LAist Interview: The Sklar Brothers
Randy and Jason Sklar are two faces that you probably recognize; and not just because they share the same face. Born as identical twins, the pair have decided to stick with it, and have achieved a surprising level of comedic success, without having a 'good-looking one' to fall back on. They have since gone on to appear in numerous television shows and stand up houses all across America, including their successful Cheap Seats show that enjoyed a four-season run on ESPN Classic.
In fact, the Sklars are well respected in comedy circles, and can regularly be seen honing their craft around the Los Angeles area, sharing stage time with others you might have already heard of, and a few that haven't. Yet. LAist was fortunate enough to sit down for an interview with Randy to find out exactly what it is about comedy in LA that can be so daunting, and what makes people come back for more.
Where are you from, and what made you come to Los Angeles for comedy?
From St. Louis, Missouri. Went to college in Ann Arbor, Michigan, then went to New York for 5 1/2 years where Jay and I did stand up. In New York, we worked behind the scenes at cable networks, just to get a feeling for what was out there. We quit doing stand up because we hated our material. It was a growing process in New York, and then this kind of great underground comedy scene developed. It wasn't so underground, it was just alternative. It was kind of a response to the shitty comedy that was going on everywhere. So we latched onto that. We just had access and were exposed to such great stuff in New York. We did it there for five and a half years, did a show on MTV called Apartment 2F, and from there we were like 'OK, what are we gonna do? Are we gonna stay in New York and continue to do stand up because we were getting tons of spots a week, or, we started to develop a TV show in LA for NBC and Warner Brothers and HBO Independent Productions and it never went, but they kept sending us out to LA, and we started performing out in LA, and we're kinda like 'If we're ever gonna make it in this industry, we have to come out here.' We made the move after 5 1/2 years in New York and feeling like we had done pretty much what we wanted to do in New York, and we were ready to move.
What are you currently working on and where can we see you next?
- We have a web series we just finished called Back On Topps, which is kind of our baby. We developed it with Michael Eisner, he bought Topps and wanted to create a web series to give it a presence, to jar it back into people's minds. Everybody knows what Topps is, but people don't even know that they're still making cards. It was just an opportunity to just get it out there. He tapped me and Jason to do it, and we were like 'we want this to be our next series. We want this to actually be something that we're really proud of'. We want it to be the type of thing that, if tons of people see it, they will love it. So we hired our friend Mike Blieden who directed Comedians of Comedy. He's great and about to totally explode. We got him to direct it, hired some really great comedy people; Phil Morris, Phil Lamar, Janet Varney, she's a regular, Stephanie Courtney, she plays Jason's wife in the series. Ed Helms from The Office. Then Topps helped us get all these great athletes like Greg Oden, Dennis Rodman, Baron Davis, Russell Martin and Andre Ethier, Kevin Love, Matt Holliday, Johnny Damon. All these people did little things for us, and we just used athletes in a way that was funny. It's behind-the-scenes at Topps, something in the vein of shows that we loved; 30 Rock or Arrested Development. The Office obviously has an influence on us, and we love the This Is Sportscenter commercial campaign that has been going on for years. It's been great.
How easy / hard is it to be a working comedian in Los Angeles?
I think you can say that it is both easy and both very hard. It is easy because the comedy community here is the fantastic, and if you're willing to put the time in, you can find a lot of shows that you can get up and perform at. If you are good and you haven't been discovered, if you rip through that circuit of shows, I think you can achieve levels of success that you can't in other cities. In terms of opportunities, it's a double-edge sword. There's so many opportunities to here to do your thing, whatever that may be. But at the same time, if you're not working, or having a hard time, you're constantly reminded of all the people who are working. Yes there are opportunities, and if you're good you can get them, but it can also be discouraging.
On an average night doing comedy, where can you be found?
I love the UCB Theatre. Largo is amazing; just two phenomenal spaces where you know something exciting is always gonna happen, is always gonna be there, is always gonna be good. There's a great show at The Knitting Factory called the Hub Bub. The Un-Cabaret is always enjoyable for us, because that's a different show, you have to be really honest with the things that you say. I love the Improv, for straight stand up during the week, all of the people that we look up to and enjoy and love, all just pop by there and do sets.
At what point do you consider yourself as having 'made it'?
I think in the old days, there were very easy ways to track that. If you made it on Carson, and you had a great set, and then he invited you over to the couch, you made it. Now, what you did with that is another story. But you made it as a comedian, if that happened. Then Letterman, that became the thing to do. Then, in the 90's it became: 'get a sitcom'. Now, it's so fractured. I still think, if you star in movies, that's the most. That's literally the holy grail. For us, making it means that you are doing what you love and what you truly believe in, and you are doing what makes you great and unique. And it's getting out to lots of people. We were able to do Cheap Seats, which ran for 77 shows on ESPN Classic, and tons of people know it, and so we made it, in terms of that. But I think there's more work to be done for us. We would love to be back on TV doing another series. As long as you're working and doing the things that you love.
Everyone thinks we've done I Love The 80's. We've never done I Love The 80's. Or the 90's. Or Best Week Ever. But we've done, like, 40 Craziest Hairdos on a Rockstar Who Was A Man But Now Is A Woman, or those types of shows, and people see us on there. They think that every show is I Love The 80's. We get a ton of that. I think we're one major break away from kind of really being out there.
How do you handle roadblocks that prevent you from doing the creative things you'd like to do?
I think people initially don't know what to do with us. As twins, we get a lot of that type of material, rather than looking at it from the other angle which is, here is a person who I am familiar with. We have the timing and the creativity to play off each other in ways that a lot of people can't.
For us, being on Entourage and Grey's Anatomy, those are all big career hits in terms of letting people know who we are. That being said, it's not super easy for us to just walk in and say: give us a TV show. We have to have the perfect idea, it has to be the perfect time, we have to assemble a great team of people, then we have to go to a place that will really need it. We've had difficulties getting stuff developed for a network. It's tough because we're not big enough stars. To them, we haven't made it.
Who are some of your current favorite comedians?
There are so many that are just amazing. Obviously, I'm a huge fan of Patton Oswalt, Sarah Silverman, and Paul F. Tompkins. We love Zach Galifianakis, Brody Stevens, Nick Swardson, Maria Bamford, Doug Benson is fantastic. These are all friends of ours, contemporaries. People who we love seeing, and when you see them there is this genuine exchange back and forth. You feel like, these are the people we're coming up with.
What are some of the best/worst shows you've seen?
UCB and Largo, they get really good talent. There's just this excitement, and you feel like you are part of something that is happening. It feels really creative. This is pushing the edge of what comedy is all about. Bad shows? It's hard to say. We've performed on really bad shows, but then those shows have been great other times. The only problem with LA is that it's hard to get audiences, if you're not one of those marquee shows. There are other places, like you might go to a show at the Ramada Inn, and it's not so great, because there's two people there. But you know what? Those shows don't bother us either, because you have to be able to connect.
The shows that I just don't love...I remember doing shows up at Dublin's, and you just get this element of people who are like the Sunset Strip folks who are trying to look so cool. That's the last person you want to do comedy in front of.
What is your opinion of the Los Angeles comedy scene?
Here's the thing...there's a whole other scene of people trying to do comedy in LA. They're almost circles that never meet, there's a circle over here and then what's going on over there. And what's going on over here...they may produce people who eventually will be on TV, but I think what's really going on in this comedy scene that we've really been around a ton, you see the most creative stuff happening. You see the most interesting things. This circle has sort of broken through.
You go to these other shows...It's just so far behind. It's kind of akin to what was going on in the 80s and 90s. You've got actors who are up there struggling in the city, being like 'well, I see that comedians get stuff, so I'm going to get my five minutes of development material. But...you're doing comedy for the wrong reasons.
What is one thing you think most people in Los Angeles are missing out on, comedically?
Here's what I would say. I think for those who go to the Comedy Death Ray show and can't get in, See You Next Tuesday is right after it, and is usually fantastic. You will see some people who are so talented and you're like: 'OK, these people are gonna get their shot'. The Tiger Lilly Show is great. I'm excited to do this Hub Bub show, I've just heard nothing but great things about that show, too. I think you could just throw a dart on the board at UCB and just show up, and be you'd probably see something good.
I'll say this, Improv Olympic...Dave Razowsky, Neil Flynn sometimes still comes in there and does it. They're just great people who participate in those shows as well. Improv Olympic does a great Armando and Harold shows.