St. Louis natives find their home in the spotlight

Comedians Jason and Randy Sklar are St. Louis natives.

BY ETHAN FINE, FRESHMAN, EUREKA HIGH SCHOOL

Randy and Jason Sklar were born and raised in St. Louis; each celebrated his bar mitzvah at Congregation B’nai Amoona. Now, the twin comedy duo live in Los Angeles, years and miles away from where and when they first started performing. 

“The first time we stepped on stage was at Parkway North High School, for our Fall Follies, and we did stand up,” said Jason. “We kind of did a mix of some material that we ‘borrowed’– actually stole from comedians that we loved back in the mid-1980s, and then we wrote some original material ourselves.”

As long as they could remember, the Sklars have been comedy fans. Whenever any sort of comedy would come on TV, they would find it and practically study their favorite performers and their techniques. 

“We were enormous comedy fans and comedy nerds, back in the ‘80s. We watched whenever we could, watched any comedy we could find,” Jason said. “There obviously wasn’t YouTube and there wasn’t the internet, so we waited for comedy to come on TV, and we consumed it voraciously.” 

Their Judaism actually helped them get to where they are today. Friends through youth groups such as BBYO encouraged each other to make the others laugh.

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“We would send audio tapes and videotapes back and forth to kids we met through BBYO, because back then you couldn’t Facetime or Skype. We would go around St. Louis and we would basically make comedy bits and videotape them, and then send tapes back and forth to each other, and try to make each other laugh,” Jason said. “We were heavily influenced by that.”

Jason’s friends in different states and cities would send hilarious videos, and he and Randy would compete to always make something funnier. They would interview random people, from their teachers at school to the woman who cleaned their house, and they’d create fake scenarios, something they still do today in their stand-up performances.

Randy and Jason were later accepted to the University of Michigan, where they attended school. After, they both intended to go to law school and become practicing attorneys. However, one decision would change their lives forever.

“Our attitude was, ‘Anyone can do that. We’d like to try something a little more difficult, a little more challenging, and potentially more rewarding,’” Randy said. “We don’t want to wake up and regret that we didn’t try.”

The twins decided that there were enough lawyers and the world didn’t need two more. Instead, they would pursue comedy for a year before heading back to law. Initially, they planned on deferring their acceptance into law school for a year, but as they became more involved in the world of comedy, they realized that they weren’t sure they ever wanted to go back and study law.

Luckily, the boys’ parents were incredibly supportive of their decision. They knew that no matter the outcome, Randy and Jason would learn in some way, shape or form.

“They knew we needed to try it and see if it worked,” Randy said. “They didn’t want to be the people to be like, ‘Nope, you need to go to law school and do this right now.’ They wanted us to try and succeed, but they wanted us to make our own mistakes, and if for some reason this didn’t work out, that we went through it all the way and understood why it didn’t work out and move forward. It’s a very evolved way of thinking.

“I’m really proud of them and really grateful that they let us make our mistakes, let us fail, and let us try what we were doing, and let us succeed.”

Both brothers will tell you that making it in the comedy business is nothing even remotely close to easy. Randy and Jason tell tales of shows-gone-wrong, but they never let that slow them down.

“Truthfully, you’re not good at the beginning when you do it. You just aren’t,” Randy said. “You have to make your mistakes.” 

They also consider their sudden fame complete luck. Neither expected their plan to work out or for them to get big, but perfect timing allowed them to break through.

“We lucked out because we moved to New York in the mid-nineties when comedy was shifting. A whole new movement in comedy opened up called Alternative Comedy,” Jason said. 

Comedians such as Louis C.K., Janeane Garofalo, and Marc Maron helped break in this new movement. Moving to New York at the perfect time helped the twins immensely, too, as the environment was motivational and inspiring. 

“Everyone was pushing each other to try and create something unique, creative, and special,” Jason said. “It allowed us to go in different directions and it influenced us to want to be the type of comedians that we would like.”

The twins knew that they never wanted to be the ones to capitalize on just that, the fact that they are twins. They didn’t want to be the “shticky,” gimmicky type who dressed alike and annoyingly bounced off of one another.

Their biggest break came after reuniting with their old Sunday school teacher, who eventually became prominent within the world of ESPN. Once again, luck was on their side.

“Our old Sunday School teacher from B’nai Amoona, Gary Belsky, went on to become the Editor-in-Chief at ESPN Magazine,” Jason said. “We were randomly in New York for a friend’s wedding, went out to breakfast with Gary, asked him what was happening in his world, and he told us he had possible sold this show to ESPN Classic where they watched old, weird sporting events and joked about it. He was like, ‘We just need two people who have great chemistry, love sports, and can be funny to host it.’ ”

Immediately, the brothers thought they would be the perfect candidates. Eventually, the Sklars pitched to the team, and they were hired.

“We came at a time where ESPN Classic was trying to program original stuff, and they really let us spread our wings and create a show that connects with people today,” Jason said. “We’ve been very lucky. We’ve worked in this business a long time and we’ve been super fortunate.”