How N*SYNC, the FCC, and 'SNL Bigwigs' Inspired The Lonely Island and Justin Timberlake's 'Dick in a Box'

In 2006, Saturday Night Live aired “Dick in a Box,” a hilarious music video that would become a holiday anthem. Ironically, the digital short starring Justin Timberlake and Lonely Island frontman Andy Samberg, almost didn’t air on SNL

‘Dick in a Box’ came out 14 years ago 

The Lonely Island, featuring Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, and Jorma Taccone, worked with Timberlake to create one of the most hilarious holiday-themed digital shorts for Saturday Night Live.

“Dick in a Box” debuted on Saturday Night Live on Dec. 16, 2006. The song mimics the sound of early 1990s R&B, featuring fictional singers Jonathan (Samberg) and Raif (Timberlake), who give their girlfriends gift-wrapped boxes containing their genitals for the holidays. Throughout the song, the two also point out other occasions the gift would be appropriate.

Justin Timberlake thinks N*SYNC might have inspired the characters in ‘Dick in a Box’

“The story that people may not know about ‘D in a B,’ as I like to call it, is Lorne was like ‘We have to get you in with the Lonely Island Guys,” Timberlake said during an interview with First We Feast. “‘It’s song, it’s dance, and it’s comedy,’” he remembered Lorne saying. “That’s when I first met Andy and we hit it off immediately.” 

Despite their immediate connection, Timberlake and Sandberg struggled to come up with a skit they felt was funny enough for that week’s episode of Saturday Night Live

“We were like ‘What if we came up with a duo of guys who are still stuck in a time and a certain style with the silk suits, the herringbone chains, and well and meticulously sculpted facial hair?’” Timberlake remembered, joking about how he could have been describing N*SYNC. “Finally Jorma [Taccone] says, ‘What if we do the old popcorn at the movies prank?’” 

Confused, Timberlake thought the explicit prank of putting male genitalia at the bottom of a bin of popcorn might be deemed “creepy.” He quickly changed his tune, realizing the characters in the skit are two men who have been completely misled as to the idea of what appropriate is.

The FCC actually made ‘Dick in a Box’ funnier 

Because “Dick in a Box” was a digital short and not a comedy sketch performed live, there was plenty of time to have the media edited for television. In the wee hours of that fateful Saturday morning before the skit was due to air, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) got wind of the content.

“Friday, we shoot all day, and we don’t get done until like 3 a.m. on Saturday,” Timberlake explained. “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 they said, ‘Yeah, if you bleep it out, it’s fine.’” 

Thus, “Dick in a Box” was born. Ironically, Timberlake and many Lonely Island fans find the bleeped-out version funnier than the unedited version. 

The ‘bigwigs’ at ‘SNL’ didn’t know about ‘Dick in a Box’ 

Another thing Timberlake admitted during his conversation might be even more shocking than the FCC’s involvement in creating “Dick in a Box.” 

“I fully believe that idea would not have been seen all the way through if the bigwigs would have known what we were doing,” Timberlake said. Fortunately, the SNL “bigwigs” were left in the dark on this one.  

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