Embracing the Middle with The Lucas Brothers
Keith and Kenny Lucas, aka The Lucas Bros, just dropped a new Netflix special today, fittingly titled On Drugs. The one-hour special is perfectly in line with what fans of the twin stoners have come to know them for: a chilled-out exploration of the brothers’ shared perspective with a nice dose of animation thrown in for good measure. In talking to Keith and Kenny I was constantly reminded just how unaffected these dudes are. They’ve had modest commercial success with Lucas Bros. Moving Co., Friends of the People, and a handful of TV and film cameos. I want to be clear that my use of “modest” is not a slight because according to them, “a lot of people aspire for greatness. We need people who are willing to embrace mediocrity. That’s what we do.” I talked to The Bros about the new special, the joys of working as a duo, and why people should be more comfortable with shooting for the middle.
In 2014 Variety named your duo one of the 10 Comics to Watch. Are you cool with always being paired together as one entity?
Keith: There’s a lot of pressure to be individual. Sometimes you just accept that it’s the way it has to be. But as you get older it’s like, “Fuck that. I’m gonna reject that.” I like the idea of two people using their minds to form a singular POV. Even if the comedy world recognizes us as an individual thing it’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s what we intended.
Has sibling rivalry ever come up between you guys?
Kenny: Yeah, you know, there’s the traditional stuff. “Don’t eat my cereal without telling me.” We are symbiotic in that we compete, but it’s usually healthy competition. We push ourselves to the limit, but also know to respect each other’s boundaries. We respect each other as competitors. It’s never dog eat dog.
Keith: We live together and we work together. If we were intensely competitive this thing wouldn’t function. When you’re part of a team for so long you figure out the best way to work together. It’s been good, but there are times we compete because we have to.
The projects that you’ve done together definitely have a cool factor. Things like Moving Co. and Friends of the People. But one thing that you allude to in the special is that the two of you pop up in a lot of things as a quick cameo. The projects that the two of you create together are distinctly your voice, but a lot of these smaller roles are like, “Let’s get those two twins in here real quick.” Do you see that pattern breaking in the future where you start to get independent leading roles?
Kenny: I don’t know if I like to think about results. I kind of just like to go with the flow. I don’t want to be the kind of comic who says, “I’ve got to have this at a particular age and it has to be like this otherwise I’m going to be unhappy and miserable.” I think comedy is supposed to be a fun process and if someone asked me to do something and I think the project seems dope I’ll do it. I don’t want to look back on my career and say that I didn’t have the most fun I could have had. Now, do I want to be a lead on a show? I don’t know if it’s a want, but if it happens I’ll do it.
Keith: As long as I’m doing comedy with Kenny I don’t care if it’s a leading role, a cameo, our own show, I don’t care. As long as we’re doing it and having fun, that’s all that matters.
Kenny: We could be like those guys at Disneyland who have to dress up like Mickey Mouse and Goofy. We could do that. If they’re giving us a paycheck and people are laughing, that’s cool.
That’s beautiful. What would you say is the most fun project the two of you have done together?
Keith: I would go with Lucas Bros. Moving Co. not just because my name is in the title, but because it’s animation…
Kenny: Working in animation is unlike any experience I’ve ever had because you can just do whatever. It’s limitless in terms of the imaginative process. Being able to do that and work with some of my closest friends was magical to me.
Keith: Yeah, from an intellectual, philosophical, creative standpoint it’s the most fun. Now, in terms of the physical process of acting it would have to be Friends of the People.
Kenny: I’ve never had more fun on a set. If your job is to wake up and laugh how can you complain about anything?
It must be cool to see people from that show blowing up in other places, especially Lil Rel.
Keith: It’s crazy. We’ve been working with Lil Rel for almost four years. We knew he was a comedic genius. To see it pop off in the way that it has has been remarkable.
Kenny: It brought tears to our eyes. You want the universe to work like that. You want people who are exceptionally talented to be received internationally as such. It’s beautiful.
The title of the special, On Drugs, serves a dual purpose, as you discuss both doing drugs and the politics behind America’s stance on them. Did you set out with an idea of how much time you wanted to spend on your experiences with drugs versus the political and social issues surrounding them?
Kenny: We didn’t break it down like, “It’s gonna be 50% this and 50% that.” We just did what felt right and fit the theme.
Keith: We actually took some jokes out because they just didn’t fit with everything else.
I want to jump back to animation for a minute. Your special ends with a very surreal educational animated piece. It had a very twisted Saturday morning cartoon feel to it. Who did the animation for that?
Keith: Our friend Jackie Bauwens. She’s an animator from New Jersey. We go back a few years. I pitched her the idea, told her what I wanted, and she interpreted it. She did a great job. It has sort of a nineties feel to it, which I wasn’t even thinking of. That’s just how she went with it. It was really cool to see.
Yeah, it looks amazing. It has a grotesque, psychedelic Rat Fink style to it.
Keith: Yeah I like watching it just by itself to see the visuals. We had Jermaine Fowler do the voice of Nixon because why not?
In watching your special and the newest Chappelle stuff it appears that OJ Simpson jokes are back.
Keith: OJ commentary has been a billion dollar industry when you think about it. Last year a six-part documentary won an Oscar and then you had the FX series that won a bunch of Emmys. People have been talking about OJ as long as I’ve been conscious. If you can give it a different spin and it’s your own unique take on OJ then fuck it, talk about it.
Kenny: It’s a weird intersection between class, race, and the entertainment industry. That’s a lot of stuff that comedians already talk about.
Keith: And he’s about to get released. It’s weird how everybody got excited with this OJ resurgence.
Kenny: It’s like the Trump effect. How many more jokes can we do about this? He’s a very intriguing man. He does crazy shit everyday. Those are the toughest jokes to make, the jokes that everyone is joking about. But as a comedian you have to do it.
And hopefully yours is the best?
Kenny: I don’t care about it being the best. I’m cool with it being…okay, here’s my analogy. I feel like comedy is one long golf game. You just have to get your best score. You’re going to have Tiger Woods, but I’m cool with having an Ernie Els career. He made a lot of money. He’s cool.
It’s funny to hear you say that because I was looking at an older interview that we had done with you and at one point one of you said, “We’re not super great.”
Kenny: A lot of people aspire for greatness. We need more people who are willing to embrace mediocrity. That’s what we do. It’s like, “Fuck it. I want to make a career of being average.”
I totally get that. I always tell people that if you keep your expectations low you’ll be pleasantly surprised way more often.
Keith: Oh my God. It’s like a burden lifted.
Kenny: Most people are average. I’m going to embrace the middle. Striving for greatness is a lot of fucking stress. The concept of greatness is all in your mind. What is great, to be exact? Unless you’re Michael Jordan or Jerry Seinfeld you’re not really touching that shit. You’re just straddling the middle somewhere, so you might as well just embrace it.