Lucas Brothers talk new Netflix special, Richard Nixon, Brooklyn audiences & more in BV interview
The Lucas Brothers have a new comedy special out on Netflix, aptly titled On Drugs (watch the trailer below). But the title doesn't give the full picture of the new hour from the twins, Keith and Kenny. More than just a special about weed, the title refers to the United States' War on Drugs and the devastating effects that drug laws had on the Lucas household. Filmed at The Bell House in Brooklyn, the special heavily relies on personal storytelling but has enough OJ jokes to keep even the most skeptical critic watching until the end. I spoke to Kenny and Keith Lucas about their new special, Richard Nixon, and the superiority of Brooklyn audiences. It follows below...
Why did you guys choose The Bell House to tape the new special?
Kenny: I love that place. I think it's one of my favorite bars in Brooklyn. I just have so many fond memories of the place, it just felt right.
Keith: We wanted to film it in Brooklyn and we knew that early on. The capacity and the intimacy - we've had a lot of good moments there before.
What's different about performing to a Brooklyn audience?
Kenny: The sophistication, the intellect, understanding the nuances of joke-telling. Just riding with you. You go up to Middle America, and I don't want to say anything disrespectful about all of it, but sometimes, you can tell that there's a disconnect between the audience and what you're trying to say. I just love Brooklyn.
Keith: I don't know if this is true for all comedians, but I would say that Brooklyn audiences are just more patient with alternative comics.
Between your live-action roles, your animated series (Lucas Bros Moving Co), and the new special, how do you think the three formats inform the development of your jokes?
Kenny: I have this theory of comedy where everything is supposed to inform one another. Whether or not that comes across, I'm not sure. I'm trying to avoid writing on TV shows that I don't agree with the comedy's point of view.
Keith: I would say that any time that you have to write jokes - doesn't matter if it's a sitcom, or sketch, or standup - the deconstruction of the joke is somewhat similar. So you're getting that education. There's a connection through all of it, but you're working on different aspects of joke-telling. With sketch, it's a little bit more performance-based, but when you're writing your own shows, it's a little bit more centered on writing. The hope is that you're strengthening yourself as a comedian overall by working in different fields.
Why did you guys choose to work Richard Nixon so heavily into your new special, including set pieces?
Kenny: Keith went to Duke Law, where Richard Nixon also studied. Our father went to prison in connection with the War on Drugs. Our family was kind of decimated by the War on Drugs, and Nixon started it. We're just fascinated by the dude. It's weird now that the ghost of Nixon sort of hangs over our contemporary times. Nixon was just one of the most pivotal politicians ever, and it's weird that we have such a personal connection to him.
Keith: We've always had a strange fascination with Nixon. Once we outlined our material, Kenny saw connections between a lot of our material and Nixon, and it was almost at the start that we made the connection.
Kenny: Even on a subconscious level, we wanted to go out to California, where Nixon lived. It was just weird. We've always been obsessed with presidents, but Nixon in particular we've always been obsessed with.
Do you, as comedians, feel any personal responsibility to tell political jokes during this presidency in particular, or would you have told similar jokes regardless of who won in November?
Kenny: I think you can reduce comedy to two basic ideologies - if you want to be satirical and you want to make a point, and you feel personal about it, then it should inform your comedy. But at the same time, I think it can be equally as funny to do observational comedy and have no contact to politics. I think it's just a matter of taste.
Keith: I don't think there's any personal responsibility. I mean, as a comedian, I do subscribe to the idea that you have to give the creator absolute creative freedom to do what they want to do. If you impose a personal responsibility clause in there, that could inhibit creative freedom, so it sort of stands against what I believe is the right way to create. That's just my theory though.
How was taping a special for Netflix different from creating a TV show for broadcast television? Did you feel that you had more control over the special, or write jokes for the broader online audience?
Keith: Absolutely. Especially with standup, because it's pretty much all you, you have very little tinkering from outside influences. With Netflix, they were very generous with regards to how much freedom we had with the special. They were spectacular I think.
What's coming up next for you guys?
Keith: We are going on tour in May or June. We're going to try to tour the Pacific coast. We're working on a new cartoon for TBS that we are fleshing out and developing now. We have projects in the works, and we're going to tour this summer.