One of SNL's biggest zeitgeist grabbers of the last 20 years was definitely the Lonely Island teaming up with Justin Timberlake for the digital short / music video "Dick in a Box." A perfect blend of the comedy troupe's smart stupidity with the status-making SNL-friendly star Timberlake – along with several boxes – "Dick in a Box" might seem like the kind of sketch that was planned out far in advance in order to meet the standards for the FCC and network censors, but that definitely wasn't the case.
While appearing on the always entertaining celebrity-centered web series Hot Wings for its Season 11 finale, Justin Timberlake felt the burn and then some as he traversed the steadily worsening sauce lineup. So what better time for a quick oral history about the extremely short creative process that went into the production of "Dick in a Box." After setting up the story with the hasty development stages (which we'll get into below), Timberlake explained what happened when the FCC stepped in after the sketch was then-completed, which happened just hours ahead of SNL's airing that evening.
Friday, we shoot all day, and we don’t get done until like 3 a.m. on Saturday. And then the FCC shows up. They’re like, ‘You can’t say dick on the air.’ And we’re like, ‘Oh right. But if you just bleep it, would we be fine?’ And she said, ‘Yeah, if you bleep it out, it’s fine.’ I think the irony of that is I think the bleeped-out version is the funnier version. But yeah, I fully believe that idea would not have been seen all the way through if the bigwigs would have known what we were doing.
Because "Dick in a Box" was thrown together in such a quick, last-minute effort – and because it was a fully produced video that couldn't fall back on an in-studio performance – the Lonely Island and Justin Timberlake were able to deliver the final product early enough to allow time to bleep out all the male genitals from the song. And he's not wrong that the bleeps actually do make everything funnier within a live-TV context.
But if the "Dick in a Box" video had been finished a day earlier, or if Andy Samberg and the other Lonely Island members had sought for approval from upper brass ahead of filming it, the world might never have gotten the full monty, as it were. At least Justin Timberlake doesn't think it would have been quite as raunchy if there was more managerial oversight. C'est la vie in a box.
The actual story about how the "Dick in a Box" concept came about is ridiculously limited in scope, which is definitely part of the project's overall charm. Here's how Timberlake put it after first saying that he and Lonely Island went a while without having a clear idea of what to work on together.
So, Wednesday comes around, and we have nothing. So we were like, 'What if we came up with a duo of guys who were still stuck in a certain time and style, with like the silk suits and the herringbone chains, and well-meticulously sculpted facial hair. . . . Finally, Jorma says, 'What if we do the old popcorn at the movies prank?' And I was like, 'What?' and he goes, 'You know, dick in the popcorn.' And I was like like, 'That sounds super-creepy, bro.' To which we then said yeah, that's totally appropriate for two guys that are completely misled about what's appropriate.
Arguably the best part in Justin Timberlake's entire Hot Ones episode is his segment-stopping realization that N'SYNC were basically prototypes for the "Dick in a Box" duo. His mind was blown, people. And now, without further adieu in a box...
Meanwhile, you can catch Justin Timberlake currently belting out songs without any hot sauce (or the other things) involved as part of Trolls World Tour, which has released on digital platforms in lieu of a theatrical premiere.