The princes of podcasting.
"When you record a special, that should be your victory lap," Randy Sklar explained in a recent episode of Sklarbro Country, the biweekly podcast he hosts with his bespectacled twin brother, Jason. "You've done the work to get [the material] there. The show itself should be pure fun: you and your fans enjoying it."
The Sklar Brothers have transformed their natural brotherly banter into a fine-tuned comedy act. On Sklarbro Country, the St. Louis natives often describe Madison as a strong comedy town, so it makes sense that they selected the Majestic Theatre to record their new television special and have fun with their fans. They'll do two sold-out shows there on Saturday, Feb. 22.
The Sklars have made a name for themselves in the alternative comedy circuit, and they frequently cross over into television and other media. In 1997 they wrote and starred in the MTV comedy show Apt. 2F, which lasted one season, but their best-known early venture into TV was four seasons of Cheap Seats on ESPN. They played ESPN tape librarians who would watch and make fun of archived sports broadcasts. The Sklars have parlayed that sports experience into other opportunities, such as frequently guest hosting for sportscaster Jim Rome on his syndicated radio show. Their most recent cable TV project was The United Stats of America on the History Channel in 2012, which surveyed America's past using amusing statistics.
They describe Sklarbro Country as the intersection of sports and comedy, but the actual content of each episode is more free-form than their description suggests, in part because many of their comedian guests don't follow sports. In shorter Tuesday episodes called Sklarbro County, the Sklars and collaborator Dan Van Kirk riff on weird news stories listeners have sent in. Madison audiences can expect a combination of well-crafted material and spontaneous bits that make each show unique.
Podcasting has become a particularly useful tool for comedians to build a fan base and develop their own show formats without network or corporate interference. Marc Maron famously resurrected his career with his WTF podcast, and several comedians successfully integrate their podcasting and touring, including Greg Proops (The Smartest Man in the World), Doug Benson (Doug Loves Movies) and Scott Aukerman (Comedy Bang! Bang!). If you want to see how many Sklarbro Country fans are at the Majestic show, try calling out "Henderson!" while mingling with the pre-show crowd.
The Sklars plan to release the special as a DVD or digital download, and may also shop it around to cable networks. Recording live comedy for TV presents unique technical challenges, but Majestic Theatre co-owner Scott Leslie says his staff knows how to execute these events without distractions.
"The only thing the audience will notice is that there are cameras there," Leslie explains. "The comedy wouldn't work if people are concentrating on anything other than the comedians. For patrons, it will be business as usual, except that it is possible they could end up on television."