Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Sklar Brothers’ latest album is always frenzied and sometimes funny

Illustration for article titled The Sklar Brothers’ latest album is always frenzied and sometimes funny

Lesser comedians than Randy and Jason Sklar would make more hay out of the fact that they’re identical twins, but it comes up only incidentally in the Sklar brothers’ material. Their twinhood is essential to their execution, though. Once they have momentum, they’ll build off of each other with a rapid rhythm that’s reminiscent of a polished vaudeville act. The album’s title comes from a phrase that the Sklars, through gleeful repetition, transform into a sort of verbal rimshot for a routine about Richard Simmons flying first class. When the brothers bounce these little bits of language between each other, it’s like seeing two world-class table tennis players batter a ball in a mesmerizing rhythm—or at least it would be, if Randy and Jason didn’t sound practically the same. Since they do, the effect is more of a cyclone than ping-pong, with an energy that swirls around one apparent center and, at its best, sucks the audience in with it.

In What Are We Talking About?—an album that’s also available to stream on Netflix—that tornado is put to best use when the brothers fixate on some highly specific observation, like the tics of ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith’s speaking style. Sports are a favorite topic of the Sklars: They host the consistently funny sports podcast Sklarbro Country, and their found-footage show, Cheap Seats, is the best thing ESPN Classic has done. (The album also has a clever framing device: pre- and post-game shows in which sports talking heads analyze their stand-up performance as if it were a hard-fought football game.)

Accordingly, many of the album’s best moments emerge from jokes about sports, but not all of them. Their story about a lonely aunt wandering a Disneyland Cars attraction is full of great lines, like “If you’re a middle-aged woman with no kids at Disneyland, nobody bothers you; if you’re a middle-aged man with no kids at Disneyland, you’re a red dot on a Google map.” The aforementioned Richard Simmons story, at 10 minutes, provides a nice extended coda to the performance, and a bit about the ubiquitous ’40s Brooklyn accent of animated TV-commercial characters is a typically giddy Sklar frenzy.

But there are also stretches of the album where the ideas are underdeveloped, leaving the Sklars to spin excitement around a premise that’s just too thin. They mock one joke about Lance Armstrong because they wrote it backward from a punny punchline—“Jesus Christ, the ball on this guy!”—but that approach is preferable to the bits that have few punchlines at all. (After all, the Lance Armstrong line gets a big laugh.) Desultory musings about Maury Povich and airport loiterers, for instance, skirt too closely to the observational-comedy cliché of simply noting that something is weird instead of writing a killer joke around it. There’s still plenty of entertaining material to be found in What Are We Talking About?, but it emerges amid a few half-baked routines that fail to meet the high standard of lunacy the Sklars have set for themselves.