At first glance, the idea of a comedy duo comprising identical twins seems like a gimmick worthy of P.T. Barnum. The Sklar Brothers, however, have become unlikely comedy-nerd heroes by maintaining distinct identities while mining their biological connection for a seamless stage banter wherein Jason and Randy Sklar complete each other's jokes and riff with twice the speed of a single comic. The extensive résumé they've accrued includes appearances on Those Who Can't, Comedy Bang Bang and Wild Hogs. The Sklars also have a knack for creating well-loved shows that get canceled before they have a chance to gain a cultural foothold, like Apartment 2F, Cheap Seats and United Stats of America. In anticipation of a four-day run of Colorado performances, including an appearance at Boulder's Dairy Arts Center on Wednesday, October 4, and at Comedy Works South from October 5 to 7, Westword caught up with Randy Sklar (though Jason chimed in with some helpful corrections) for an email interview to discuss changing podcast networks; the future of their new special, Hipster Ghosts, following the collapse of the streaming platform Seeso; and the recent politicization of sports.
Westword: You both recently appeared as presenters in a documentary called Poop Talk, which features a murderers' row of comedians along with legit medical experts. How did you get involved with the project, and how do you feel about audience reception of the film so far?
Randy Sklar: So we were executive producers on this project as well, and we assembled most of the talent that you see on the screen. Our buddy, Aaron Feldman, the film’s director, contacted us and asked us if we wanted to make a documentary about poop. Our initial thought was, “No, it’s not really on brand for us, and we weren’t dying to make that movie," but he told us to sleep on it and think about it over a weekend. Which we did, and then came back to him with this idea: “Can we make an intelligent, funny, thoughtful and informative little movie about a subject that makes most people uncomfortable?" That’s the real trick. I think we came close to achieving all we wanted to in that movie, and a huge thank-you goes out to all our friends who came in and bravely told their stories. The movie was sold to Comedy Dynamics and is being distributed by them. It will have a theatrical release in ten cities in February, so we're really excited for that, and proud of what we were able to accomplish on such a small budget.
Your latest special, Hipster Ghosts, was due to be released on Seeso on September 14. Do you know what the status of the special is now that the streaming service is ending operations? Will any other media outlets be carrying it?
We were sad to hear the Seeso, a platform that we totally believed in, was closing shop. We were excited to be a part of a network that had Bajillion Dollar Properties and Shrink, Take My Wife, and Hidden America, as well as standup specials from people like Brian Posehn and Janeane Garofalo. We are currently finding a new home for the finished special, and as soon as we know where that will be, we'll announce it to everyone. Hopefully we can get that nailed down in the next couple of weeks. So stay tuned.
You recently moved your Sklarbro Country podcast over to the Feral Audio Network, where it joins your other show, Dumb People Town. What was behind your decision to leave Earwolf?
We had been at Earwolf for almost seven years, and it was a great place to start both podcasts, but it was time for a change of scenery. It was time to rename, rebrand and relaunch both podcasts and tweak them to adjust to the new podcast landscape. We wanted to really separate the two podcasts in name, and in classification — that's why View From the Cheap Seats is now in the Sports Section on iTunes and DPT is in comedy. We wanted to take a deeper dive into the world of sports on VFTCS, and really try and create a buzz with DPT, in terms of the guests we were booking on the show. In the several months on Feral Audio, we have seen significant increases in listenership, which only helps us as we hit the road and see our fans along the way. The world is getting dumber every day, and thank God we have Dumb People Town as a way to fight back through comedy.
Has anything else about the podcast changed, content-wise?
Content-wise, Sklarbro Country is now View From the Cheap Seats, and it's more sports-focused. Instead of doing two crazy stories at the top of every show, like we used to do, we're taking the biggest issue of the week in sports and giving our take on it. We are unapologetic as far as how deeply we dig into the sports of it all, but we always are trying to find the humor in it. We hope this type of a take on the biggest issue of the week at the top of every show will resonate with sports fans who have heard every other pundit talk about the issue and Stephen. A. Smith yell about it all week. We offer something different. We had Blake Griffin on several episodes ago, and he made the observation that he didn’t think LeBron was coming to L.A. after next season, that he would maybe go to New York to play for the Knicks. Well, this got picked up on ESPN and PTI and on Yahoo Sports, which was great. That was the very reason we altered the content of the show from what it used to be.
As far as Dumb People Town, the formula is similar to what we used to do on Sklarbro County. We get crazy stories sent in to our co-host, Dan Van Kirk, from our awesome fans. Then Dan breaks the stories down and shares them with us and a special guest, and we all riff like we’re in a comedy writers’ room procrastinating, getting down to actual work. It’s fun, silly, riffy and totally highlights where this world is heading. We revel in the world of mad poopers and people who try to walk their pet snakes on leashes. God Bless Dumb People Town.
A quick aside before getting back to comedy. How do you both feel about the recent politicization of sports?
It’s a total attempt at a distraction by Trump from the real issues of Russian collusion in our election and the fact that zero legitimate legislation has been passed under his regime. We can’t even call it a government; it’s a regime, attempting to be a dictatorship. His racially calling out the NFL and NBA players, most of whom are black, who are peacefully protesting, (something this great country was founded on: free speech), is another in a long line of racially insensitive rhetoric coming out of his mouth, done in an effort to fire up his base and distract the rest of the country from the mountain of problems he faces in every other aspect of his disastrous tenure as president. I think he’s stirred a hornet’s nest here, though, as athletes have huge followings, and as evidenced by LeBron James not being afraid to call the president a “bum” on Twitter, they aren’t afraid to clap back at his racism. Put it this way: When Dale Ernhart Jr., one of NASCAR’s stars, condemns the divisive words of the president, then you know he’s struck the wrong chord with the sports world.
You both appeared in several episodes of the latest season of Those Who Can't. What was your experience working with the Grawlix guys like, and do you think you'll be appearing in the third season at all?
We love the Grawlix guys. We’ve loved them ever since we did their awesome live show in Denver in the past, and we were so happy to be included in the amazing cast they’ve assembled. Every time we stepped on set, we had a blast with friends like Kyle Kinane, and Rory Scovel, and Jerry Minor and Cheri Oteri, and Patton Oswalt, TJ Miller, Baron Vaughn and so many more great friends in the comedy world who were on that show. The collaboration is so great, and the end result is a show that is super-funny and a blast to do. We did do a number of episodes in this third season, so watch for us as it comes out!
I'd imagine your joke-writing process is fairly unique. How do you each approach the endeavor of building a new hour after you've recorded a special?
This is always such a daunting task, to take those first very shaky steps out on the limb of your new hour. We like to try and build it up in twenty-minute chunks. It takes us about eight months to write twenty new minutes of material that we really like. We then try and cycle that through, pulling out our oldest material from the older hour, and then it’s a process of addition and subtraction. Then hopefully in a year and a half or so, we are close to 45 new minutes, and then we add those last bits in the next six months, and then we are ready to shoot the next special and record the next album. The process is scary, but as bits start to solidify and “make the cut” in that new hour, the feeling is really satisfying. We have developed about twenty new minutes of material so far since our last special, and that’s right on target as we move toward the next hour.
Thanks again for agreeing to do the interview. Do you have any projects or exciting news coming up on the horizon that you'd like to mention before we wrap up?
We are doing a project for Audible.com, an audio book that will be about seven hours in length, ten chapters; each chapter will be a different city that we go to. It’s called Finding the Funny. We’ve done it as a podcast on HOWL (Earwolf’s subscription platform), and we did it as a pilot for the Travel Channel, which aired twice on the network to a really nice reception. It wasn’t picked up as a series on Travel, and so we decided to do it as a long-form audio book.
Here's the idea: Whenever we do standup in a city, we try and write five to ten minutes of new material about the city we're in, what we're experiencing, what they're dealing with as a city, to start our act off. We try and get as inside as we can, as outsiders. It’s a difficult task, but we say: "When the plane lands on Thursday, we have three days to write this stuff." We thought that would be a great thing to document, audio-wise, this race to create material in the town we're in before Saturday night’s shows. So it’s basically a few different documentaries in one: You have the doc on what it’s like to be a comedian at our level touring the country today the way we're doing it. Then the whole project can be seen as a year in the life of a comedian or comedians. We go to clubs and festivals, and it’s all covered in this. Then it’s a documentary about what it’s like to be in these cities in 2017, what is the Trump effect on Kansas City, or San Diego, or Madison? What is it like to live in a post-Portlandia, Portland? Then it’s a documentary on how a funny observation gets turned into a premise and then a joke and then a bit for us to do on stage. The last five minutes of each chapter is us on stage doing the material you’ve heard us develop all throughout the weekend and the episode. Then after we are done with all ten cities, we will take five or so of standup from each city and create a comedy album that we will call Sklar and Stripes. (Thank you, Sasheer Zamata, for giving us that title one late night outside the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn after a show this past summer.) We are really excited about this project for the many products that will emerge from it. Finding the Funny on Audible.com, probably coming out this winter. And the Poop Talk documentary is coming out in theaters and then on-demand and hopefully on Netflix and Amazon in February. We are also pitching TV shows currently, so maybe a new project will be brewing by year’s end.
The Sklar Brothers will be appearing along with opening acts Scott Rogowsky and Adam Cayton-Holland at the Gordon Gamm Theater, in Boulder's Dairy Arts Center, on Wednesday, October 4, at 8 p.m. Admission costs $22 online at the Dairy. From Thursday, October 7 until Saturday, October 7, they'll be headlining at Comedy Works South. Showtimes and admission prices vary. Visit Comedy Works events calendar to learn more and buy tickets.