Not since Shakespeare’s “Comedy of Errors” has there been a pair of twins as entertaining as Randy and Jason Sklar. The identical brothers (Jason sports glasses), originally from St. Louis, found their footing in New York’s alternative comedy scene in the mid-90s and have since spread their funny wings across the club circuit, film and TV and podcasts.
THE SKLAR BROTHERS When: 7 p.m. & 9 p.m. Feb. 11 Where: Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln Tickets: $10 (in advance) Info: lh-st.com
The Sklars are perhaps most well-known for their mock sports commentary on the long-running “Cheap Seats” on ESPN Classic, but they have also appeared on “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “The Oblongs,” the latter two playing the part of conjoined twins. They were also behind the web series “Layers” along with Nick Kroll, have had three comedy specials (the latest of which, “What Are We Talking About,” aired on Netflix in 2014) and currently host the popular podcasts “Sklarbro Country” and “Dumb People Town.” Or maybe you just recognize them from the latest Burger King commercials.
Their latest project promises to expand the Sklars’ profile as the duo comes to Chicago’s Lincoln Hall to film a one-hour comedy special for on-demand listening service Audible Channels and NBC Universal streaming service Seeso.
“When we started planning this special, we had a couple of cities we were looking at, but thought Chicago would be the best bet because we have always had great shows there … and there’s such a deep rich history and so many great [comics] coming out of this city,” says Randy Sklar, recalling seeing Second City shows during trips as a teenager, as well as the many times he and brother Jason have performed at the troupe’s UP Comedy Club.
Though their subject matter has always varied, the Sklars’ latest show, tentatively called “Hipster Ghosts,” will be mostly about “what’s been going on in our lives the last two years,” says Randy, including family lif — both brothers are married with children.
“As our kids are growing up a bit more, they have forced us to answer some of the larger questions about life and death. It’s a deeper, more contemplated set of comedy.” After soul searching about death, for example, he chides, “I realized the worst thing would be to be haunted by hipster ghosts.”
The set promises to cover more general topics, too, like the state of the country and, true to their brand, some sports commentary. Says Randy, “It’s really just two guys that are going through life in their mid-40s and also rethinking experiences from our childhood.”
The brothers credit much of their gift to their late father (“ He could make anyone laugh and we knew that was valuable,’” says Randy), as well as to memorizing bits from the early acts on the “Rodney Dangerfield Young Comedians Special,” particularly Jerry Seinfeld. “Our parents would be playing bridge with their friends, and ask us what’s going on, and immediately we’d break out with ‘So what’s with the shower radio anyway?’” jokes Randy.
But it was the double take the Sklars often got that made them realize they already had a crowd. “Being twins was unique back in the day. People were already drawn to us, so we figured what can we do with their attention?” says Randy, crediting their genetic gift with making their set more unique and identifiable, and their innate bond with providing unparalleled rhythm and timing.
After trying their hands at standup in high school (including getting the attention of The Disney Channel in a young comedians contest), the brothers kept up the paces while enrolled at the University of Michigan and eventually dropped out of law school to make the fortuitous move to New York City at just the right time. In the ‘90s, the downtown scene was just getting under way with groups like the Upright Citizens Brigade and acts like Louis C.K., Sarah Silverman and Patton Oswalt gaining traction. Oswalt has been one of many memorable guests on the brothers’ “Sklarbro Country” podcast, a lineup that also includes St. Louis comrade Jon Hamm and Richard Simmons.
The podcast medium has been a godsend for the Sklars and other contemporaries like Marc Maron. “It’s as revolutionary as the comedy album in the ‘60s and ‘70s,” admits Randy. “It’s intimate. You get to hear comics talking about process and riffing; you’re hearing the banter that happens all the time in closed comedy scenes.”
Not only do podcasts build fans even when the Sklars can’t tour the circuit, he says it’s also helped them get gigs. “We can invite someone we want to work with, and can prove to them we can riff and then hopefully pitch ideas to them,” says Randy, saying that quickstep got them written into shows like USA’s “Playing House,” among others. “We’re really lucky to get to do all the projects we do, and hope we provide a more unique twist than just one regular guy spilling his guts out.”
Selena Fragassi is a freelance writer.