On May 23rd, comedy trio known as The Lonely Island dropped their fourth album by surprise along with a “visual poem” to go along with it, hat includes guest stars like Sterling K. Brown, Maya Rudolph, Haim, Jenny Slate, and so on. Directed by Akiva Schaffer and Mike Diva, The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience, currently holds a 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes, and is just another quintessential part of their comedic discography.
As a long time fan, I’ve always been fascinated with The Lonely Island’s unique blend of parody and originality. Some of the most memorable pieces in comedy from the 2000’s have been contributed by them (Lazy Sunday, Dear Sister). Seeing a visual album drop by surprise after almost eight years (not including the Pop Star film soundtrack) was a positive way to kick off the summer. This time they chose to have a main focus across the 11 song album; that being The Bash Brothers, Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire, two of the most infamous players from the Oakland Athletics in the 1980’s.
I’ve viewed their album on netflix twice now, and listened to it countless amount of times. It has such a concrete foundation for what makes their comedy stand out and reach new heights. The tackling of toxic/hypermasculinity through comedy to a large male audience is something that the lonely island is familiar. This is what often makes their music and videos unique and accessible to so many.
This “visual poem” as they call it, is a testament to the famous Bash Brothers, Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco, in their rookie years on the Oakland Athletics. The album is based off of Canseco’s tell-all book published in 2005 titled “Juiced” where he outlines his years in the MLB that consisted of mass steroid use and his rise to fame. Instead of The Lonely Island praising the “brothers” they break down how their actions at the time were so ridiculously celebrated because of their status, and their stardom as athletes let them be seen as American heroes for their masculinity and athleticism.
In a world where these players were once looked at as superstars, The Lonely Island is breaking them down to what they truly were. Two-Thirds of the group, Andy Samberg and Akiva Schaffer, portray Canseco and McGwire respectively and use their own physicality as a way to mock the ultra-buff players. Not only that, but they constantly reference their impotence and negative emotional outbursts from their steroid use as a joke. The special further breaks down their ineffectiveness in picking up women, ultimately emasculating them, as well as referencing their need to succeed by a lasting pain from the disapproval of their fathers. The mention their inability to hold onto relationships due to the fact that they will never go to therapy, because their fathers told them that therapy was for wimps. Now of course not all of this is verbatim to the real Bash Brothers, but their use of mockery to tell their story is what makes them so entertaining. In the world we live in today, we can laugh at how these men act, as well as understand how they ended up emotionally stunted.
Using the Bash Brothers as a tool to outline how ridiculous the lengths are that some men will go to in order to be seen as a true man by society is exactly what this comedic climate needs to see. After so many recent outings of men that have abused women and abused their power in order to hurt people, this special was a step forward in highlighting just how absurd these people truly look. Canseco admits that at the time most MLB players were abusing steroids and other performance enhancing drugs, and to think that they won the World Series in 1989 makes people question the honesty that is given in the sport being played. Baseball, being America’s pastime, is another sport that is praised by so many men; the ones that see athleticism as the end all be all for truly being a contender in their gender. For the Lonely Island to use facetious tactics in explaining why this expectation is unhealthy is what we deserve as a modern audience.
Most people I’ve spoken to have not had a chance to see or hear their album yet, and to me that is just disappointing. If you’re a comedy fan like myself, this is a must see. The Lonely Island has brought modernity to the idea of parody, and has also created accessible media that patronizes those stuck in the past. This album is just another piece in our ever-growing media landscape that calls out the actions of those we couldn’t before. It is essential to be able to laugh at these things every once in a while, and these men let us do just that.