Less than a year after they taped the final episode of ESPN Classic's Cheap Seats, which did for sports what Mystery Science Theater 3000
did for bad movies, The Sklar Brothers
have released a comedy album
and filmed a web series about a web series called Layers
, where they play publicists for an agent (Nick Kroll) who represents other agents. In this Starpulse Q and A
, the Sklars discuss what it takes to make a successful web series, compare celebrity worship to bullfighting, and reminisce about having a knife wielding maniac charge the stage.
The CD is called Sklar Maps. When you moved to LA, did you ever go on one of these Star Maps type tours?
No, we never did.
We're fascinated by that as a concept of something to do, because it's basically encouraging stalking.
Here's a map, here's a telephoto lens, become your own paparazzi.
See if you can stalk this person.
There are sites where people write in where they've seen celebrities so you can start narrowing down their coordinates.
Isn't that great? Shows like TMZ TV, where they're like, "If stars wanted to be more discreet, they'd get better disguises!" What, they're supposed to go in Nick Kroll's caveman makeup for the day? It's just out of control. It reminds me bullfighting. You normally think, "I'm going to root for these guys to take it to the bulls," because the bulls are really ruthless, but after fifteen minutes of watching any bullfighting footage, you start rooting for the bulls because the guys are sticking huge spears through their spines and then saying, "Come chase me." Yeah, no shit you're going to have an advantage. They're almost dead.
It's like challenging someone to an arm wrestling match and putting a steak knife in their bicep.
These people are just taunting the hell out of them. Leave them alone.
Let them die in peace from the blade you already stuck in them.
You deserve to get flipped. And then you start rooting for the bull. You're like, "Flip the shit out of them. Flip him until he fucking dies."
And that's a metaphor for TMZ.
One thing on the CD that I thought was surprising was the competitiveness of twins in show business. How far does it go?
Here's what I think it is. And this is honestly my truthful-- not that we've been giving untruthful answers-- but I think there are a lot of twins out there who just say, "We're good looking and we're twins and we're kind of charismatic, and that's what we've got." And there are a number of twins like that. And if that's just what they've got, then it's going to be very competitive, because you're all offering the same thing. We feel a little less competitive, because we've decided to take a really long time developing a comedic voice that has nothing to do with the fact that we're twins.
It tangentially does. We hope that we're the only ones that could do our act. Because we're twins, but at the same time, that people would not be like, "Those are the twins who do comedy," but, "That's a great comedy team, and they happen to be twins, and they use it in a good way." And so we've spent years and years developing comedy and a style and we emulate not twins, we aspire to be like the comedians we love, which we think are the top comedians out there, at least the most innovative. So that's what we're going for. Whether we make it there or not, that's a different story. But we're trying, we're aspiring for originality, creativity, uniqueness, and creating good comedy that's well liked.
On the CD, you guys do two tracks all about really peculiar shows, one with Andrew Dice Clay opening up for you.
That was at the Comedy Store. And I love that you phrased it that he opened up for us, because that was his joke. That is what he thought we would say about him. When really we would have been like, "Hey, thanks! Andrew Dice Clay everyone!"
Have a lot of people performed with you that if you tell other people about them, like Arsenio Hall, they're like, "That guy still even performs?"
Great question. This is Randy talking, by the way. The crazy thing about comedy in LA is that at any moment Bill Maher
could walk in and test out some stuff. You know that there are moments when people can come in. Now, the Comedy Store gets a different type of person come in there, but to see Arsenio Hall in there was not so surprising.
And people can rip Arsenio Hall, but if you go back and watch Coming to America
, which is a major motion picture, he was hilarious. Multiple characters, including a very straight character. He was a very talented dude, and he couldn't have been more professional and cooler.
He earned all kinds of points in our book for just having respect for people who he maybe doesn't know.
What are some of the more strange lineups that you've done in LA under these circumstances?
One night, Roseanne
followed Tom Arnold
, and then we had to follow both of them. I felt like we were coming in after a therapy session. That was great. That experience inspired the HBO Series Tell Me You Love Me
You know, back in the day, Roseanne's material was unbelievable. Her material was revolutionary. Her material was so good, it was great in a stand up act, and it helped form the basis for one of the greatest American sitcoms ever. Randy and I have done two albums of comedy, and we're still amazed that we can come up with new stuff. I don't know how much material she ended up creating, but she certainly created an amazing persona. But you can tell at this point, she's off of that persona.
She's not a housewife anymore.
But you know what? It's like rap artists. Their first album is about the streets, and about the life they came up with, and the next album is how they live in homes in unfamiliar places with lots of Crystale and lots of chicks and stuff around. With all the money they have, they can make it rain.
How would you compare your two releases to the timeline of rap albums?
We're making it rain so much, our nickname is Cumulonimbus.
I would say that we're making it drizzle.
That would have been a great name for the album. We were thinking of different names for the album. Make It Drizzle, that would have been one. And the other one was, Get Her Completed, which is a more educated way of saying, Get Her Done. The serious answer is, the other one we did was in 2003, and it was the best of the bits we have done for like five or six years, and it was the culmination of all that stuff, and we did it in a comedy club in Minneapolis over the course of two nights and four shows. This was a very different experience. This was in a theater, a really cool alternative theater space, the UCB Theater in Los Angeles. One night, one take, one show. This is what it would have been like for you to watch the show, with very little editing.
One of the tracks mentions performing outside. Is that something you've been forced to do a couple of times?
Yeah, a few times. It's actually really good when people are expecting comedy-- like San Francisco every year has Comedy Day in Golden Gate Park, like ten, twenty thousand people. But they're all there to see comedy. They know what they're getting. But comedy when it's mixed in with music, we performed at a music festival in Connecticut.
That was really hard.
The worst was probably performing outside the racetrack at Belmont Park in New York. During one of our sets, someone charged the stage with a knife. There were some kids playing with a softball nearby. It rolled on stage, and they came on stage and got it. Well, first they asked for a little help in the middle of our set.
That person was crazy and drunk and got pulled away by other people. It was a little rattling, I'd have to say. But in that person's defense, it was about twelve years ago, and we were not that good. I would have maybe rushed myself with a knife at that point. They kind of had every right to cut us.
It's funny because so many people feel like, "What this event needs is comedy." What they don't realize is that comedy is like a successful Everest summit. Even if the weather conditions are perfect, it still might not work. You need everything to be perfect. Even in a comedy club or a theater, if the mood is wrong for whatever reason-- the comic before you did something to upset the audience--
We had friends of ours in a comedy group called Highly Improvable. They were in New York, and they were playing this Jewish benefit that we went to. The person that was organizing the benefit introduced them with, "I just want to make a few announcements. I'm sure you all know that today a horrible bomb ripped through a shopping mall in Tel Aviv, and I think we all need to take a moment or two to think about that. And while you're thinking about that, let me introduce tonight's entertainment, the comedy of Highly Improvable." Are you kidding? Dig yourself out of that hole.
Have you ever had an introduction of that caliber?
Not quite that intense, but we've certainly been at things where people just totally set you up for failure, and you have to dig your way out of a hole that you didn't even create. Comedy is hard. Whenever we're watching somebody and for whatever reason, they're struggling, if they're material's not strong or they're trying new stuff and it's not working or the crowd is really tough, instead of saying, "That person sucks," our initial thought every time is, "Comedy is hard."
You guy's recently wrapped up your last season of Cheap Seats, which was the second series you've done. Before that was Apartment 2F on MTV. Are there any chances of that coming out on DVD or being released for iTunes?
I'd love it if it did. Randy and I would have to live with what horrible actors we were in it, but there were so many people in it. The cast was Randy, me, Zack Galifianakis
, Matt Price, Emmy Laybourne, Michael Showalter, that was the regular sort of cast. Michael Showalter came on for the last five or six. David Wain
did a movie with Amanda Peet
, Paul Dinello
did a film, Stephen Colbert
was in an episode, John Benjamin--
, Patton Oswalt
did stand up, Jim Norton
did stand up on the show. Insane, the number of people and the type of people that were on the show. So that was really cool and something to be proud of.
When you look at MTV now, how do you feel?
I never even watch it. To me, it's just one reality show, Date My Sweet Sixteen Daughter and Give Her A Car. It's changed. It used to be a place where there was really good comedy, to rival Comedy Central. They have two great shows: Human Giant and Wonder Showzen on M2. They get it right with that, but I feel like begrudgingly. But Human Giant is great. That actually brought me back to the days when Austin Stories and Apartment 2F were on MTV. I was like, "Wow. Somebody is actually making some very good decisions over there right now."
It seems like now the internet is going to be the place to see some really exciting comedy, like your show on Superdeluxe.com
It's crazy. It's going to kill comedy in other areas like on TV, because people want their comedy fast and in five-minute bites.
Yeah, with the internet comedy's easy to pull off, and it's in those small bites where you don't have to sit down and you can do it in a social way, and start passing things around. The Internet affords you some really good things. Like with our series Layers
on Super Deluxe, we can take a joke three steps further than you would normally take it on a network, before they'd be like, "All right. We get it." Sometimes it's great and sometimes it's not, but I do think that extra freedom--
So many things on the Internet, I feel, have to try to be really loud, because it's coming from such a small screen, and you have to grab people's attention, and be either loud, really crude, really topical, like to the second, or like a rap song like Lazy Sunday. We thought, let's try and create something that goes in the other direction and actually has characters and stories, and comedy that doesn't come out of crazy editing, but rather comes out of situations and people and experiences. So that's what we're going for, and possibly that's a more subtle choice, and that may exclude big portions of the audience who visit the internet, but I also think it makes it stand out from the other stuff on the internet.
Layers is you and Nick Kroll, who most people know from Cavemen or Best Week Ever. How'd you meet up?
We were shooting Cheap Seats in New York, and while we were there we go out and performing comedy at night, and we had some friends. It was great to be connected to the alternative comedy scene and through that we met Nick Kroll
, who we immediately made a connection with. We actually had cast him to do something on Cheap Seats.
He's just a good dude. And we were like, "Let's do something together." And we were just spitballing ideas, and he had told us about a character he had done where he was a manager who represented agents. That was intriguing to us, and we thought, "What if we took that one step further?"
"How funny would it be if you were an agent who represented agents and we were publicists who represented you?"
And from that came the idea, and we were like, "God, let's just do this crazy show that keeps folding in on itself as like a meta-idea." We sat down with Nick and fleshed out the idea and then met with Super Deluxe.
We're really proud of it. We hope more people come and watch it.
It's the type of thing where we've gotten the cast of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
, guys we became friends with from doing their show-- we did a guest spot on their show, it's their season finale this season in November. They came on and did some stuff with us, and Jerry Minor
, who is on Carpoolers
and was on Lucky Louie
, and was on Saturday Night Live
years ago, and Steve Agee
from The Sarah Silverman Program
and Kristen Schaal from Flight of the Conchords
played a husband and wife in one of the episodes. We just got really great people to come and be a part of it.
You'd mentioned how the Internet breaks comedy up in to smaller bits. What do you think of comedy for cell phones?
We made a joke in one of the episodes where we were talking to Nick, and he wants to quit the web show. And we're like, "Don't quit now, we made a deal to turn a few of these webisodes into mobisodes. Just make them even more bite sized. That was our big thing to tell him to get him to stay. I think it's funny. It's just going to keep getting smaller and smaller.
The crazy thing about mobisodes it that I feel like it's the laserdisc of this technology. Soon, everything's going to be like an iPhone, and the iPhone goes straight to the Internet. It's going to leapfrog that concept.
The mobisode is an unnecessary step.
Did you personally own a laserdisc player or know anyone that did?
Our uncle did.
Our uncle worked in an appliance store in Southern California called Phil and Jim's, so he had all the latest technology. He got us the first VCR that was connected with a remote that was actually connected to the VCR with a cord. It was a short cord that you couldn't sit down on the couch and use, so you would have to stand about four and a half feet from the TV to use the remote. The remote made it more inconvenient.
We always ended up getting the weird discontinued technology, stuff that you would never use.
That was the biggest example of it, but then like the VCR that was almost as big as the television. We didn't have a betamax, we had a Hitachi.
They should have called it the Attachi.
Because everything was attached.
So, what are some other projects that you're involved in right now?
We're doing a pilot for Comedy Central, which we're hoping gets picked up. We got cast in it, it wasn't our idea, but it was something that we really liked. It's a half hour narrative show called Held Up. We're in the movie The Comebacks
, which is coming out next week with David Koechner
. That was really fun to do, and we also did an episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, which was also really fun, and that's coming out next month. We also wrote a movie that now is being rewritten, for New Line. A comedy movie called Heckled. And then we're just trying to get out and promote our CD
, and get people to know it. The CD
and Layers are two projects that we've put a lot of ourselves into over the last two months, and will continue over the next month to promote. We care about those a lot. They're not necessarily the way you make a living, but we care about them so much, and we're super invested in them, so we just want to give those their due and support them any way we can.
Interview by Ben Kharakh
Starpulse.com contributing writer