DID YOU READ

The “Sklarbro Country” siblings talk comedy podcasting, their fans and using sports as metaphor

The Sklar Brothers

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There’s a reason that people use so many sports references in their daily lives: it’s a world full of analogies and metaphors which apply to countless situations having nothing to do with balls, bats, or nets. And it’s precisely that universality which Randy and Jason Sklar have capitalized upon in their weekly podcast, “Sklarbro Country,” in which they use current events in the world of sports to talk about any- and everything else. Meanwhile, they themselves seem eager to be similarly versatile, appearing on camera, on the radio, at clubs, and just about anywhere else you might possibly go to be entertained.

IFC recently caught up with Jason and Randy Sklar to discuss their experiences as podcasters. In additions to detailing the differences between the world of audio performance and, say, stand-up, they talk about how they originally envisioned Sklarbro Country, and where they hope it will take them.

(Explore “Sklarbro Country” and more in IFC’s new podcast section!)


IFC: Maybe just to get started, talk about how you got involved in doing podcasts to begin with and sort of what the learning curve was for you to get sort of acclimated to that as opposed to something like live performance.

RANDY: It wasn’t a hard transition because our desire to do podcasts was born out of us doing radio. Like we had previously hosted Jim Rome’s show several times a year, and that was national, like 220 markets, a really big deal. And we sort of finished up and we’d get a ton of feedback doing that, but kind of after the fact. And I feel like it really allowed just the natural rhythms of how we talked to sort of come through. And once Twitter started to kind of come up, and we could interact with our fans on a regular basis, things would happen like the Tiger Woods situation or Brett Favre, and it would be like, “I wish you guys were guest hosting Rome this week so we could hear your take on it.”

JASON: Right around that time, I remember talking to Chris Hardwick who had already started to do podcasts. And he was just saying podcasting is so personal. They were connecting with fans in such a great way.

RANDY: He said, “you guys have to do a podcast. You already have a following. People know you from Cheap Seats and filling in for Jim Rome on the radio show. People already sort of know what you guys are about. If you can figure out what type of podcast you’d like to do, it’s such a great way to connect with your fans. And you’ll see when you go do standups that those fans will start to come out to your shows.” And that seemed really attractive to us, and so Scott Aukerman and Jeff Ullrich approached us right in that same moment and offered us a chance to do it in their studio. We struck a deal with them where they would build the website and support the show. And it would be the first sister show to Comedy Death-Ray which later became Comedy Bang Bang. And that seemed really exciting to us, mainly because our idea was to do a comedy show, but we wanted to align ourselves with the kind of comedy that we do and we love, which is alternative comedy. And there was no bigger representation of that than Comedy Bang Bang/Comedy Death-Ray. So being affiliated with that was like a huge wonderful opportunity for us. So we couldn’t pass it up.

IFC: Did you have to make an adjustment to make sure that you guys were distinguishing yourselves from one another when you were performing on the radio? Or was that ever an issue at all?

RANDY: We never really made it an issue. And there are a lot of times when I will say on the air, like I’ll throw a question to Jay and I’ll say, “Jay.” And I think over time people can determine the differences in our voices — if you really listen to a podcast, you can. But we don’t really make a concerted effort to play such diverse characters. Maybe that’s a good thing and maybe that’s a bad thing, but we just want it to be organic. And so I don’t think our fans really care, to be honest with you. I think they—if they know who’s who then great. If they don’t, they’ll still a comedy.

IFC: How do you guys balance, or how much do you have to balance addressing things straightforwardly and seriously, and then balancing that with comedy? Do you find it pretty naturalistic just making those transitions back and forth?

JASON: I don’t think we try to be serious for one second on our podcast, unless we’re being truthful. And I think there’s a difference between being truthful and being serious. And I think there are times when we are sort of thinking about our philosophies about life. I have to say that’s a good distinction, being truthful versus being serious. Because I would say that a comedian like Louis C.K. is as truthful as can be and he is fucking hilarious. And everything he says is the truth and it’s all hilarious. So there is that distinction.

RANDY: Yeah, it’s our goal to be truthful as much as possible, and to try to be as funny as possible. Well the good news about that is if you do say something truthful that isn’t that funny, you’re still telling the truth. And so that’s kind of a good thing and that’s a guiding principal on our podcast. But it’s not our goal to be serious. Our goal is to have people laughing the entire time.

IFC: In the preview of your podcast, you talk about how you use sports to talk about all these other subjects. Was that a totally naturally foundation for your podcast? Or did the experiences you have you to use that as sort of a basis to be able to pontificate about whatever other subjects you were interested in?

JASON: You know, I think it was a combination. I mean, we have experience talking about sports because we filled in for Jim Rome for a long time. And there was something really wonderful about trying to convey that human element to non-sports fans, and to create that connection. And also, there are a lot of comedy podcasts out there that just talk about straight up comedy or just talk about the world, but don’t have necessarily a portal into the world. And a lot of them are wonderful and other ones are forgettable. But our goal is to go in using sports as an entry point, but then talk about the world and our philosophy on the world, and our attitudes towards life. And if we use sports as our entry point, then hopefully we’re being unique. Hopefully we’re being unlike any other sports podcast, and unlike any other comedy podcast in that we’re really using sports as a backdrop. But really the show is about life, people, decisions people make, and our philosophy on the world.

RANDY: And what we try and do is put ourselves in whatever story we’re talking about. So how does this affect [us], right now in our lives? We try to put ourselves in the situation of what would we do in this situation if faced with what this person was being faced with in that instance. And I think we put our guests in that spot too. And it gives you a wonderful jumping off point to [improvise] with people, and creates scenarios on the spot. And it becomes a very active podcast. The other thing about sports is that there are stories that come out every week. And what we realized after doing all of the 100 episodes of this show for two years is that there’s a tremendous motor — that the sports world can generate stories. And I think we turned a lot of people on to the world of sports, but through our way of explaining it that would have normally not even given it a second look. Because I think what we’ve figured out is that there is a nerd-dom in sports — it’s the same as if you love music, or comic books, or movies, or television, or whatever. And if you capture that, that’s universal.

IFC: How much interactivity are you able to have with your audience? Is there any sort of marked difference between that and, say, doing a live performance where you’re feeding the energy of who’s watching it?

JASON: I think that it’s definitely different than doing it live. I mean, we used to think that perfuming live was the purest version of us. And I think it is a very pure version because you are making all of the creative decisions. Your performance relies on audience reaction. And so you do make subtle changes on the fly if your goal is to have a successful standup comedy. So you do make adjustments and you want to entertain people and have the majority of the audience have a good time. With podcasting you don’t have that immediate response — but I will say this: our fans are not shy about telling us what they like and what they don’t like. And if we get multiple responses about a specific thing that we’re doing in our podcast, we’ll talk about it, and we’ll change it.

RANDY: And I think it’s great to get that feedback from our fans, because enough of those individual comments together saying the same thing points to something that we need to focus on and pay attention to. Positive or negative. And it’s pretty cool to get that feedback via our Twitter account. It’s great to have certain elements of the show that we really spend a lot of time working on quoted. If they respond to certain characters that we bring on and do stuff with, that to us is great. It’s almost like hearing the feedback from an audience, but it’s more measured. People can actually sit there and say, “I like this about this that you guys did.” It’s a wonderful form of doing standup for 50,000 people and then getting their feedback afterwards in a thoughtful way.

IFC: What are you guys working on now or and/or coming up in the near future?

JASON: We have a lot of stuff. We just added a second podcast release every week. It comes out on Tuesday called Sklarbro County, which is a shorter, sort of looser version of the Sklarbro Country – a chance for us to try new things, new characters, do format stuff. Dan Van Kirk who does the Wahlberg on our podcast, he helps us comb through the stories and he kind of leads the discussion. And it’s a chance for our fans to see our process and how we break down stories. And it’s fun. To me it’s a little different, and in addition to the regular episode that everyone gets on Friday, it’s a little snack to tie people over. And we’ve had a great response on it after the first two have aired. So we’re doing that. We’re doing a new show for MyDamnChannel.com for their YouTube channel called The Tweekly News, where we sort of take a look at the world topically through Twitter. And that’s like a 3-5 minute weekly show that we’re going to start airing this week. I think we’re set to do 10 or 12 of those; that way they could be an ongoing thing. We have our History Channel show, The United Stats of America which has three more episodes. And we hopefully get a chance to do more of those. We’re about to shoot some stuff for H2 which is The History Channel’s second channel, some interstitial programming, stuff that we’re hoping to kind of put together as like a potential pilot type of a deal where they can see our idea for a type of show that we want to do but it’s stuff that will air on History or H2. We’re doing a thing for Crackle.com, which is Sony’s website called The Smoking Crackle movie, where we pop up interstitially between the chapters of a movie that they’re showing like “Deuce Bigalow European Gigolo.” Sometimes the worse the movie, the better it is, because we pop up and poke fun at things that are happening throughout.

RANDY: Like continuity errors.

JASON: We make fun of just characters and stuff there. It’s actually a really fun thing. So we’re going to do three more of those. And we’re still doing our standup — we are going to have some live date stuff. We want to kind of be in L.A. as much as we can because we have families out here, and it’s hard to be on the road without them. So we’re trying to consolidate our work here in Los Angeles. And if we do get The History Channel show picked up a second time, it’s going to mean that we’re going to have a lot of traveling to do. So the rest of the time we want to try and stay close to home.

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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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IFC: How would you describe Janice and Jeffrey to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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