Randy and Jason Sklar, identical twin brothers who have been fixtures on the American comedy scene for nearly two decades, are coming to the Front Range. On October 4, the duo will bring their gut-bustingly funny, socially relevant, and cutting brand of comedy to The Dairy Arts Center, where they’ll be performing in the Gordon Gamm Theater. The Sklars are most well known for their critically acclaimed series Cheap Seats, which ran for four seasons on ESPN Classic. Yellow Scene caught up with Randy Sklar for a chat on all things comedy: he and his brother’s roots in the biz, their style, and what makes the tick.
Yellow Scene: How did you guys get started in comedy?
Randy Sklar: We grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, and as kids, as twins, we were kind of looked at as a little bit on the outside, which I think most comedians feel somewhere in their hearts. That they’re outsiders in this world; looking at the world from the outside and the inside at the same time. And I think that laid the groundwork for us to look at the world in a different way.
When we were kids, we became huge fans of comedy. Richard Lewis, Gary Shandling, Seinfeld, Ellen Degeneres, Letterman—huge Letterman fans. We would learn those guys’ acts, their comedy, and we’d just be hanging out with our parents and their friends while they were playing bridge down in the basement, and they’d be like, “What’s going on with you guys?” And we’d start delivering Jerry Seinfeld’s well-crafted material:”‘What’s the deal with shower radios? That’s safe, dancing on a slick surface, next to a glass door.”
So making people laugh was super appealing. In High school we tried stand up for the first time. It just progressed from there.
A friend of ours in Kansas City heard about a young comedian special that was being produced in Los Angeles—this was in 1986. They were looking for kids under the age of 18 that did stand up. We sent in this tape of us doing stand up for the first time at our high school, not expecting to hear anything, and then the production company called us like two months later. They said, “You’re interesting and funny.” We had definitely stolen a couple of other comedians’ jokes–which you’re definitely not supposed to do—but we were only 14 years old. So after they told us not to steal jokes anymore, they told us to try out some material at local comedy clubs, and gave us some notes about our act. We went out to our local club and performed. The TV show never got made, but it was a small indication to us that somebody out here thought we had something.
Then we started performing regularly during and after college around University of Michigan. When we graduated we moved to NY to do comedy. It was an amazing time, when the alternative comedy scene started to explode. We were going down and performing shows with Louis CK, Marc Maron, Jeff Ross, Sarah Silverman, Zach Galifianakis. And we became friends with a lot of these people, and part of this alt-comedy movement in the mid-90s that was going on in both NY and LA. So when we came out to LA, that’s when we really started to have things happen.
You guys have done a good bit with ESPN. Were sports a big part of your upbringing?
RS: We moved out to LA in 99, and then got a show in New York called Cheap Seats. It was kind of like Mystery Science Theater 3000 for sports.
We grew up as sports fans and also saw the seriousness with which the world of sports took itself, and the blind spot that created. To us we were like, “Oh, this is a world we love, and we understand the fanaticism, but, you know, sports fans and sports in general need to be taken down a peg by people who really understand it in a bigger context.” We thought we had a really good opportunity to turn a professional comedy lens on the world of sports. We didn’t want Cheap Seats to be a show that just sports fans liked. We wanted it to be a show that people who like 30 Rock or Arrested Development or The Daily Show also liked. We used everybody in the New York comedy community at the time: from Nick Kroll to Aziz Ansari to David Cross. All these awesome people were on our show, so as a result it did get that nice comedy cred as well.
What informs your brand of comedy most?
RS:You know, I would like to think that we like to do thoughtful comedy. I think the fact that we are two brains attacking one subject or premise, gives us a unique view at it, in that we can both kind of double team an issue in a way that one comic can’t. We can burst out and just jump into a sketch or a scene to illustrate our point that we’re trying to make as stand up comics.
I think we often times use the absurd to make hopefully a thoughtful point about the world. We’re pretty liberal guys, we’re dads, so we struggle with the stuff that most people that have kids struggle with.
And, you know, we’re pop culture junkies too. So it’s a hodgepodge of all those things
As twin brothers, your act is heavily dependent on one another? Do you ever perform individually, and what’s that like? Harder? Just different?
RS: We have performed separately. It’s different, definitely different. But the skills that we possess on stage—I think each of us are strong in our own right. We’ve worked really hard to make it so each of us have moments like we will at the Dairy Center, where we’ll each step forward and have a spotlight. So the potential is there to do stuff on our own, but we still think it’s really interesting and unique to explore things as a team. There just aren’t a lot of comic teams out there and we love the uniqueness of that. We still have stuff to explore as far as that goes.
Similarly, how do you write your material? Individually or collaboratively?
RS: It’s kind of like a band, I think. When you think of how a band creates music, the guitarist comes in and is like “I have this hook” and starts noodling around. So we will, in our lives, experience something that one of us finds funny, and then bring it to the other person, and say, “What is funny about this? Do you think this is funny?” If there’s something here, we try to work on it and flesh it out. So then we have to figure out the telling: How can we as two people do it better than one person? How can we make it unique to us? Maybe acting it out is a better way than just giving examples. So sometimes there’s a scene that we act out.
Here’s an example: There’s a bit that we do about sharing movies that you watched as kids with your kids today. We talk about the scene in the Karate Kid where Mr. Miyagi is wasted and Daniel is taking care of him. And we posit that if a cop were to walk in at that moment and ask Miyagi to explain what he’s been doing with this underaged boy, Daniel, and Miyagi just told the truth, he’d be in deep trouble. That’s the premise. So without saying our roles, Jason just immediately starts asking me what I’ve been doing with this kid. So he becomes the cop, and I’m Miyagi. And so this whole scene is all born out of the premise that you shouldn’t share movies that you loved as kids with your kids today because they’ll ruin that experience, or you’ll have to explain something to them and have a conversation you didn’t want to have for three more years or something like that.
So that premise was born out of Jason watching the Karate Kid with his son. Hee told me it ruined it for him, I asked him why, and we started writing the bit.
It went from an experience to an idea to a comedy bit and finally to a comedy bit that is uniquely ours.
What’s your favorite project you guys have been a part of?
RS: They’re all amazing to us. They mean a lot. We work on things because we truly love them.
The Cheap Seats show that we did, on ESPN Classic, seemed to resonate with the most people. We did 77 episodes of that TV show. When you go that deep into a TV show, you only get better. The show really found its voice. We really loved it. It was a very pure version of our comedy.
Then there’s our Podcasts. We have two of them; one is called “DumbPeopleTown” (on Feral Audio). That is something we are extraordinarily proud of. It’s really fun, and we love it because it makes use of our ability to improvise in the moment, which is something I think we do really well.
And then our stand-up. I’ve loved doing standup. We have specials on Netflix and Comedy Central, and a few albums. We love to stand up there on stage and create comedy and get the reaction right away
What should folks coming out to see you guys at The Dairy expect?
RS:I think people can expect some silly two-man comedy that you normally don’t see. You don’t normally see teams anymore. It’s a style and delivery of comedy that is not common. Ultimately, two twin brothers, with a very close relationship that gets played out in comedic form in front of your very eyes.
I think the folks of Boulder will like it. We typically do well in cities where people on bikes look at people driving in cars like they’re the assholes.