For three years, The Lonely Island has been mostly silent. While its members have worked on hit shows like Broolyn 99, I Think You Should Leave, and Pen15, the group itself was spread in the wind. When we last left Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, and Akiva Schaffer the trio was coming off the disappointing box office numbers of their criminally underrated feature Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping. Now they’ve sprung back without warning, releasing The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience, a 27-minute series of music videos about a significant run of Bay-area baseball from the late ‘80s.
As the name implies, it’s loosely based on Mark McGwire and Jose Conseco’s late ‘80s run as the Oakland A’s home running crushing superstars. While they call it a visual poem, this is a mini-album in music video form, like what Beyoncé did with Lemonaid but with dick jokes instead of boundary-smashing music. And while the idea seems absurd, it’s still absolutely fucking brilliant.
Enjoying The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience requires absolutely no knowledge of the game of baseball. Lonely Island throws in bits and pieces of fact between their sex jams and rapid-fire rap verses, but it’s hard to tell when it happens. The reality of McGwire and Conseco’s lives in that time feels right out of the hubris soaked parody of hyper-masculinity that Lonely Island excels at.
Unbelievably the group got the Oakland A’s to grant permission to use their archival footage and team logo, even as they croon and rap about steroids and sex. The Unauthorized Bash Brothers is equally vicious and loving, showing the two athletes as hapless idiots driving by smashing balls and trolling for women. But the characters are never losers, even when their overeager sex drives get in the way of a good time.
Conseco, played with explosive glee by Samberg, is an alpha jock, driven by winning and the spoils of winning, from drugs to women. Schaffer meanwhile molds McGwire into a timid sweetheart who’d rather go on a date with his mom than a groupie any day of the week. The dynamic is immediately clear from the opening song as Conseco croons his intro like he’s at the VMAs while McGwire merely says “and I’m Mark.”
Throughout the music videos, we join the duo as they break records, try to hook up, and ultimately break up. Part of the chaotic joy of The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience comes from the way it unspools, revealing surprising guests side by side with surprisingly dark jokes. It’s the sort of program that’ll have you saying “there’s no way that’s Sterling Brown from This Is Us” only to discover later it was. Also, if you think you see Haim, you do. They have an incredible “blink and you’ll miss it” cameo.
Longtime Lonely Island fans will understandably want to know if The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience holds up to the team’s previous records. The answer is a definite no, though that sort of misses the point. Unlike The Lonely Island’s previous output, these are just a collection of hysterical songs. While they’re still packed with the sort of hooks that make you realize these guys could be actual pop stars if they wanted, the songs are just part of the project.
You won’t find a single as good as “ I Just Had Sex.” But you will find a shockingly psychedelic journey into the late ‘80s id of two of the best ballplayers of the era. You can’t think of this as an album, with songs flowing into one another. Rather than writing 13 stand-alone tracks Bash Brohers ties together, building narrative themes, albeit stupid ones, that blossom into killer jokes scenes later.
What it does do is cement the group as masters of musical comedy. The Lonely Island strikes a weird balance between making genius pop R&B and early Beastie Boys rhymes. Each performance, from the stars to the progressively weirder cameos, helps build the hyperreality that surrounded these two players in their prime. But in the world of Lonely Island, that doesn’t mean they don’t have weaknesses.
One of the most substantial aspects of Bash Brothers is just how weak they allow these heroes to be during their personal lives. Being a superstar doesn’t mean you can just take home any woman you see, and the players’ misadventures navigating the world of dating is oddly tender—at least if you ignore the air-humping.
Discussing any more details would give away laughs and we aren’t’ willing to do that. What we are willing to do is let you know that the next time you’re on Netflix this should be the first thing you watch. You don’t even need to like sports—in some ways ignorance makes it even funnier. Hopefully, The Lonely Island’s connection with Netflix continues, but if not we’ll always have the flowing locks of Jose Conseco and Mark McGwire’s insatiable need to be a nice boy to keep us company. When you’re done go hunt down Popstar and give that a watch too. If watching 27 minutes of Lonely Island has taught me anything, it’s the I’m going to want some more Lonely Island right after I’m done.