Friday, November 10, 2017

Thursday night with the Sklar Brothers

The touring pair visits with The Second Arrangement

There were Oklahoma City Thunder teeth to gnash somewhere else, on Thursday. That team was put together, quickly and artfully, with the understanding that power of recognition and talent could combine to hold the fort, game-to-game, as the rest of the long and inessential regular season revealed itself. We never count on the fact that new teammates, by this point, don’t even know who orders first at the table, let alone when to roll or when to dive.

Somewhere, miles away from where the Thunder were setting up to try and catch up to the Nuggets in front of them, Randy and Jason Sklar were pinpointing bits of Indiana goodness and presumed badness lurking behind the remaining stalks. Building laughs on the uneasy ride down from Indianapolis to Bloomington, IN.

Gleaning husks of wisdom in time to not only make it in for their set at the Comedy Attic, but also the by-now rote tradition of tossing local chunks of chum to the punters, a wonderful intro the Brothers served without a hint of ritual.

It was hilarious because it was a routine that felt beyond that word, reminding why the live experience is so crucial, to not only spy humanity but also talent performing in a place it belongs. It was so damn fun to see two people not only enjoying, but being very good at, their jobs.

And, just like your job:

“We never skip on the stressful moments,” Jason Sklar stressed after the show, “we have to work a little bit harder to remind ourselves, ‘oh, this particular group of people came out tonight to hear our ideas.’ Things we created out of nothing, in our brains, and they’re also here to be entertained by that and …”

Brother Randy approached the mound.

“We also know that as a team we do something different. It’s not just one person to give his or her point of view, which is very easy for people to understand. Two people is a much different prospect.”

The interplay, on a stage that just isn’t used to two people in front of the same wall at the same time, sustains its elasticity. Through re-writes and car trips and Thursday night shows when four are scheduled in the days ahead, and who the hell comes out on a Thursday night to see a stand-up comedy show.

Plenty on this night, it turns out, ripe and ready for the release of watching two dudes entertain them.

Yes, the Sklar Brothers are just that and they’re also twins on top of a billing themselves as a comedy duo, and a technical family act. All un-asked-for novelties.

A lot of your favorite comics were born around the same year, though, and a lot of our favorite comics often look a lot alike. Thick with both accent and shared history, longtime friends that also work the same angle (no matter the venue size), touring with pals and helping one another out. Many these days thankfully take the opposite route, choosing a feature act with a wildly different tone to tour with.

From both sides of the tour poster, plenty have had and will continue to have the chance to put together a killer comedy duo act in the modern era. In the before, in the aughts, on Thursday night, Sklars are on it.

They didn’t come out of the womb dribbling the basketball, though. They had to work on that back-and-forth:

“The same sensitivity we have on stage we take off stage with each other,” Randy continued, “we can be there to pick each other up. If somebody’s dealing with some stuff, allow them to deal a little harder.”

Jason leaned in, not picking a clam from that night so much as to assure teammate, brother and paying fans alike that any dead air supplied by the duo would come only by design:

“If we’re onstage and one of us feels maybe a little lost in what’s going to come next, then either one of us can take the reins, and it’s like an improv team. You essentially have to ‘yes, and?’-everything.

“You can’t deny a direction, you just have to be grateful that the other person picked up the slack and moved us to the next point.”

Points that, thankfully for someone that drove the same dark and winding roads toward Thursday’s show, touched on what you can’t help but ignore on the way toward a building in Bloomington that sits somewhere outside something, we can’t tell. Like the viewers at home, Randy and Jason stared at wonder at all the clear and obvious murder scenes lurking behind those spent Indiana soybean fields and shallow river loading docks on the drive down.

After detailing that darkly turn, Randy showed us his blank white page:

“The plane lands Thursday and we have to try and write ten minutes of material about the town that we’re in and what they’re experiencing. To try to make local comedy as outsiders coming in is such a high bar challenge, but it is great.”

His partner then shared notes. A whole lifetime (including previous visits) gives you three minutes on stage on Thursday, nice, but a brisk walk through a semi-familiar town can (more than!) triple that output.

Jason Sklar went on to describe the weekend he hasn’t had yet:

“We’re just trying to mine. What do we know about Indiana? What do we know about Bloomington? What are the things we know coming into town? That’s what we’ll come to stage with on Thursday night. On Friday we’ll start to experience certain iconic things, we deal with what’s happening in the community, write a few more minutes, take three minutes and turn it into six. Then come Saturday night, we’ll have nine or 10 minutes.”

This isn’t a new approach, just a reminder of how formidable the act is. Imagine coming into a town you kinda know with a pal you’ve never not known, experiencing that town’s weirdness and alerts and attempting to describe it, with your funny friend, to an awaiting audience later. Get that down to three (really good) minutes, before the drinks come.

This isn’t to distance the length between stage and table, far from it, but to outline how unique this Sklar pairing is. Not what it was born into, but what it has become.

Offstage they are alertly capable of unhurried and accurate mid-race adjustments in conversation, hand-offs that aren’t best described with the ubiquitous send-off about finishing one’s sentences. Maybe that’s why they crack at that befuddlement – from outsiders considering the work of brothers – in their act.

Of course they have unending chemistry. The smaller influence is that they’re happily paid to charm with it – the act itself was an unending riot bent to please, of obvious creation from backseat to college breakfast buffet line, to podcast booth to pitch meeting – and they’re curious and interested enough to want to keep it healthy. For you, on a Thursday after your own drive, but also for themselves.

Something about sustaining that autonomy, to be able to leave two sets of families behind to hook the stand-up show back onto the ribbon, into Indiana, and riff as you’d like before delivering a well-honed and expertly splayed act that only breezed and cackled as if it were an ongoing set of riffs, which it most certainly was not.

“We have children, we have families, we do this for them and what we’re doing” – Jason finished his own sentence – “for each other.”

Randy didn’t say a word.

“It’s kind of cool to still be around.”

The Sklar Brothers will perform at the Comedy Attic in Bloomington, IN on Friday Nov. 10 at 8 pm ET and 10:30 pm ET, and on Saturday Nov. 11 at the same times.