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Friday, November 22nd, 2013

Talking to the Lucas Brothers About Their New Fox ADHD Show

The Lucas Brothers are your typical law school dropout, wrestling nerd, identical twin brother standup duo.

You know.

They also happen to be very funny. After a strong debut on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon two years ago, the Brooklyn-based Lucas Brothers (Keith and Kenny) have officially arrived.

In addition to hosting a morning talk show on Comedy Central's digital arm, the Lucas Brothers have roles in the upcoming 22 Jump Street, and created and star in the animated series, Lucas Bros Moving Co., which premieres Saturday on Fox’s animated block ADHD.

I recently caught up with the brothers while on set filming in New Orleans to talk about their new show, their start in comedy and their obsession with Bret “The Hitman” Hart.

How’s 22 Jump Street going? What roles are you playing, if you can share a little bit about it?

Kenny: Yeah, we can talk a little bit about it. We’re here playing the roommates of Channing [Tatum] and Jonah [Hill] in college, and it’s been great, man. It’s our first big picture, so it’s been kind of like a surreal experience. You’re learning a lot about the industry, but you’re also learning a lot about just making movies.

Keith: When you get the first big project like this, it can get a little overwhelming at first, but we’ve been in New Orleans for like three months now so it’s been going really, really smoothly. I love the city of New Orleans too, so that’s made it a lot more fun.

I gotta think the roles were written specifically for you, unless they said, “We’re just gonna try to cast any identical standup comedian twins we can find.”

Keith: Nah, actually they said they were trying to cast this part for like four months, like they didn’t know – they were just looking for some type of team. They needed brothers or sisters or just a team that could bounce off of Channing and Jonah. Then our manager told us that the role was available, and we had to audition for it. It was four auditions and then we did the table read. It was a pretty lengthy process. But it seemed like the role was written for us.

Kenny: When we first got the script, we were like, “Did they write this for us?” [Laughs.] And everyone was like, “No, they didn’t.”

That’s funny. Since you guys are a duo, is it always a package deal? Is that better for your brand that way? Are there ever opportunities for you guys to work on projects separately? I’m just curious how that works.

Keith: When we got into comedy, we did this because we wanted to work more together. So generally we try to get it as a package deal. We audition as individuals, and we always sell that. We have a general philosophy that if we do something by ourselves, we tend to be worse at it. Together we are just better.

Kenny: As we get older and we mature as comedians, we’ll probably branch out to separate projects, but since we’ve been doing this for only four years so we still want to work together. You know, see what we can do as a duo before we branch out as individuals. Because I did start out on my own. I tried it by myself, and I sucked. [Laughs.]

Can you verify that, Keith?

Keith: Yeah, I can definitely verify that. [Laughs.] He sent me his first set. I think he did it at Comix, rest in peace, and it was awful. It was a terrible set. It sort of encouraged me to get on stage, so, you know, we all start from the bottom.

How are you guys different? I have twin sisters, so I know you have a lot of similar mannerisms and everything, but what separates you? Is one of you more Type A, is one of you more laid back?

Keith: I will say, yeah, Kenny’s a bit more aggressive. He’s always been more of a go-getter. I’ve sort of been like the guy in the background. Kenny’s been the pusher, I would say.

Kenny: I’m definitely more Type A, just a little more organized. Kind of like the person who cares about every little aspect of our business. Keith’s more of the creative type, he’s the more artistic one. That would be the biggest difference between Keith and I.

I’ve read that you both dropped out of law school to do comedy. Did you perform in college at all? What convinced you it was worth taking the risk to drop out of law school to pursue it?

Kenny: We didn’t really do any stage performance in college. We wrote for our school newspaper; we did, like, the humor section. And we’d always been involved in comedy, just by watching it or going to shows. When I was in law school, it was the third year, and I knew I didn’t want to be a lawyer, and I knew I wanted to work with my brother. I was trying to think of a profession that would allow us to work together but also have fun. At first, it was screenwriting; we were gonna be screenwriters. But then I took – I didn’t take a class, I did an open mic. And it was fantastic, and I was like, “I think that we can do this.” And I read up on the Sklar Brothers; I watched their act. There's another twin act and it’s not something that’s completely novel. So we decided to give it a go.

Keith: I confirm all of that. [Laughs.]

[Laughs.] Thank you, Keith.

Keith: Yeah, no problem.

Was there a moment on stage when you were like, “You know what? I think we’ve got something here?”

Keith: Yeah, we used to do the Woodshed open mics in Brooklyn. I think it was the second time we did it, and we got some laughs and I thought, 'All right, it’s not as mysterious as I thought it was.' You’ve gotta get up there and do work, get up there and just keep telling jokes, keep expanding the act, and once we did the Woodshed a bunch of times, it felt like we had something there. I didn’t think it was good at all, but I was like, “If we keep doing it, we’ll get better.” And then you see a bunch of other comics in Brooklyn or New York, and you’re like, “Wow, these guys are fucking fantastic.” And you just get that energy and you’re like, “All right, we just gotta keep doing what they do, and we’ll get better.”

Kenny: I confirm all of that.

How did you guys develop your act? Is it tightly scripted?

Keith: Yeah, we went through different phases. When we first started, we used to write out everything. We used to try to script it, and it came out as super robotic. And it was pretty, pretty, pretty bad. So we were like, “All right, let’s see if we can just improvise a little bit more.” And we started coming up with ideas and punchlines. We’ll come up with the punchline first, and we’ll try to work our way to the punchline. And we’ll both throw out premises that we think lead to the punchline. And whichever thing gets more laughs is the thing we’ll stick with. So it’s been a really democratic process.

Kenny: We transcribe everything, so we’ll get on stage a bunch of times and a particular joke and the more we say it, the more we sharpen it, and then we’ll write it out that way.

Keith: Yeah, it’s sort of like we’ll be on stage, and we’ll try to figure out what’s sticking or what’s the best way to navigate to the punchline. It’s a really organic process.

What about riffing? I imagine that it’s difficult to not step on the other guy’s toes. Do you have an unspoken language by being twins?

Kenny: Yeah, that was a big problem. We would never riff early on. We would just kind of stick to the jokes because whenever we would start riffing, we’d start mumbling and stepping on each other’s punch lines. But as we’ve gotten older, as we’ve done it a little bit more, we’ve been more and more comfortable. I know if he’s talking, I’ll just keep my mouth shut. And if I start talking, he’ll just keep his mouth shut.

Keith: We’ve actually been experimenting with just using one mic to eliminate that problem, because we have a tendency to just go off on tangents and again, like you said, we step on each other’s toes sometimes. But yeah, as we’ve done it more, we’ve been better at just letting – I just kind of let him breathe. If he’s going somewhere with it, I’ll just sit back and try to internalize it in my head, so then I can add something to it. But yeah, when we first started, I mean, we were pretty much fighting against each other to get to the punchline, so it wasn’t fun. I’m glad we don’t do it anymore.

Tell me about Lucas Bros Moving Co. Did you actually ever have a moving company or work at a moving company? How much of this is based on your own lives?

Kenny: No, we never had a moving company. [Laughs.] Initially we started off – it was gonna be a cable company because we did work for a cable company as installers, but we felt like moving was just more Brooklyn.

Keith: Yeah, and The Cleveland Show did that with cable so we had to do something not exactly like The Cleveland Show, so let’s be a moving company, like Kenny said. Moving companies are all over Brooklyn, so we thought it would be funny if we were movers because we’ve never moved a thing in our lives and we’re so fucking weak and we hate physical labor.

It’s a great idea. I worked at a moving company for three summers in college. There’s so much material there.

Keith: Absolutely. I mean, once we picked that idea it was like you can do so much with it. You can move anybody. Like a truck can move anywhere, so that’s always a launching pad for a story. It just made writing the scripts a lot easier, just being able to move anywhere.

Can you talk about the learning curve of creating a show and writing scripts? How was that for you guys?

Keith: It was awesome, I mean, this is our first opportunity to put our vision out there on TV, and we had a really great team around us. We’re working with Nick Weidenfeld and Dave Jeser and Matt Silverstein, and these guys are better than anything in the cartoon-making business so they gave it a lot of guidance. You’ve just gotta break it down part by part and just take your time with it.

Kenny: Yeah, you just have to really trust the process and not get ahead of yourself. In the beginning, we just slumped our heads and said, “We’re never gonna figure this out.” You’re writing a script for an animated show, and you’re like, “I don’t know what I’m doing. This is ridiculous.” But if you dissect the process and you follow the veterans, you’re gonna be fine. And it’s very similar to standup – when you start off, you’re so scared that no one’s gonna like what you do, and then as you keep doing it and you keep getting more and more comfortable with the process, it makes it a lot easier — not easier. It’s gonna always be difficult, but it gets more comfortable. We’re more comfortable in creating the scripts, so I think it’s been great in that it’s encouraged us to write more. We’ve always been writers, but putting it in that structure has made us more comfortable with the process.

Who else is working on it with you? Any other New York comedians writing on it?

Keith: Yeah, Kevin Barnett, he’s writing on it. Jerrod Carmichael is writing. Beck Bennett from SNL wrote on it, Nick Rutherford wrote on it. Yeah it was whoever we got to show up. So we wrote all the scripts, and we went back to those guys to be like, “How can we get stronger punchlines?” And it was great, a great writing team I think.

And who else is doing voices besides yourselves?

Kenny: We have Eric Andre, Hannibal Buress, Jerrod Carmichael, Erik Griffin from Workaholics, Natasha Leggero, Jake “The Snake” Roberts, Michael K. Williams from The Wire, Isiah Whitlock from The Wire, Clay Davis. Yeah, he fucking was fantastic; he’s phenomenal. Who else do we have? Oh, Michael Che, Kevin Barnett, Lil’ Rel.

Are you guys the only regular characters on the show though?

Keith: Jerrod Carmichael’s pretty much our best friend in the show, so he appears in most episodes. He’s like the third main character.

You really got Jake “The Snake” Roberts?

Keith: We got Jake the Snake, man. We’ve always been huge wrestling fans, and when they said we can get Jake, we both thought he would be great. We were like, “Oh, that’s awesome.”

That is great. What’s with your obsession with Bret Hart?

Kenny: When we were growing up, he was our favorite wrestler. We loved him like people love superheroes, and we’ve just been big fans of him since. He’s our guiding force – kind of weird, most people don’t look to wrestlers as a guiding force, but he was always very positive and he’s a good guy so we loved the fact that he’s a hard worker, and we just gravitated toward him instantly. And we followed his career. We’re making it a habit to put him in everything that we do. Like, everything that we do has Bret Hart. If you look at anything that we do, there’s gonna be something about Bret Hart.

I do love the Hart Foundation.

Kenny:[Laughs.] A high caliber of wrestlers, you got Owen Hart. Bulldog was great for a while. Even Anvil was pretty good.

Is Jimmy Hart still around?

Kenny: Jimmy Hart, I think he’s done. I’ve seen him like in various spots in WWE, like he was in the Hall of Fame. They bring him back for, like, the legends matches, but he’s pretty much retired.

There are so many wrestling fans in comedy. It seems like every comedian I talk to is a die-hard wrestling fan.

Keith: Yeah, we’re all nerds. That’d make sense. We’re all just big nerds. Yeah, that’s the beauty of comedy. There’s so many people who are just like introspective and weird and you see the comedy and you’re like, “Man, this is beautiful thing we’re making.” I’m glad that a lot of them are wrestling fans because we can nerd-out on wrestling. Were you a big wrestling fan?

Huge growing up. I watched every single Wrestlemania, Royal Rumble, Survivor Series.

Keith: I mean, I think we all loved it. It’s one of those things like we don’t want to talk about it now, but it was awesome. Happy times, man.

My dad loved it too. My dad’s favorite wrestler of all time was George “ The Animal” Steele. He loved that guy.

Kenny: The Animal was great. I mean, he’s a little before out time, but he was awesome.

He was pretty much a performance artist before it was popular, you know?

Kenny: Absolutely. That’s the great thing about wrestlers, they are performers. They’re actors. I probably learned more from them than anyone outside of standup. They’re creating a character and being committed to that one character. I mean that’s what they do, so yeah, they’re a lot like standups.

Any other projects you’re working on?

Kenny: Yeah, can we talk about the? We signed a script deal with Fox to produce a pilot, so we’re working on that.

Keith: We’re working with Legion of Goons, which is like a sketch group with – well, not like sketch, more like a variety show with Jennifer Bartels, Kevin Barnett, Josh Rabinowitz, Jermaine Fowler, and Lil Rel, so we’ve been working on that too and doing standup.

Cool. And everything for Moving Co., that’s already all written and in the can?

Keith: Oh yeah, they picked up a few more episodes so we have to do some scripts for that.

Kenny: Yeah, we’re doing six more episodes of Moving Co.

 

A special preview of Lucas Bros Moving Co. airs on Fox’s Animation Domination High-Def Saturday at 11pm.

 

Phil Davidson writes about, performs, and produces comedy.

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