Of course, hosting a reality series isn’t all singing and dancing — Rudolph and Samberg also have to give the hook to seven of the eight teams of two hoping to win the $50,000 cash prize and title of Baking It champion. It should be noted that the choice of who to chop isn’t ultimately up to them: Instead a quartet of kindly — but ruthless — baking grandmothers get to declare the winners and losers of every round. But they are the ones who have to ask the losing teams to leave the baking premises, and both admit to finding it difficult to say goodbye to their personal favorites.
“We fell in love with everybody pretty quickly — much faster than anticipated,” Rudolph reveals. “It’s painful to watch people leave… you get deeply invested right away and you have some of your favorites and then sometimes people surprise you.” Adds Samberg, “As it got deeper and deeper in, it became more of, ‘I don’t want them to go!’ It gets a little more emotional and intense than you would expect. But it’s that summer camp kind of intensity where it’s just this group for a bit of a stretch, and you don’t want to go back to school.”
The hosts could use some time in cooking school themselves: Both say that holiday baking isn’t exactly a family pastime in their respective households. “I like to bake every once in a while,” Rudolph says. “Holiday times [are when] I get in the kitchen, but it makes me cranky. I do like to make a pie sometimes from scratch. It makes you feel good about yourself, and then I don’t do it again for like four or five years.”
Fifteen years ago, Samberg baked up something very different — and very special — for SNL‘s 2006 Christmas episode. That’s when he and his Lonely Island cohorts, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone, debuted their immortal digital short, “D*ck in a Box,” which also starred Rudolph, Kristen Wiig and that week’s host, Justin Timberlake. A dead-on parody of early ’90s R&B tunes, the song and its accompanying video became an instant internet sensation and led to multiple skits featuring Samberg and Timberlake’s mustachioed alter egos.
But “D*ck in a Box” almost wasn’t ready for primetime… or late night. In a 2020 interview, Timberlake revealed that the FCC tried to stop the video from airing, and only gave them the go-ahead when SNL producers agreed to bleep the “D” word. Of course, the uncensored version was later released online, although Timberlake maintains that the bleeped version is funnier.
Looking back, Samberg says he remains surprised that “D*ck in a Box” was actually shown on television. “I’m still surprised by all of it. Like when we got hired at SNL, I was surprised. And then when we got anything on the air, I was surprised.” Rudolph, meanwhile, calls the digital short the “gift that keeps on giving” and remembers the “palpable joy” they took in filming it. “There was was a bit of giggling, but we were really reaching for those ’90s R&B videos with full sincerity. I do think there are some tears from crying.”
In the 15 years since “D*ck in a Box,” Samberg has become a dad; he and his wife, musician Joanna Newsom, welcomed a daughter in 2017, and one day she’ll inevitably encounter that video on the internet for the ultimate cringe-inducing #DadJoke. That’s an experience that Rudolph — who has four kids with her partner, filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson — has already lived through. “That might’ve been the first dirty thing [my kids saw],” she says. “I think there was, no joke, a ‘D*ck in a Box’ reference last week in my house.”
Then again, Samberg has a track record of warping young minds. Two years after “D*ck in a Box,” the Lonely Island trio dropped “Jizz in My Pants” just in time for the holidays, and that one also raised a ruckus inside 30 Rock. “It had to go all the way up to the head of NBC, and it also had to air after 12:30 because of [that word],” he remembers. “I remember Bill Hader telling me that he’d had a friend at the show who brought their 12-year-old kid. And he was like, ‘Thanks for that Samberg: I had to explain what jizz was to my friend’s kid.'”
Baking It is currently streaming on Peacock.
— Video produced by Anne Lilburn and edited by Jimmie Rhee