the best part of SNL, the Digital Shorts. The Digital Short from last week, which featured Andy and Justin Timberlake, along with really cool cameos by Susan Sarandon and Patricia Clarkson, is one of the many that have received about 17 jillion hits once on the internet.

That's a picture of the lads above, left to right it's Andy, Akiva, and Jorma. Right to left, it's Jorma, Harpo and Shemp. (Don't worry, I don't get it either.)

Andy has appeared in feature motion pictures, most recently I Love You Man which I reviewed here a few weeks ago. He was also in Hot Rod (2007) directed by Akiva  and in which Jorma co- starred. You can see Jorma in the forthcoming Land of the Lost starring Will Ferrell (who's not a former student of mine) in theaters next month.

I could not be happier for the boys, of course, but I'm also happy for me. I've gotten a lot of mileage out of impressing upon people that the trio were students of mine and if anyone wants to surmise that I was key to their success, well, who am I to disabuse them of such notions?

In actual fact, I'm most delighted that they are all such -- and I know this might sound trite but f*ck it, it's true -- "nice" guys. Last year, when I was still at the middle school that employed me for the better part of 20 years (wait, there was a "better" part?), the three agreed to a phone interview with two students from the school newspaper of which I was the faculty advisor.

Akiva's mom gave me contact information and they literally replied within a few days, happy to oblige. They could not have been more generous with their time and charmed the two young ladies who interviewed them (yaaah! Jenna and Sofia!) even turning the tables and asking them questions. Busy show business types living in New York (largest city in the state of New York, you could look it up) are under no obligation to give their time to a dopey former 8th grade teacher and two teen reporters. But they did.

We sent them copies of the newspaper when it came out and they autographed a copy for us. Ain't that swell?

Andy, Jorma and Akiva are walking and talking testaments to the notion that people who pursue their dreams beyond all reason get rewarded. Put anther way, "I'm a great believer in luck, and I find that the harder I work the more of it I have," at least that's what some bloke named Thomas Jefferson said, the lucky stiff. Our three heroes were struggling at various odd jobs in Los Angeles ten years ago. Instead of packing it in and going into the burgeoning world of computers or retail sales, they stuck with their kooky dream of making it in comedy. Make it they did.

As a means to realizing their dream they displayed their considerable talents on the internet -- part of that whole internets thing that was burgeoning. You can see the fruits of their labors on The Lonely Island website. Started way back when, it features some of their hilarious and original short comedy bits, many shot on locations around L.A. Through that they got to shoot a pilot for Fox TV which the network was stupid enough to pass on. But from that came a gig writing for the 2004 MTV Music Awards. It was there that they met Jimmy Fallon, then of SNL, who set up an audition for them and the rest is, English, I mean history.

They now have a CD/DVD out called Incredibad with many of their greatest hits. As the kids would say, check it out. You should definitely get your laugh on by watching their Fox pilot, Awesometown on You Tube. Yucks aplenty. The theme song alone is a riot.

So what do I remember about the three lads from their middle school days aside from the fact that I formed them into what they are today? This won't exactly come as a shock but Andy was a class clown. The perfect kind, too, in that he didn't distract from what teachers refer to as "the learning environment." In my first year as faculty adviser to the school paper I made Andy a columnist which he called "Andy's Corner." Jorma was also a favorite student, smart as a whip, mature but not in the sanctimonious way that can afflict many an intelligent 14 year old. Akiva, was much more quiet and had the affect of the quirky, studious type. He 's the John Lennon of the group.

So there you have it. My tenuous claim to fame. I have about 2,000 former students. There are lots and lots who are absolutely delightful people. These three happen to be in the public eye. On occasions when, for whatever reason, I decide to wallow in a bit of self pity I remind myself of the great privilege I had in hanging out and -- in some cases -- influencing so many great kids.

Jorma holds the distinction of being the only one of the 2,000 who has promised me a burrito.

Dude, I'm totally holding you to that.