RAMON: First off CONGRATULATIONS on taping your new hour special! This is your...3rd? 4th special? Can you clue folks into the process you went through to decide how to put this latest one out into the public? Why did you decide to record it in the midwest vs NY or LA, where most specials are taped?
JASON: This is our second hour long special. The first one we did was on Netflix in 2014 titled The Sklar Brothers: What Are We Talking About. We’ve also done two half hour comedy specials on Comedy Central. This most recent one we shot at Lincoln Hall in Chicago for SeeSo and it will be out in July. We were ready. We had developed this latest hour over 3 years. We probably had developed 75 minutes and shot about 70 minutes but in the end we only want the special to be about an hour so there will be some cutting to do. It usually takes us a couple of years to develop material and this latest hour was no different. It will be our fifth Album which we are really proud of. When we think about it 5 hours of material of ours exists out there. It feels like an accomplishment. We were ready to get this material out to the public and I think we’ve learned over time that the special and the album are like snapshots in time. Your bits may grow and evolve even after you shoot or record and that’s OK. This attitude allows us to not be so precious about when we record or shoot the special. It was time.
RAMON: You'd already worked with Comedy Central & Netflix on past specials, but this time you chose differently. What makes SEESO.com the most ideal launching point for the new special?
RANDY: Well, first things first, SeeSo was really interested in having our special. We shot the special with the folks from Audible.com, their video arm. They’ve really shot some beautiful specials and stand up shows and they helped pre sell it to SeeSo for us. We had interest from a couple of other places but we loved some of the comics SeeSo had done specials with, like Nick Thune, Brian Posehn, Doug Stanhope, Cameron Esposito to name a few. As subscribers to SeeSo, and fans of their original shows like Bajillion Dollar Properties, (we shot an episode of the show recently), we really felt like our comedy fit well there. So that was our basic reasoning.
RAMON: So now you 2 have released this newest hour, can you give people a bit of insight into the tasks ahead. I know with a single comic, you just kind of get onstage and find stuff but with the duo aspect that may be completely different.
Do you already have a new hour ready? Will each of you write diff bits and bring them together, or do you have to write together from the ground up on everything?
JASON: It always feels daunting to take those baby steps out on the ledge for the next hour. We’ve just completed an hour of stand up that we love and feel like was fully realized and now to start all over can be a paralyzing thought. However, the rush of coming up with new material and bits that stand as tentpoles in the new hour is maybe the best feeling as a stand up. We have to trust that we will eventually get there again. It may take two or three years, but we will get there again. And hopefully the next hour will evolve us from the last one which we felt like was an evolution from the last one. We’ll be in different places in our lives, with kids in high school and getting older ourselves grappling with bigger problems and issues as fathers, husbands and people in this ever fucked up world. As the world changes too, we try and take all of that into consideration as well. We have to live our lives with eyes wide open, receptors up, and not afraid to get into crazy or messed up situations. We need to take risks and go down every road to start to build that new hour. The special won’t be out until July so we have time to start cycling bits out of the old act and putting in the new ones. Hopefully we can cycle a new 20-25 minutes or so into the act each year, removing the older bits as we go.
RAMON: We talked recently in LA about the process of "retiring" portions of this special from your live show, is that an immediate scorched earth campaign, or done in a more orderly fashion? There was a mention of certain portions of the act no longer feeling like they "fit", can you explain what that means to folks? Like they have and always will be YOUR jokes, what made them feel "off"?
JASON: Some material really means a lot to you in the moment you write it and in the months or years that follow and then you suddenly find yourself in another spot in life. Your babies grow into children, and then young adults and they are asking you to help them deal with bigger life issues which forces you to ask yourself, what do I think about these things and out of that comes comedy. You just find yourself in a different place and suddenly the older bits don’t resonate with you anymore. This is good and it helps you to not be so precious with each hour you put out there as a special. Again, it goes back to feeling like a great time stamp of the stuff and issues you were dealing with at that moment. For the two of us, we have the added layer of having to transform ideas we are grappling with into bits that involve both of us, or that happen to one of us but that the other person can comment objectively on. That extra step can make the process a bit longer for us. When we look back at all the comedy we’ve created and recorded, it provides a pretty interesting insight into what we were feeling at different moments of our adult lives. We feel pretty luck that those points of view exist to remind us who we were at certain ages.
RAMON: Your podcast empire seems to be growing at a constant rate. How many podcast(s) are you 2 helming now, and how do you go about maintaining each as a separate and distinct entity?
RANDY: We currently have 2 podcasts. Sklarbro Country on Earwolf and Dumb People Town on Feral Audio. In January of this year, we converted Sklarbro County, which was a podcast we did with Dan Van Kirk, into Dumb People Town and moved it to Feral Audio which has been amazing for us. Feral is dedicated to growing our audience and reaching new people who may not have known about us and what we do on this podcast. Dumb People Town is an exploration of stupid people doing stupid things, (many times with a machete in Florida), but it’s a riff fest with a funny guest and us and Dan Van Kirk. That show’s listenership has grown to 4 times the size it was as Sklarbro County in the matter of a two months. The folks at Feral have done an amazing job. And Sklarbro Country, which is more sports oriented, looking at the comedic side of sports with a little indie rock, and comedy interview mixed in. We’ve really had some great guests on that show in the last month including Jason Schwartzman and Kaitlin Olson. We’ve now done about 350 episodes of that show and it really allows us to put our comedic voice out there on a weekly basis, with a focus on sports that we feel doesn’t really exist so much in the landscape. We really want to try and differentiate each podcast, we now have them on two separate feeds and feel like giving them their own audiences will only help to build them both in the end, but we know that there are fans of ours who like both podcasts and listen to both. We are grateful for the injection of life and new listeners that Dumb People Town has given us though and hopefully in the coming months, we’ll see a bump when we go out on the road of that audience uptick.
RAMON: What, if any, are your "pillars of podcasting"? Meaning, what are the operating procedures you go into the studio with to make sure youre delivering the goods?
JASON: With Sklarbro Country, we want to make sure we have some good, we’ll thought out takes on the goings on of the week. And we have really tried to write them in a way that steps them out into dealing with larger issues than just the specifics of the crazy sports satires we break down. We also really like to have an idea of what character bit we want to do at the end of the show with the various and genius voice actors in our stable, people like Brad Morris, Chris Cox, Dan Van Kirk, David Huntsburger, James Adomian, Beth Hoyt and so on. Then we want to make sure we have a connection with our guest, whether we know the person or are just a fan. That connection is huge because we do ask the guest to improvise with us so we want to do our homework on that person.
RANDY: As far as Dumb People Town goes, we just have to come ready to play. Obviously that connection with our guest is huge as the whole show is about creating comedy together, so it’s just allowing our fans to be a fly on the wall as we have fun with Dan and the guest.
RAMON: Balancing your podcasting & comedy & business life has to be a challenge unto itself, but on TOP of that you each have families that are growing even quicker than your careers. Any advice for folks out there trying to find a good balance between work growth & family care?
RANDY: This is the hardest thing to figure out. And in our opinions, we never really do feel like we get it right. We try and make our families a priority, especially if we have to be on the road. For us, that means cutting off work in the afternoon to hang with our kids, help them with homework and get them to evening activities. Because we are on the road a bit, we want to make sure the time we are around, we are really around. That means if we have a hand in our scheduling of podcasts and other work, we try and do it while our kids are at school. We definitely wish we could be out doing stand up every night, but that’s not possible with the desire to be there and be present in our families’ lives. So there is a feeling of missing out on our development or more pressure to stack sets on the nights we do plan to go out. We try and do our sets of comedy later and then maximize the time we have to work together while our kids are at school. We also do a lot of writing later at night. Many times though it feels like a house of cards, that at any time could come crashing down on us.
RAMON: Alright, so Randy & Jason are back to square 1 or 2 with new material. Are there any instances of life that you KNOW are going to be jokes? How easy/hard is it to identify slices of your family life that will resonate comedically?
JASON: Any time you get emotional in your life, really angry, really happy, really sad, those are moments to examine…why did I lose control of my emotions right there? Was I justified in doing so? Is there comedy in my reaction? These are good starting points for developing material. And then we start to tell the stories amongst our friends to see if we can get laughs in a social context. If we get those laughs, then we bring it as a kernel of an idea to the both of us to kick around and try and develop to about 60% before putting it up on stage and finding where the laughs are.
RANDY: Sometimes it works beautifully and sometimes it just falls flat.
RAMON: I'd be remiss if I didn't ask your opinion on Cleveland sports right now. Cavs, Champs. Indians, World Series losers. Browns, just perennial losers. As sports aficionados what have you noticed about the rabid fan base of Cleveland as they're adjusting to no longer being losers?
JASON: It’s good to be a Cleveland Sports fan right now. The Cavs, the Indians, the Browns may get DeShawn Watson. There’s a lot of winning going on in Cleveland and it warms our hearts. You have to call Cleveland the Champs now because of LeBron. And you guys fought valiantly against the Cubs and their curse busting. I mean, Cleveland is doing so well right now, that nobody is talking about Johnny Manziel, and that’s a good thing.