Sklar You Ready? Randy Sklar Talks “Nerd Down & 10″
by Dan Casey on November 7, 2012
Through their razor-sharp rapport, off-the-cuff remarks, and undeniable chemistry, the Sklar Brothers have managed to do what many nerds deemed impossible: Make sports accessible and, dare I say it, nerdy. It shouldn’t come as any surprise to fans of comedians Randy and Jason Sklar; Their podcast Sklarbro Country, much like shows like The League, takes the often obtuse world of professional sports and finds the geeky comedy within. Now, the Brothers Sklar are taking their talents to the Nerdist Channel for a new show that premieres today called Nerd Down & 10, a rapid-fire panel show in which they discuss the week’s top stories in their unique, riff-filled fashion. Consider this Pardon the Interruption for the Nerdist set. I caught up with Randy while they were on the road in Minnesota to talk about what viewers can expect, why fantasy football is D&D for jocks, and what goes into the ideal burrito. And, for the record, we fully endorse yelling “Henderson!” while you watch the show.
Nerdist: Tell us about Nerd Down & 10. How did the show come into being and what can fans expect?
Randy Sklar: So, we, being friends with Chris and having worked with him before, love him and what he’s built over there. We’ve always wanted to do a show with him. What we realized from having him on our podcast and going on The Nerdist podcast is that there is a certain element of the population that’s kind of nerdy and we attack the world of sports in almost a nerdy way. If you’ve ever played fantasy football, it’s almost like Dungeons & Dragons with real people. And less wizards. Unless you’re playing fantasy basketball and you’re the Washington Wizards. Then you’re all wizards.
What we realized is that there should be something that represents all that and we’ve developed a cool circle of people through our podcast. We went to Chris with this idea and began developing our show, and what we came to was a show called Nerd Down & 10. It basically apes the Pardon the Interruption format, which is a sports discussion show with two guys with topics to talk about going down the right side of the screen. It’s a cool system because even if you’re not interested in the current story, you can take a look at what’s coming up and, if you see something you like, you’ll probably stick around and watch it. On Pardon the Interruption, you have Michael Wilbon, a great writer from Chicago, and Tony Kornheiser, a longtime sportswriter himself, both former sportswriters for The Washington Post, and they have such a great rapport with each other.
So, Jay and I would love to do something that emulates the spirit of that. We’re not going to focus on sports stuff; fans of PTI will totally understand what we’re doing, but it will be a totally interesting, new thing. We’ll be discussing stories with a “Nerdist subtext” or a pop culture subtext. For example, there’s a story about a guy who legally changed his name to Darth Vader and then his wife got punched in the head during a domestic dispute. It’s perfect because it allows us to banter back and forth. We’ll have three larger stories that we can really dissect and dig into, but we’ll also have a big finish in which we pick like 5-7 stories to quickly rattle them off with one-liner jokes. We’ll also have people moderating our discussion to see what we got wrong and correct us and there will be a crawl along the bottom with comedy on that too. It’s kind of an intricate show, but easy to palate to people.
N: Yeah, when you mentioned Pardon the Interruption, I could immediately envision you and Jason in those roles bouncing stories off one another. I think that’ll make it very accessible for viewers.
RS: Right, and again, it’s one of those things where if you’re not a fan of what we’re talking about at the moment – BOOM! – look to the right and see what’s coming down the pipe. I think it’s kind of a genius concept. How has a nerd-oriented version of this not been invented yet? I think people will see that there’s a nice nod to PTI in a fun way, but we won’t be focusing on sports. We’re cloaking it in other subjects.
N: Will it be similar to the weirder featured stories you guys do on your Sklarbro Country podcast?
RS: That’s right. Those stories are from Dan Van Kirk, our co-host on Sklarbro Country, and he’s actually helping us write this show. There may actually be moments during the week when we’re sorting through them going, “Is that a Country story or a Nerd Down story?”
N: You mentioned earlier that sports, especially things like fantasy football, are inherently nerdy whether or not people realize it. Do you think that podcasts like yours and shows like Nerd Down & 10 and The League are helping sports gain more of a foothold among those who might otherwise be uninterested?
RS: I think so. We’ve kind of made a little bit of inroads in a lot of different worlds trying to get people who maybe don’t know about sports to know more. We did a regular segment on KPCC and local NPR in Southern California that was really popular that was us explaining sports to Madeline Brand, the host ofThe Madeline Brand Show, and explaining what happened that week, basically, to NPR listeners. We did a pilot that aired in which we tried to explain Tim Tebow as a full-press quarterback to fashion designer Trina Turk. We were like, “Okay, imagine if you designed a pool cover-up for a woman and she wanted to wear it out at night, and people were like ‘That’s a pool cover-up! You can’t wear that out at night!’ Maybe you could pull that off in college; it looked good in college. But, then you get to the real world and everyone’s like, ‘What’s that?’ And when it’s standing up against actual real clothing, it’s like, ‘Oh, that sucks.’” So, in that way, we explained the concept of Tim Tebow to her and other people using fashion. People who don’t know sports might be like, “Oh, that’s the guy who believes in God.” Yeah, that’s one element to it, but he was also really good in college. Then, he gets to the pros and there’s this mystique surrounding him that keeps him as the popular player. If he were any other player, he’d be cut. It’s an interesting phenomenon and to be able to explain that to someone using a frame of reference they do understand is really cool. We try to figure out how we go about using language to communicate these concepts. And this is sort of our M.O. going into Nerd Down & 10.
N: Is there any chance that you will get the titular Henderson of your stand-up album Henderson & Daughters and podcast slogan fame as a guest on the show?
RS: Oh my god. Get Paul Henderson on the show? Oh my god. I feel like he is maybe not onboard with how we adopted his namesake, especially since it was us asking Jon Dore if he shouted every time he makes love to a woman, as a comedian if he hears the call of his country. I’m sure that Paul Henderson, who is a man of God, would say, “Yeah, that’s not how I want my legacy remembered.” But, what I think he would probably enjoy is that a whole generation of people who wouldn’t otherwise know the goal are totally using it as a phrase to identify with loving something so much. Anyway, it’s kinda cool.
N: You mentioned Jon Dore, which reminds me of one of my favorite web series that you guys did, Held Up. Can we expect another season or another web series like it? I cannot get enough of it.
RS: Oh, thank you. Dude, that’s awesome. I don’t know – we’ll see, you know? I mean, that one was a lot to bring together. We got Kaitlin [Olson of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia] at the right time. We had Jon Dore, but now he’s on a show that’s shooting right now. I would love to do it again. Jay and I are actually doing an arc on that show Partners on CBS. It’s the Will & Grace writers, Jim Burrows is the director – it’s a really great opportunity to be on that show. Doing that show and Nerd Down and our podcast two times a week makes it hard to do a lot of other stuff, but I will say that Held Up was one of the most amazing experiences we have had writing, acting, and then shooting it. It was ridiculous. I don’t know if you know, but we cut it together as a feature film that played on HBO Canada. It’s at Redbox too, which is crazy because we didn’t intend it to be a movie. It kind of flows weird because we shot it as a web series, which doesn’t leave a lot of time for set-up. You can’t meander; you just have to get into it right away. But, we’re happy with how it all came together.
N: Did you guys go to a Canadian Redbox to steal a copy for yourselves?
RS: No, it was in Redbox here. In the United States.
N: Oh, really?
RS: Yeah. I read the reviews of it, and, you know, people are going to hammer us on a lot of stuff, but to get it distributed like that is really kinda cool.
N: Well once they read about the lore behind it, hopefully they’ll be a bit more forgiving on Redbox.com.
RS: That’s right, I’m sure, I’m sure. I hope. [laughs] But, yeah, I’d love to work together with the whole Held Up crew again. I definitely see us working together on a project in the future. Hopefully, we’ll get to the point where we can make a movie and cast everyone in it.
N: Between Partners, Nerd Down, and the podcast, you guys have quite the busy schedule, but you’re actually in Minnesota right now doing stand-up. How often do you guys go out on tour and do stand-up?
RS: You know, we’ve had to sort of tamper that down a little bit too. The double-edged sword of that is we love going out on the road, seeing new cities and, of course, meeting our fans. That’s the best part. These are people who have been living with you on their shitty commute or while they’re working out or while they’re working at their desk job that they hate, so when they finally meet you, they’re just so happy. I really think that the podcast is a very pure form of us, so to do that is great.
We have families, we have kids – I hate being away from them. We love going to cities like Madison, Portland, Chicago, and New York. Whenever we go to these cool cities, we have a great time, but I do miss my family, so we’re kinda tempering how much we are out on the road. I could go to our agent and tell him to get us 40 weeks out on the road next year – and he would. He would get us 40 weeks, but I feel like my marriage would dissolve and my kids would be like, “Who are you?” Plus, with all the other stuff we’re doing, it makes it hard to leave town. The podcast is great, the Partners thing is great, and we are so excited about Nerd Down too. We kind of have a full plate.
N: And very well deserved. You guys are hilarious, so it’s nice to see you’re keeping busy.
RS: Thanks, man. Really, thank you. It’s fun being in projects that you like and the one thing that’s guided our career thus far is to get involved with projects that if people see you in that project they will like it. Don’t do anything that you’re embarrassed about. We’ve done that a couple times and those things have a way of coming back to haunt you. If someone comes up to us and says, “I saw Nerd Down & 10,” we’re going to be like, “You loved it, right?” [laughs] We put so much into it that we’ll be proud of it, and even if they don’t like it, we’ll still be proud. It’s a good representation of the brand of who we are.
N: Exactly. Okay, I just have one more question and it’s a real hardball. What is in your ideal burrito?
RS: My ideal burrito? Okay, it’s black beans, rice, a little Mexican 4-cheese, either guacamole or avocado, and some really, really tender chicken breast. Although, I would do a tilapia burrito any day of the week, like a whitefish burrito.
N: I have to give it up for you on that one. A tilapia burrito sounds terrific. That sounds like a real missed market share.
RS: Oh, and I want guacamole inside, but also some guacamole on the side that I can dip it into as well.
N: Of course – you don’t want a wet burrito to go, but sometimes you want a little dip action.
RS: You’ve got to have some dipping.
Watch the premiere of Nerd Down & 10 on The Nerdist Channel by clicking here, catch their Sklarbro Country podcast, and look for the Brothers Sklar on Partners, which airs on CBS, Mondays at 8:30/7:30c.