Randy Sklar of The Sklar Brothers on Seinfeld, sports nerds and Adult Swim
The Sklar Brothers stand apart in the current comedy scene with their unique style of two-man storytelling and accessibly nerdy material. Primarily known for their hilariously analytical take on sports with ESPN's Cheap Seats and the History Channel's Freakanomics-style look at U.S. data, The United Stats of America, Randy and Jason Sklar have honed a metronomic rhythm in their standup comedy after years of touring together. We recently chatted with one half of the twins, Jason Sklar, in anticipation of their upcoming shows at Comedy Works, discussing how comedy has changed over their two decades in the business, as well as the podcast revolution and why they are not the Smothers Brothers.
The Sklar Brothers will be at Comedy Works June 27-29.
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Westword: Most of the twins that I've encountered had a strong bond with each other since they go through the same stages of life at the same time. Were you and your brother close before you got into comedy?
Randy Sklar: Yeah, we did a lot of stuff together as kids. Our parents encouraged us to hang out together, but not make it just about us. That was a big thing with them, that it not just be the two of us in our own little world. We always had each other to play tennis with or throw a baseball around -- which we did for hours on end. And in that time we were always talking, developing a rhythm with each other.
Now we work together, but we have separate families. Being apart is a nice refuge, and we come back together with a renewed energy.
Were you two into comedy when you were kids?
Yeah, we got into comedy really early. Our dad was a funny guy, always making people laugh. He liked comedy a lot, but old-school borscht-belty comedy. He introduced us to Mel Brooks. And I remember he brought home Airplane! one night, and a bunch of families came over to our house to watch it on our old VCR. We couldn't have been more than nine or ten, and there's a lot of boobs and adult stuff in there. And we laughed so hard, more than any other movie. It was a really important thing. We saw the power in it, even if we didn't know we wanted to do that with our lives.
Then we got nerdy about comedy. We saw a young Seinfeld on a Rodney Dangerfield Young Comedians Special on HBO and fell in love with him. And people would ask us in the early 80s, "Who's your favorite comedian?" And we'd be like, "You've never heard of him, it's this guy Jerry Seinfeld." We wished that people would know who he was.
Well there's one childhood wish that came true.
Yeah, it's a shame that guy never really made it.
Kidding. But we loved Garry Shandling, the goofiness of David Letterman, Saturday Night Live. We'd come to Sunday School the next day and we'd do all the bits we'd seen on SNL. A lot of people didn't know about that stuff, and they'd think we were coming up with it when we'd recreate it. Again, we saw the power in it. We had people's attention.
On stage you two have a remarkable rhythm together. You never really step on each other's lines, but you're tossing things back and forth so quickly. Has developing that been a life-long process?
Yeah, just telling stories together. If there was a story where we both were there, we would go back and forth when telling it. It just takes listening to somebody. You have to cooperate -- you can't step in and want to be the star.
On a basic level, it's what I've been teaching my daughter: Even though she's not a twin, it's the idea that you're not the only person in the world. You can't just run to the punchline as quickly as you can, there's a way to tell the story where you build it up. You contribute one thing and the other person contributes another. You get a feel for where one another is going to go -- if you need to back off or jump in -- after spending hours and hours together on stage.
You talk about all these solo performers that influenced the two of you as kids -- were there any two-man teams that inspired you? The obvious comparison that comes to mind would be the Smothers Brothers.
We didn't really know much about the Smothers Brothers when we were young. My only joke about that has been "our Mom loved the Smothers Brothers more than she loved us."
Right, a take-off on Tommy Smothers joke: "Mother always liked you the best."
I think we didn't really understand it that much. We loved Abbot and Costello. But yeah, we mostly loved solo comics, and that's good because it never put us in a box. It took us years and years to figure out what it is we do, and how to do it different than other people. Singular comedians have funny observations in their bits, and so do we, but what makes us unique is we can do something like deliver six punchlines in a row -- one person can't do that, but having two people to go back and forth with allows that.