STORIES

Lucas Bros: If You Don't Have a Sense of Humor You Can't Laugh About It

By Trina Calderón on October 30, 2018

Keith and Kenny Lucas can wax serious philosophy poetic—because they have college degrees in it—and discuss America’s legal system—because they both went to law school. Sharp and so dry, this dynamic identical twin duo from Newark figures it all out onstage and off. Their animated series Lucas Bros Moving Co ran for two seasons on FXX, their special Lucas Bros: On Drugs is available for streaming on Netflix, and they’re currently on a stand-up tour through Thanksgiving. PRØHBTD spoke with Keith and Kenny about their brand of comedic morality and why it’s important to be exactly who you are.

I understand Matlock inspired you to go to law school. How did you end up getting into comedy?

Keith: When I was young—I must have been 10 years old—I had just had surgery, and I missed a week of school. For that entire week I was just watching Matlock, and that started my interest in the law. I don't know if there was a direct correlation between Matlock and going to law school, but I do believe watching that show so much buried the idea of doing law into my subconscious.

Your TV culture became your life culture.

Keith: It really did. I mean, Matlock was an incredible show, and you always knew he was going to win within the last 10 minutes of the show. There was something about that consistency, and [Ben Matlock actor] Andy Griffith was so charming.

Kenny: I studied philosophy in college, and I did fairly well. I wasn't exactly certain what I wanted to do with my philosophy degree, so I decided to go to law school instead of pursuing the PhD. I realized that I hated it a lot. I just didn't think my personality meshed with the profession. I thought you really needed to be kind of stringent about wanting to succeed as a lawyer, and I don't think I had the same motivation.

Keith: Because we studied philosophy and philosophy is very intellectually engaging and stimulating, it forced us to think about things we never really thought we would think about. I think we wanted a similar intellectual experience with law, and that didn't happen for [Kenny]. When he was in New York, he was around a lot of creative people, and his apartment was right next to the Comedy Cellar, and he would just go there. We always loved comedy. We loved stand-up. Seinfeld was our favorite show growing up, and Chris Rock was our favorite comedian... and [Dave] Chappelle.

 I think when Kenny finally started to experience live shows, it gave him the bug to want to do it, and then he called me up. My law school experience sort of took a dive. I lost passion for it after my second year and started to realize I probably wasn't cut out to be a lawyer. I was having my doubts, too, independent of him having doubts. I didn't even know he was going to do stand-up until he told me.

Kenny: I wanted to do something that allowed for me to express myself in a more creative fashion and something that allowed for me to travel on the road. I was always fascinated with the art of comedy. I just never thought I had the ability to do it until I finally stood on stage that first time in 2009 at Eastville Comedy Club. I sucked, but I felt if I really gave it my all, I could get something out of it. It wasn't just about money—I was hoping to get something spiritual out of it. I was hoping I could embark on a journey that would allow me to learn a lot about myself, about my brother and about my surroundings.

That's fantastic because I’m sure law school wasn't really doing that.

Kenny: No, not at all. I want to say I do appreciate the training. I think it made me a more vigorous thinker, and I'm always appreciative of that, but in terms of a profession, I just don't think that my heart was in it.

My first time doing stand-up was an open mic… very few people attended. I mean, it was like two people, both were our friends, and we bombed pretty hard. Didn't get really anybody to laugh. But we both loved it, and I think there was an instant connection that my brother and I had when we were on stage, and I think we knew we'd be doing it for the rest of our lives at that very moment.

Keith: We were in the Jersey scene early on, we did that for about six months, and the Jersey scene's not really a scene. You've got the Stress Factory and a bunch of bar shows across the state. It’s not as well structured as the New York scene because everyone just goes to New York. But we did a couple of shows in the Jersey scene. It was okay. We didn't really have a style, or we didn't really have any jokes. We had nothing really in the beginning. Those early stages were rough.

How did that impact the way you developed your style?

Keith: You have to study, you have to get up. We really tried to figure out what's the best mechanism to deliver our jokes. When we first started, we would both speak over each other and talk a little too fast. We didn't really like to script our jokes, we wanted to make it as natural as possible, but it was tough because we both came in with different ideas on how to do comedy. There was some inconsistency in our delivery, and I think we needed to just slow it down a bit so we can get some time to think about what we're saying. Like if he's delivering the punchline and he slows it down just a bit, I'd have more time to process what he's saying and then add my joke. But then we also started to write everything down and scripting so we knew who was saying what. We went away from the improvisational style and made it more written.

Kenny: Our first few times doing stand-up together, there was very little preparation. How we prepare now for a set in comparison to how we prepared for that gig... it's night and day. Now it's a science. We record our sets. We write out our bits. We rehearse them privately. We work 'em at open mics. We dissect, we edit.

You're super stoic in the way you deliver. How did that develop?

Kenny: I think it was a combination of three things. It relates to how we grew up. We were always pretty quiet, to ourselves and very observant. I also think it relates to studying philosophy, which trained us to be more reflective and moderate in how we approach any subject or issue. Third, I think it has a lot to do with marijuana. It was very hard to be… like, Jim Carrey when you're stoned all the time.

Did you guys start smoking weed when you were pretty young?

Kenny: No, we let our brains develop fully before we started using substances. I started smoking weed after law school. By that point, I feel like my brain was at least close to 100 percent fully developed. 

Keith: We're relatively new to the weed game. At 21, I drank my first drink, and when I smoked my first joint, I was like 23, 24 so I was late in the game. I have an ambivalent relationship to drugs because being in Newark you see so many people who have drug addictions, and our mom was always wary about being in that world. She always told us never to do drugs. It affected so many people so I didn't do it until I became older.

Weed has kind of become part of your act. You decided you'd be really transparent about that. Why?

Kenny: My brother and I—I'm not saying that this is the way comedy ought to be done, I'm saying this is the way we do it—we like to talk about the things that happen in our lives no matter what it is. If we ran out of money at a strip club, we're gonna talk about that onstage. We smoke a lot of weed every day so we talk about it onstage. But there is a larger implication. I don't want to make it seem as though I'm an activist because there are people who are doing real work on the ground, but I do believe that by talking about marijuana in our act, you contribute to legitimizing it and eventually completely legalizing it. I think that's important.

You have an audience, you have a platform, so it's a place to do that.

Kenny: Precisely.

So you smoke weed regularly?

Keith: Every day.

What kind of weed do you like?

Keith: I'm more of a hybrid indica-dominant type of dude. I always go with the Kush or like the Banana OG Kush, some weird shit. But I also like CBD, and I love all the oils. I love what companies are doing now with THC. They're using it in so many products, but we're also learning so much more about the health benefits. I truly believe that the medical effects of THC and CBD are so significant to the development of it. I support it so much because it's truly helping a lot of people. 

Kenny: My smoking technique has evolved over time. When I first started smoking, I was a bit addicted to spliffs, [which is] a combination of tobacco and marijuana. I was obsessed with rolling joints because, for all my life, I didn't know how to do it, and I really wanted to learn how. I obsessively sat in my room for hours learning how to roll joints and spliffs, and then when I finally figured out how to do it pretty perfectly, I was like, "Alright, this is my thing."

 The Europeans do it, so this makes me kinda European. I was smokin’ spliffs for the most part, and then I was like, “I don’t really care much for tobacco.” I think it kind of hinders the purity of the marijuana so I moved to dabs, where we just did wax. That was one of the worst decisions of my life. Dabs put you in a catatonic, paralyzed state, and I'm not exactly certain much gets done from that.  

I did pipes as well. Now my favorite is… I love bongs. One hit and you're pretty much set in your ways. I prefer to smoke indica instead of sativa because indica just makes me feel a lot better. But I tend, now, to smoke early in the morning, take a bong hit and then I'll go the rest of the day without really smoking because I need to get shit done. Then right before bed, I'll take a bong hit, and I think that's sufficient for me now.  

That's a good schedule. 

Kenny: Yeah, and this is why I love California so much. I walk out of my room, the sun engulfs my living room, and it hits my eyes, and I'm up. I take a quick bong hit, and everything goes right with the world. Everything just goes perfect, I don't think about anything else. I take a shower, and I love it. Then, right before bed, it's sort of a similar feeling where my body's at rest. I had already written for maybe eight hours, and I read a good article, and I'm like, let me just take a hit. Ride off into the sunset. 

Lovely. The perception around psychedelics is changing, too. 

Keith: I just started doing shrooms again, and I'm like, "Yo, why did I stop doing shrooms?" Every time I do shrooms, it just takes me to another realm, and I'm always just happy for two or three weeks. If we learn the proper information about the drugs and study them honestly, they can be beneficial and helpful, but there's so much distrust from our government. They've created this narrative about drugs and make it seem like they're all terrible. We said in the special [that] drugs aren't created equal.

Let’s talk about your act. You pull from your life in Newark, from law school. How does your material evolve? 

Keith: That's a great question. As students of comedy, we studied so many comedians. The very best comedians are able to draw from their real world experiences and turn them into an art, into jokes, into movies. That's why we forced ourselves to try to be more personal. When we first started, we would talk about some things in our lives, but we would still have a healthy distance away from the really dark stuff. But as we delved a little deeper, we were like, this is the only way we can go. We've lived such an interesting life from being in the ghetto to going to law school, being from the very bottom to elite institutions. We've learned all these different worlds, and we're sort of like the vessel to explain these things.

Kenny: I wouldn't say we kept our head out of the stuff too much. We were good kids, but we got into fights. We threw eggs at people's cars during Halloween. We occasionally stole pencils from Walmart when we didn't have any pencils. We dabbled in low levels of crime, I'd say, juvenile delinquency. But it was never anything that rose to felonious types of behavior. It was childlike misbehavior. I think the most important person in my life that kept me above the fray was my mom. She drilled in us the importance of education and the importance of positivity.

She brought us up in the church, and as much as I disagree with the state of organized religion now, early on in my life it proved to be pretty influential. I got to see a representation, although crude, of what good morality could be. I think that's important for any person to see. Especially with philosophy, you could easily travel down the path of nihilism and that could quickly lead to anarchy. My whole philosophical bent has been to try to find something that holds all of this together, the good and the bad, the chaos and the order. I think that's been my fundamental sort of pursuit in truth.

Keith: I just find that it all captivates me because a person's life experience... you can only really explain it within the context of the times, right? I feel our story touches on so many themes that are being explored now in the real world, and it's almost as if we don't really have a choice as artists. It is who we are, and it's an opportunity to talk about some of the larger themes that upset the country as we speak. I mean, if you look at the [Brett] Kavanaugh hearings, he was a lawyer, went to law school, and I understand that world so well. We drank so much. You can't help but drink and smoke weed and do whatever. It's a crazy institution with people who try to be rational human beings, but we're all still afflicted by the animal emotions.

You see these people who are supposed to uphold the laws breaking all the laws, and you start to question the institutions a little bit. It's not as respectful as I assumed it would be, and you see that happening now with Kavanaugh. It's like you expect this guy to be a rational, objective Justice, and then you see, "Oh wait. No, he's just a human being with a lot of emotions."

To get back to your question, the reason we do go personal is because I feel like the story does resonate outside of just our own lives and it talks about so many things that are important issues now.

It’s an important time to be an artist and say what you mean.

Keith: Without coming off as preachy, I feel like our training and philosophies forced us to be a little bit more dialectical, and also with law, you want to hear as many sides as possible. I feel that's what's lacking on the internet. There's not a lot of nuance. If you study law and you study philosophy, it's all about nuance. 

Kenny: Comedy is what has allowed me to really explore the depths of morality more so than I think any other subject would. You're really presented with the moral dilemma because so many of your heroes—the Richard Pryors, the Bill Cosbys, the Louis C.K.s, the Woody Allens— have done some horrible things, right? Now I have to square that with my love of the craft, my love of the pursuit and my love of the joke-writing process and standing onstage. I'm constantly having that sort of moral dilemma.

There’s a bit of a male identity crisis happening in America right now, but on the bigger scale, there's just a whole human identity crisis happening, right? 

Kenny: Yeah. I mean, I'm disappointed in myself because, as an African-American, I'm acutely aware of discrimination, the feelings of marginalization and the feeling of your voice not being heard. I'm acutely familiar with all of that stuff, and I couldn't see what our female comics were going through. I consider myself an ally, and I didn't even know it was as horrible as it is. You feel guilty about it, like I'm a participant. I was a guy getting booked and getting good gigs, and I never really had issues with being on a line up, and now when I think about it in retrospect, I'm like, "Wow, wait." The community was horrible to women, and I didn't do anything. Or, I didn't do enough to correct it.

[The year] 2016 in particular was very eye opening to me. I did a lot of soul searching. I saw a therapist. I wanted to understand, like, am I a bad guy if I didn't do anything to stop negative stuff from happening? If I participated in jokes that were demeaning to women? I'm not trying to make myself a victim because god knows I'm not, but it was really troubling to me to know that an art form I loved—the culture that I'm acutely aware of from a historical standpoint and the heroes that I've looked up to for the last two decades—it was very disappointing to find out that they were so terrible to women.

As a comic with all that awareness, what do you think you could do to help that situation?

Kenny: I mean, from a professional business creative standpoint, it's imperative and incumbent upon every male comedian to ensure that female representation is on par with what the population dictates. I think that, you know, if the population is 50 percent women and 50 percent men, then the show should be 50 percent women and 50 percent men. Producers should be 50 percent women, and men should be 50 percent. Everything should go right down the middle.

If that means we have to get rid of the Weinsteins and the Kevin Spaceys and the Louis C.K.s of the world and make room for exceptional female comics like a Sam Jay or a Phoebe Robinson or Ilana Glazer, I'm 100 percent for it. I believe the more we expand comedy to the voices that are marginalized historically, the more we expand the art to a more perfect, pure form.

In the '90s, comedy was crude. It was heavily dictated by the perspective of young white males, so you got a lot of comedy that was crass, or disrespectful to cultural groups, or sexist, and I think that that was a less pure form of comedy. My vote is always new. The only thing I care about is the purity of comedy.  

And you guys are in the midst of a stand-up tour right now?

Keith: Yeah, we're working on our new hour, and we just needed to get some dates on the books to flesh this hour out. I think we have about 45 minutes of new material, but once you add in all the improvisations and how we're adding some more animation to it, it should come out to be an hour, an hour ten.

Kenny: At this stage of my career after doing it for almost eight or nine years, I don't think I've reached my peak, but I do believe that I've stumbled upon a process that I appreciate and enjoy. I love immersing myself in it and losing myself to the technicality of jokes and losing myself to the philosophy and the art behind the comedy.

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