Jason Sklar on High Culture in Comedy, John Elway's Horse Teeth, His Newest Comedy Project | Westword


Jason Sklar on High Culture in Comedy, John Elway's Horse Teeth

The hilarious twin duo recently made a long, strange stop in Denver while recording a comedy special.
Randy and Jason Sklar (from left) hit the road for their new comedy special, Sklars and Stripes.
Randy and Jason Sklar (from left) hit the road for their new comedy special, Sklars and Stripes. Troy Conrad
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Unless you're a knowledgable comedy fan or watched a lot of Cheap Seats on ESPN Classic during the early 2000s, you may not recognize the Sklar brothers by name. But their faces and voices are a different story. The hilarious twins have made audiences around the country laugh with their unique, harmonious act while appearing in shows like Entourage, Better Call Saul and Curb Your Enthusiasm. Now, they're showing off their stuff in an audio documentary.

In their new special on Audible, Sklars and Stripes, Randy and Jason Sklar visit ten different cities on tour with the help of HQ Trivia's Scott Rogowsky, recording standup bits and traveling experiences along the way. The six-hour special includes more than forty minutes in Denver and Boulder, where the Sklars visited local landmarks like Casa Bonita, Comedy Works and Ballpark Holistic Dispensary.

To find out more about how the brothers enjoyed the Mile High City's skunky characteristics and how its comedy scene stacks up nationally with other cities, Westword sat down with Jason Sklar to talk about the brothers' time in Denver.

Westword: You've called Denver “comedy heaven” several times. What makes this city so ripe for comedy?

Jason Sklar: First of all, there’s a great comedy scene there. The Grawlix show — from Andrew Orvedahl, Adam Cayton-Holland and Ben Roy — was a late-night show that aired once a month. It was, like, the show that Denver comedians wanted to do. I think that’s a big reason: Those guys created such great comedy on that show that any young comedian would go to it and aspire to do the type of comedy that they were doing. As a result, it just raised everybody’s game.

The other reason is Comedy Works. What Wende Curtis has been able to do with those clubs. ... I want every other comedy club owner in the country to come to Denver for a couple weeks and watch how they run those clubs, who they book and how they set up the club. The way the Larimer Square club is set up is brilliant. You go downstairs, they take away everyone’s cell phones, everyone is facing the stage, it's stadium seating, it's all packed in, and the ceilings are low. That’s all very important. You just destroy there in a way you don't in other cities. It’s why so many comedians record their albums in Denver. We recorded an album at that club, too, because it’s just fantastic in there.

Denver audiences are smart, but they’re not "over it" and jaded to the point where they won't give it up unless you're being super-alternative. However, you can be alternative with them, and that’s what my brother and I love, because we’re not a normal standup act.

And how does a Denver crowd’s sensibilities compare to that of other cities across the country?

Crowds in Denver are comedy-savvy. They’re smart audiences, but they come to laugh and actually have a good time, too. They're not too cool for the room, so they just get comedy on a high level. Part of that is because there’s such a good local scene.

The feature acts are all local here. A lot of times, we’ll bring our own feature act to open up for us in other clubs, because we don’t want to take a chance. But here, they’ll just rotate two or three different opening acts in the same weekend, because there are so many great local comedians.

You joked that while recording Sklars and Stripes in Denver, you observed a lot of stoned people in the crowd. Do you actually notice that?

I think high culture certainly lends itself to comedy. There’s a good marriage between the two. When you’re high, you’re definitely open to comedy, and maybe your inhibitions are gone. Stoned people are better than drunk audiences. They’re ready to laugh, but not ready to interrupt you, and they don't want to be the center of attention. When you get high, you want to be entertained — as opposed to when you get drunk and you want to be the entertainment.

I don’t know that I can really tell the whole audience is high, but I do think that culture is another positive in the corner of comedy when you think about Denver. The city has been going through a great moment ever since the legalization of weed. There are better restaurants, there’s more people moving to the city, there's more activity and foot traffic downtown. ... Our shows all sell out in Denver now, and that’s just a great feeling.

We’ve noticed a small trend of performers who aren’t from Colorado overindulging on edibles and cutting their performances short because they’re too high. Have you ever came close to this or heard of anyone doing something similar?

Most people I know would probably wait until after the show. But I could see someone in the afternoon thinking they’re just going to do it for the day, and then all of a sudden, the show starts and you’re still feeling it. We don’t do that, but I could totally see that happening.

But that’s why there’s so many great angles to dig into when you’re in Denver. The weed laws are really interesting, and we liked trying to understand how that culture changed Denver for the better and for the worse. I think most people in Denver are proud of the marijuana policy and that it's become a defining characteristic of the city, so we wanted to look at the other side of it. Where did it go too far? Where could it be funny? That’s where we dug in.

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The Sklar brothers rarely appear on stage without each other.
Troy Conrad
What are some ways you found Denver funny?

Well, you have sports. That's a big part of the town, especially the Broncos, and that’s something we like to get into. And then you’ve got iconic places like Casa Bonita, which we’d only heard of through other people and South Park, but we’d never been. That might be one of the funniest places I’ve ever been to.

As soon as everyone told us that we had to go but not to eat there, we knew we had a bit. It’s like something people in Denver are simultaneously proud and embarrassed about, and those are comedy goldmines. I think we have five or six minutes in material just on Casa Bonita in Sklars and Stripes. I think we said, “If you love Mexican food but love the smell of a Jewish community center pool even more, go to Casa Bonita. Want chlorine in your guacamole? Go to Casa Bonita.”

The Broncos are just funny to us. Elway, as this figure who will never leave — he’s part of the town. Without giving away too much of the bit, our joke was mostly about how his teeth are getting bigger. And how he’s looking more and more like the Broncos logo. That, to us, is fascinating.

He belongs to Denver. He’s like this thing that got them over the hump, but at the same time, he couldn’t win for so long. By going for that kind of stuff the audience loves, they’ll understand that we took the time to dig into Denver. I feel like people from Denver will love the chapter we did on it. People will probably weigh in and notice what we missed, but I think they’ll mostly feel a lot of pride. We also did a mini-thing in Boulder, which I think Denver people will love, too.

You guys are going to all of these different cities during the tour, many of which lean different ways politically. Do comedians like to tailor their jokes to go with the sensibilities of the cities they travel to?

We definitely don’t change our political views to cater to the audience. Our stuff isn’t all political. There’s a way that we might dial back some of our most aggressive stuff, just because that’s not the only thing we do. You have to remember that when you’re still doing clubs for the most part and not theaters, not all the people are going there specifically for you.

We certainly don’t shy away from what we do. We’ve had people come up after the show and express what they didn’t like during a bit, but they’re usually staying and listening to the rest of the act, and enjoy the majority of it. We’ve also watched people leave during shows. It happens.

Do you consider political unrest in the country good for comedians?

We have a sort of policy about life: If an experience is really great, then it’s great for your life and great for you. If an experience is horrible, then it's great for comedy. And if it’s in the middle and mediocre, that’s the worst.

Think about creativity and artwork: Art comes out of frustration and that disenfranchised feeling. We wrote material across the country about that and took it to these cities. It’s taking a risk at the top of your set. If you get it right and it’s a home run, everyone’s on your side and they love you. If you piss people off, well, that's in your first ten minutes, and you have to win them back or you're done. It’s a fun tightrope walk.
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