A Conversation With The Lucas Bros On Their Netflix Special, The Drug War, Hip Hop & Bret Hart
Possessing 60 minutes as the center of attention for an audience is almost like an unofficial initiation rite for stand-up comics.
Keith and Kenny Lucas have finally crossed those comedic burning sands. After creating the Lucas Bros. Moving Co. animation series and hosting The Super Late Morning Show web series, the twin brothers teamed with Netflix to present the Lucas Bros: On Drugs comedy special.
The pilgrimage to completing On Drugs began years ago when the Lucas Bros made the decision to leave their potential careers in law for a shot at the stage. They’ve since appeared on the Rob Lowe-led The Grinder and Jimmy Fallon’s The Tonight Show. Kenny and Keith’s filmography also includes standout roles in 22 Jump Street starring Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, and Ice Cube.
With On Drugs, the spotlight shines directly on the two New Jersey natives. Viewers get to take a trip into the minds of Kenny and Keith as the siblings humorously ponder out loud about politics, religion, race, sports, and of course, marijuana.
I recently spoke with The Lucas Bros by phone and quickly recognized the simpatico nature of their relationship (they even finished each other’s sentences at times). It’s clear these satirists have a bond that came as a birthright. And it appears comedy was truly in their blood from the start as well.
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AllHipHop: This is a monumental moment for a comedian. How does it feel to have that hour-long special under your belt?
Keith: It feels great. We started eight years ago, and we’ve always had this as a goal. To finally accomplish it, it’s an amazing feeling.
Kenny: It feels like a rite of passage. You always have doubts on whether you’re perceived as a legitimate comedian. Once you’ve complete the hour, it’s like, “Okay, I can do this.” I really enjoy it, and I hope that people can appreciate the work we put into it.
AllHipHop: Netflix has become a popular platform for comedians. Why did you guys decide to air On Drugs on Netflix?
Kenny: We presented the idea of On Drugs to Netflix about a year ago. They liked it and made an offer to us. I felt, because it’s a platform that reaches an international audience, it felt more reasonable to align with them. HBO does too, for sure, but I know with Netflix it’s sort of implicit in their process to be global.
Keith: Netflix is making a very aggressive push into the stand-up world. We pitched them an idea and they loved it. It just felt like it was the right time and place. And we wanted to be a bit more experimental and thought Netflix would allow for that.
AllHipHop: Can you elaborate more on the idea of [the special] being experimental?
Kenny: We tried to make it both a political special but also a very personal one. We tried to connect the two. We also dabble with animation within the stand-up special.
Keith: We also took more of a deconstructionist approach. So we would deconstruct jokes within the set as opposed to just delivering jokes which I don’t think has been done before. Maybe it has because I haven’t watched every special in the world. It’s also two of us.
Kenny: I was thinking about the visuals. I wanted to play around with the set design. Like Robin Harris had a cool set design for one of his first specials. But I wanted to make it super stupid like having Richard Nixon in the background. Why would anybody want that? I didn’t care. Let’s just make it kind of weird.
AllHipHop: Richard Nixon played a big part in the special. Yet you took it light on Donald Trump. Why did you avoid doing more jokes about the current president?
Kenny: The special is about how the War On Drugs had an impact on our lives, both personally and politically. Because Nixon started the War On Drugs, it felt more logical to focus on Nixon. Trump’s policies are still new and I don’t know what impact they are going to have on me directly, but I do know the War On Drugs decimated my family. My father got arrested because of the War On Drugs. We were born right in the middle of the crack epidemic. It made more sense to focus on the father of the War On Drugs…
Keith: As opposed to the son. Trump is a result of some of Nixon’s policies. We could have focused on Trump, but let’s take it back to see…
Kenny: To see where it all started. The modern mass incarceration starts with Richard Nixon, and I think it’s important for people to know that.
AllHipHop: You briefly mentioned [Attorney General] Jeff Sessions at the end of the special. He’s come out as being very anti-marijuana. Are you worried a new aggressive War On Drugs might pick back up with him in the Justice Department?
Keith: Absolutely, I don’t think we can take anything the Administration says lightly any longer. So if Jeff Sessions says he’s anti-marijuana and wants to see a lot of the policies curbed, I believe it’s going to happen. I’m not going to pretend any longer that they’re going to pivot. I don’t think this special is going to change policy, but it is going to get our viewpoint out there. Like, “Marijuana is not that bad. It’s not as bad as Sessions is making it out to be.”
Kenny: The Drug War, in general, has been an abysmal failure. It’s been a waste of money. It destroyed lives. It’s almost a genocidal policy. I don’t want to dabble in specifics, but you see white kids smoking weed, doing cocaine, and taking Adderall. I’ve done more drugs with white people than people of color. Then you see the sentencing disparities. It’s atrocious.
AllHipHop: I just have one more political question. I noticed something interesting while I was watching the special. One of you guys wore a [Barry] Goldwater pin and the other guy had a John Kerry pin. Was there a message you were trying to convey?
Keith: Let’s just say, our political beliefs aren’t completely fixed. They can cancel out.
Kenny: The political parties – they’re all the same. I don’t believe there’s one that’s looking out for the best interest of people of color. I honestly believe they don’t really care.
Keith: You think about the War On Drugs. You start with Nixon, then you go to Reagan, and then you go to Clinton. Clinton was a warrior. Even Obama got some people arrested with Drug War policies. Democrats and Republicans have both been complicit in destructive drug policies.
AllHipHop: It seems like there are moments of improvisation during your routines. If that’s the case, how much improvising takes place during your performance?
Kenny: Our writing process is quite rigid… not rigid. We do spend a lot of time with the formal qualities of a joke. But when we perform, we try to improvise a lot more.
Keith: I would say 80-20, 85-15. Most of it is written. We know where the punchlines are headed, but we like to allow for some breathing room just in case. Like, let’s say, for instance, a joke doesn’t land. We like to have some sort of improvisational moment that allows for us to pick up the joke.
Kenny: And if something happens in the audience that makes you shift your position, you want to be able to respond with something that’s funny. So we allow for improvisation.
Keith: More often than not, we’ll make a late game adjustment that feels like improvisation.
AllHipHop: I enjoyed your use of callbacks. I saw Dave Chappelle’s Netflix special. I feel like he had a great callback too with the Cosby joke. Do you have personal favorite callback jokes?
Kenny: I was going to go with Seinfeld when George starts eating a lot of shrimp and his co-workers tell a joke about him, and he spends the whole episode trying to get back at his co-workers. Another one I love is The Serenity Now [episode] when they just keep saying “serenity now.”
Keith: And they also callback “hoochie mama.”
Kenny: Anything with Seinfeld. They were so great at the callback. I became obsessed with it because of Seinfeld.
AllHipHop: You didn’t start doing stand-up until law school. Were you studying comedy before that?
Keith: We weren’t studying it religiously. I was studying philosophy and logic. But I was always obsessed with sitcoms, stand-up, and comedy in general. We’d been watching it since we were young, consuming all sorts of comedy. That’s what you do when you’re in the ghetto to take your mind off the calamities of the world. It felt like an easy transition. Once we dropped law and just focused on it, we became better students of comedy.
Kenny: There are so many overlaps between philosophy, law, and comedy that I didn’t know until I became more advanced as a comedian. Comedy is nothing more than syllogistic logic. It’s a premise and a punchline, that’s it. That’s all logic is.
Keith: You use the tools of philosophy to understand both. Once we made that transition into comedy, we had already studied so much philosophy and law that our minds were…
Kenny: Sort of wired…
Keith: To joke construction.
AllHipHop: You guys make a lot of references to Biggie. Who are some of the other emcees you would list among your favorites of all time?
Kenny: You got Nas and Bone Thugs-n-Harmony. Bone Thugs had a huge influence. Contemporaries – Kendrick [Lamar]. I got into 21 Savage because of my younger brother. Remy Ma, Schoolboy Q, Big Pun, Wu-Tang, Biggie. That East Coast 90’s Hip Hop…
Keith: Schoolboy Q, OutKast, Kanye West.
Kenny: I love all Hip Hop. It’s the greatest cultural force human history has ever seen.
Keith: And it’s from n-ggas.
Kenny: It’s from black people. It’s ours and no one can take that away from us. As much as they try to take it away from us to appropriate it, they can’t.
AllHipHop: I know you’re also big fans of Bret Hart. “The Montreal Screwjob” – do you think it was a work or a shoot?
Keith: There’s a lot of theories on that one. I want to believe it was the greatest work of all time. I want to believe that Vince [McMahon], Bret, and Shawn [Michaels] conspired to bring down WCW and propel WWE to great heights. But I think that Vince McMahon was being duplicitous and legitimately screwed Bret over. And Bret was too pissed.
Kenny: Vince gave Bret a lot of money. And Bret wanted to leave with the title…
Keith: Well, he didn’t want to leave with the title, but Vince wasn’t sure what Bret was going to do because Vince was paranoid about whether Bret was going to leave. Vince made the decision that just so happened to be best for business. As a utilitarian, I’m like, ‘It kind of sucks that my favorite wrestler was screwed over.’ But in the grand scheme of things, it was kind of necessary. We don’t get DX, we don’t get the Stone Cold [Steve Austin]/McMahon feud, and we don’t get the Mr. McMahon character without the “Montreal Screwjob.” From a historical standpoint, it was a good thing for wrestling. At the time it sucked for Bret, but he’ll be remembered forever because of that moment. It’s one of the greatest moments in wrestling history. I think he needs to be proud of it.
AllHipHop: What else are you guys working on?
Kenny: We’re currently developing an animated project with TBS. We just have a lot of ideas percolating. We want to work on a sitcom. Maybe a multi-cam. Who knows? It really depends on how I’m feeling. Whatever I do next, I just want to be happy with what I’m doing. That’s my approach.
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The Lucas Bros: On Drugs is available for viewing on Netflix.