The Lonely Island: still fiercely proud of their Berkeley heritage. Berkeley Unified School District was their chosen charity for a Doritos competition

The largest-ever single donation to Berkeley Unified School District will be made thanks to a Super Bowl contest for Doritos. Doritos, part of the Frito-Lay division of Pepsico, is working with The Lonely Island on its Crash the Super Bowl competition. The three members of comedy music and video group The Lonely Island, Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone, have been friends since Willard Middle School.

For Crash the Super Bowl, Doritos invites consumer-made ads, one of which airs in a 30-second spot during the Super Bowl. The Lonely Island were originally going to create their own Doritos ad, but decided instead to give their air time to a second consumer-created ad. By doing so, they gave up the chance for a $1 million prize to charity if their Doritos ad took the number one spot on the USA Today Ad Meter. In return, Doritos has announced it will give $250,000 to The Lonely Island’s choice of charity — Berkeley Unified.

“The Lonely Island guys are a class act, and they have embraced what this contest is about beyond our expectations,” said Tony Matta, vice president of marketing, Frito-Lay North America. “Their generosity will now create a life-changing opportunity for two of our consumers, and we plan to pay that forward by making a donation of $250,000 to the charity The Lonely Island was competing for, the Berkeley Unified School District.”

But when Berkeleyside contacted the school district this morning, officials knew nothing about the impending gift.

“It sounds like they haven’t spoken to BUSD,” said Mark Coplan, the school district’s spokesperson. “Major gifts are typically in the $5,000 to $20,000 range.” Coplan said the largest previous gift he could remember was around $76,000 from Berkeley Schools Now at the time of the Bush tax cut.

Coplan told Superintendant Bill Huyett about the donation after the Berkeleyside call. “I am really pleased to hear that they have found a way to give back to the Berkeley schools, where I hear they actually began crafting their very original brand of humor,” Huyett said. “It is always wonderful when Berkeley High alumni are successful in reaching for their dreams, but it is even more significant when they reach out to give back to to the schools that obviously played an important role in their lives. I only hope that we will have the opportunity to thank them properly.”

Instead of taking their 30-second spot, The Lonely Island has said it will work with the consumer-created ad winner on future projects for Doritos. According to a Doritos spokesperson, the future projects are still to be determined. One of the Doritos spots will go to the consumer-created ad that wins a popular vote. The other will go to the one selected by Doritos’ marketing team.

“We’ve been truly impressed with the creativity and passion of people entering the contest,” said The Lonely Island members Samberg, Schaffer and Taccone in a press release from Frito-Lay. “What drew us to partnering with Doritos for this program was the opportunity to help someone pursue their career dreams and open up a door of opportunity, and we felt that there was no better way to demonstrate that than by helping another talented up and comer get his or her big shot.”

The Lonely Island formed in Los Angeles in 2001, reuniting the three Berkeleyans after separate college experiences. They were unknown, struggling writers when they met Jimmy Fallon while they were writing for the MTV Movie Awards. He recommended them to Saturday Night Live, and shortly after Samberg was hired as a performer, and Schaffer and Taccone as writers. Their SNL Digital Shorts invariably go viral on YouTube, and the trio have released two albums.

BUSD’s Coplan passed on an anecdote from late Berkeley High teacher Tim Moellering, who had recalled a parent-teacher conference with Samberg’s parents. At one point, when Andy’s father was concerned about his son’s study habits, Moellering remarked, “I have to say, Andy is one of the funniest people I’ve ever met.” To which Andy’s father replied, “That’s great, but it’s not going to pay the bills!”

The five consumer-made finalists for Crash the Super Bowl can be seen below:

Previous Lonely Island stories on Berkeleyside:

What happened when The Lonely Island trio visited Amoeba [6.29.11]

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Lance Knobel (Berkeleyside co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine...