Sklar Brothers riff on Vonnegut, Bruce Jenner and Leno at Comedy Works
Most identical twins will go to great lengths to convince you that while they may look the same, inside they are very different. But while the Sklar Brothers actually looked quite different at Comedy Works on Friday night -- with Randy in plaid shirt and beard, and Jason in black tie and grandpa glasses -- as a comedy duo, they spoke with a single voice, volleying setups and punchlines back and forth as if they shared one brain. Delivering a pop-culture buffet of jokes on everything from Wu-Tang and FoxNews to mullets and Disney, the Sklar Brothers hit every sociological button in the sold-out crowd that night.
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Comedy Works staples Elliot Woolsey and Troy Walker effortlessly warmed up the crowd, which was predictably receptive to Woolsey's pot and sex jokes. (If you haven't already, you really need to catch his "raunchy typewriter" bit.) Having a strong arsenal of accessible pop-culture jokes, Walker easily connected with those there for the Sklars; he had audience members falling off their chairs over his take on Prince's '07 Super Bowl half-time show, which featured an impressively spot-on Obama impersonation.
"It was just pouring rain, and Prince was playing the electric guitar with one hand, while patting his perm with the other," Walker described. "Which was amazing, because if there are two things you're not supposed to get wet, they are perms and electric shit. He should've been dead. But instead, he's dancing on a wet stage in high heels! It was so magical I half expected a unicorn to pick him up and the two of them would fly away on a rainbow. He just plays a guitar riff, and then levitates onto the unicorn's back. 'Goodbye everyone, take us to Minneapolis, Gum Drop.' And they're off. 'Purple Rain' is playing, it's raining Skittles and shit. Everyone watching at home: pregnant -- immediately."
Then it was twins time. After a career hosting shows on ESPN and the History Channel and delivering zingers for VH1 and Chelsea Lately, the Sklar Brothers have become that guy at the dinner party who can comment on pretty much any subject no matter where the conversation goes. This kind of pop-nerddom is typically my favorite type of comedy show, and while I was dying over jokes about Creed singer Scott Stapp sounding like "when you get on a plane, and there's that unidentified sound coming from underneath," or the anecdote about being stuck on a flight with Laura Dern, RZA and Richard Simmons, I was really at a loss when it came to the fifteen or twenty sports jokes Randy and Jason delivered.
But apparently I was in a room full of sports-trivia geeks who understood exactly who Phillip Rivers, Steven A. Smith and Allen Iverson are, because they were falling to pieces over these jokes. I am not a culture snob, so I don't begrudge them a good time; I just don't have any opinion on the hairstyles of NHL players from 1991 to '94, and didn't even know that Bruce Jenner had a career before he became the stepfather of America's most contemptible sisters.
Once their routine turned toward Occupy Wall Street and the the uselessness of late-night comedy, though, I was back on the laugh track. "So my daughter couldn't fall asleep, and she wanted us to write some jokes together," Randy Sklar said. "I thought, 'This is amazing, it's like a reverse Cat's Cradle, where good things happen.' But I don't know if you've ever written a joke with a seven-year-old, but there are a lot of restrictions. You can't be that dirty, you can't be that edgy, you can't be that funny."
"So it's basically like writing for Leno," completed Jason.
Like sports jokes, parenting humor requires a specific kind of audience (I know about as much about kids as I do sports, but am at least aware of their existence), yet the dark places the Sklar Brothers took this brand of comedy was a hit with even a childless cynic like myself.
"We took our kids to Disneyland recently, and it's changed quite a bit from when we were little," Jason began. "Now they have the cars, like from the movie Cars, with pre-recorded messages inside them. So the kids can have conversations with the cars. And Randy's kids went nuts over them."
"So the conversation that went down between Lightning McQueen and my son was some of Owen Wilson's best post-suicide attempt acting," Randy picks up. "So Lightning McQueen says, 'How old are you?!' My son says 'I'm four!' 'Katchow! What's going on?!' 'I'm at Disneyland.' 'Awesome!' He was thrilled."
"But then I turn around, and behind us, next in line, is this middle-aged woman, no kids, but she wants to talk to Lightning McQueen," Jason says, the two of them trading lines like a game of badminton. "So she walks up to the car and he asks, 'Who's my little racer?!' And she's like [very depressed voice] 'Debbie.' 'Awesome! How old are you?!' '49.' 'Katchow! What's going on?!' 'Well, I stopped cooking for myself. . . . Just got too sad to make a whole meal and then have to clean it up. Leftovers were piling up in the fridge and--' 'Katchow! What else?!' 'Well, if I'm being honest it's been about six months since I've had an orgasm.' 'Awesome!'
"I knew the car just had a pre-recorded message in it, but I could feel that Lightning McQueen wanted to say other things. He wanted to be like 'All right, I gotta go fuel up back at the garage! Hey, next time maybe bring your niece, and don't be so creepy!'"
For more comedy commentary, follow me on Twitter at @JosiahMHesse.