Kenny and Keith Lucas have built a comedy career around the fact that they’re identical twins. And considering their scene-stealing appearance in 22 Jump Street, and back-to-back spots on the prematurely cancelled The Grinder and the phenomenal Lady Dynamite, they don’t seem to mind it all that much. In fact, the Lucas Brothers relish every opportunity to pair up and play off each other — for the enjoyment of their audiences and, most importantly, for themselves. Hence why, on more than one occasion, Keith and and Kenny take turns riling each other up in their new Netflix special, The Lucas Brothers: On Drugs.
Premiering April 18th, On Drugs is the first stand-up hour the two have ever put out. As Kenny and Keith explained to us, however, it won’t be the last. Nor are the co-creators of the former FXX series Lucas Bros. Moving Co. done with animation, as they’ve got big plans for a brand new series over at TBS. Before revealing how the new show came to be, however, the pair couldn’t help teasing their interviewer about the prospect of chatting with identical twins over the phone.
Kenny Lucas: I’ll say that I’m Keith and Keith will say that he is Kenny.
Keith Lucas: Yep. You’ll never know.
What came first, your idea for the hour or Netflix’s interest in working with you two?
Keith: I pitched the idea to Netflix, and I was thinking they wouldn’t dare pick it up, but then they picked it up and said, “Sure, make it.” I was like, “Fuck, I wasn’t expecting this.” Now I gotta come up with something.
Kenny: We went in and we kind of had a loose idea, and they thought it was decent enough. Then we reformulated it and pitched it again with the material that’s in there now.
They seem to be very relaxed when it comes to stand-up comedy. Whereas when dealing with television, comics find themselves contending with notes about cutting for time and commercials.
Keith: It was one of the most creatively satisfying experiences we’ve ever had, because usually when you’re dealing with a network, it can be a bit… What’s the word? They micromanage a little bit more. Whereas with Netflix, they give you the liberty to explore whatever creative thoughts you may have. They still give notes, sure, but the notes tend to be very great. It was one of the best creative processes I’ve ever gone through.
Kenny: We’ll see how the people react to it, but it was great for me too.
This is your first special, right?
Keith: Yeah, this is our very first one.
On Drugs isn’t a standard hour. I recognized a few older bits, but there’s also plenty of new stuff mixed with things like animation.
Kenny: I always knew I wanted to do something different. I think, subconsciously, I always wanted to do a more personal, political special. In the sense that I knew certain policies had a direct impact on our childhood. I always wanted to explore it in sort of a different way, but I didn’t want to be heavy handed. I didn’t want to preach. I just wanted to explore it, and use the special to dramatically connect the audience to one topic.
Keith: We’ve always thought we always wanted to play against the traditional form of the stand-up special. We knew that we wanted it to be slightly off-beat. Just to retain some consistency with all the other projects we’ve done. It’s very tough for us to stick to the form because there’s two of us. We’re already starting from a unique standpoint because of that. So we just pushed it a little further, to have more fun with the form and experiment.
On Drugs is short compared to other streaming stand-up specials. The cut I saw was around 50 minutes. I’ve seen others break the 80-minute mark. Did you ever want it to be shorter or longer, or was the time you settled on the sweet spot?
Kenny: I wanted it to be 45 minutes, as an allusion to our 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump. That was sort of my idea, and I wanted the animation to be four minutes and 20 seconds. [Laughs] But I just couldn’t get it there. My biggest regret of 2016 is not getting my set to the 45-minute mark.
When did you guys film this?
Kenny: We filmed it on November 4th , so right before the election.
Oh wow. I never thought of that, since I just assumed with all the Nixon talk and a few Trump references, you’d filmed it after.
Kenny: We took a risk. The special would be totally different if Hillary was president. But it worked out, I guess. Terrible, though.
Whether in this special or in your previous stand-up appearances, you guys seem to enjoy cracking each other up. Taking a joke a few steps farther than planned, perhaps, to get a reaction out of each other. Is this accurate?
Keith: Absolutely. We like to keep the performance as open as possible. When we first started, we would stick to the script, but as we developed over time, we realized we had more fun talking to one another on stage. So we’ve tried to incorporate that into all of our stand-up performances, and this special, ever since.
Kenny: Sometimes, the jokes I like the most are the ones during which the audience has no idea what was said. Keith just flips it to me and I’ll play it in my head over and over again. I love those moments so much. I’m like, “Let’s just keep it in there.”
Keith: I laugh at it, too.
There’s a bit where you two are joking about giving away prescription drugs. Somebody adds, “Yeah, to kids.” It’s a brief aside, and you guys laugh at it and move on, but it’s fantastic.
Keith: I didn’t know he was going to say it. It came out of nowhere. That was just an honest laugh, because he’d never said it before in any other stand-up set. So when he said it, I was like, “Wow.” You can’t anticipate moments like those, and it’s great to keep it in the film.
How do you two prepare for your stand-up sets? It’s one thing for a comic to do write their material or commit it to memory, but for the two of you, I imagine there’s some kind of shorthand by now.
Kenny: It’s a combination of things. Keith and I sit down and write out the jokes, beat by beat, and then we perform them. We usually record these performances, and if the language is a little bit off from how we wrote it, we’ll go back and revise what we wrote. It’s a constant back and forth, between writing, performing, discussing, revising and re-writing.
Keith: We spend a lot of time actively talking through the show’s beats. We’ll talk first and writer after, then perform the show and revisit what we wrote beforehand. Though it generally always starts with a discussion, usually about a certain idea that we want to formulate into a joke.
I talked to Hannibal Buress about how he records his sets. He uses a digital recorder, then listens to it after to adjust the set for future shows. It’s a constant process, and it sounds like what you two do is similar.
Kenny: It’s a lot of reprocessing, repositioning and rewording to figure out which jokes fit together in what particular order. It’s timing, Everything has to be very rigid, but we’re trying to include more improvisation here and there. I love the fluidity of it all, the random thoughts that pop up and get a laugh. I want to figure out a way to balance the more structural aspects of stand-up with the more enjoyable parts of improv.
Keith: When we do improv, we tend to ramble on and it makes no sense in the end, so we try to minimize it. We minimized a lot of it early on in our careers, but as we grow it feels better to take more risks. Back to your question, though, we also use a recorder to capture some of our smaller sets. Just to hear how we’re delivering the jokes, to help us figure out whether we need to modify the language. The way we write isn’t necessarily the way we speak.
Kenny: My biggest fear is becoming too rigid, but I understand it’s almost a necessity in stand-up, because timing is so important. It’s tough. I mean, it’s not generally hard to do, though it can be mentally frustrating sometimes.
With On Drugs coming out, what do you guys have planned next?
Keith: We’re working on a new animation idea for TBS and developing another hour. Hopefully we’ll go on the road some time in the summer to work it out before we record anything. Travel around the country, maybe even the world, and develop some new material.
Kenny: There’s also The Tonight Show, which we’ll be doing on April 27th. I’d also like to do a multi-cam. I’m really growing attracted to doing some old school multi-cam, but making it weird and stupid.
I’m intrigued by the animation for TBS. They’ve been killing it with original comedy the last couple years. Did they come to you, or you to them?
Keith: We had a pre-existing relationship with Kevin Reilly, who runs TBS now. He used to run Fox, and he green lit Lucas Bros. Moving Co. We figured TBS would be a good fit for us since the head executive likes our comedy and understands our voice. So when the Fox deal fizzled out, we pitched them an idea. They bought it and gave us a pilot deal. We wrote the pilot and now we’re in the process of developing it. It’s been a smooth process so far. They really understand our point of view, so it’s been a much easier process overall.
Lucas Brothers: On Drugs begins streaming today exclusively on Netflix.