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Comedy Tonight!

March 29, 2007 By:
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Double-header: Randy (left) and Jason Sklar
'Grey's Anatomy' X-Rays Reveal Sklar Brothers Funny Bones

The Sklar Brothers have hit their highs as twin peaks; both "boys," 35 -- "That makes us 70," quips Randy -- joke about their closeness, but these are not the Doublemint Twins -- except, of course, for the mint they're both making in comedy clubs and on TV.

Next stop: Helium hi-jinks, as the two take to the stage of the Center City comedy club next month.

Two hipsters joined at the hip? Worked for "Grey's Anatomy," where these double-playing St. Louis cards portrayed conjoined jokesters in the episode of "Don't Stand So Close to Me" last year.

They leaned on their togetherness as the Weitzman wonders, suffering from the ultimate love handles -- being joined at the lumbar-sacral-junction. Talk about post-surgical Sklar tissue: "Do you believe that, after seeing that show, someone asked us if we were really con-joined?"

Join the club of those taken in by the Sklars sketches, whose at times schizoid riffs regale audiences with laughs: "We have been rated in the top seven of Jewish identical-twin comedy duos in North America."

Hey, who said that? Does it matter? "Me is really Us, we're too lazy to create our own profiles," goes the entry in their MySpace space.

But putting some space between them is important, too; they work together and alone. Separate but equal, but nothing equals their take on bizarre buffoonery: "We'd like to meet Machmud Abdul Rauf -- just to find out what it sounds like when the government taps your phone."

Tapping into the hip zeitgeist is their gig, zigging while others zag -- which they have proved to great effect as good sports hosting ESPN Classic's "Cheap Seats" and serving up comedic combustibles on their own Comedy Central special.

Twin banter as dueling banjoes? "It hasn't got tiring up to this point," riffs Randy. "Doing our own acts helps keep us fresh."

Freshmen at law school: Is that a joke? No, "we were hedging our bets," with law school being the hedge fund for a future should audiences not take stock in their comedy act.

Like good Jewish boys, says Randy, "we did it to appease our parents."

You're young, undecided, it's post-the-Me-decade decision-time, what's a nice Jewish boy to do? Law and order ... that's what their folks wanted; who knew that years later, they would see their kids appear in episodes of "Law & Order."

"We got serious about the comedy business the summer before our senior year in college," says Randy, class act of the University of Michigan, where both Sklars, English majors, bartered their degree in the Bard for some club time later on after moving to New York.

Within five years of graduation, they wanted their MTV -- and got it, paying their rent with the show "Apartment 2F."

And then they moved into the "Cheap Seats."

"It was 77 episodes which, in cable terms, is almost six seasons," reasons Jason.

Parental Approval
Thumbs up -- from their parents. "Once we got that show on MTV, our parents knew we were serious," relates Randy. "My Mom ... she's the only Jewish woman around 60 who reads Variety and the trades every day," trading news with others on what her kids are accomplishing.

But not every step the Sklars take is forward-thinking, even if they are alternative comics. "When visiting Philly, I like to do the Rocky run, only backwards," says Jason.

Gotta fib now? Truth be known, the two are into their Jewishness. "As Jews growing up in the Midwest, we reached out and connected through humor," says Jason. "It's not like we grew up in New York or Philadelphia; we were more like a real minority."

The twins connect through unjaded Jewish outlooks and outreach; Jason studied a semester at Tel Aviv University, where he learned "lots of cool stuff."

He wouldn't mind knocking the comedic stuffing out of Mel Gibson; the smart comics are still smarting over the Road Warrior's verbal war on Jews from last summer.

"We did this comedy bit about taking Mel Gibson down 200 people at a time," he says of what it's like being part of an ethnic group more akin to making a minyan than a mob scene.

Excited about their up-and-coming comedy career, they aren't about to curb their enthusiasm. Well, maybe once.

"Doing that show," says Jason of the hilarious Larry David HBO hit, "was probably my favorite acting gig."

Does he speak for the two of them? "We are two versions of one idea," chimes in Randy.

"We feed off each other," adds Jason, fed the line from his brother.

They can line up for fame this spring, as both have roles in the current film "Wild Hogs" and the upcoming "The Comebacks."

But it all comes back to comedy. Not that everything is so similar, say these co-stars of the TV special "Heroes of Jewish Comedy."

"We married different people," says Jason.

Married to memories, also, of caring for classic comedic combos. Their favorite? "We like to think of ourselves," kibitzes Jason, "as the Jewish Abbott and Costello."

Who's on first? The both of them ... together.
 

This 'Last Comic' First in Line for Catskills Humor Buffet

What's that that the sartorially mischievous Michele Balan is wearing around her waist? Could it be a ... Borscht Belt?

Well, it does help hold her act together: "Grew up on those comedians," says the New York native whose idea of Mountain Men was the late Buddy Hackett and George Burns, and the still very much thriving Freddie Roman -- the Davy Crocketts and the Daniel Boones of the Catskills boom times.

She gives a high-five to her old hi-fi: "As a kid, I used to listen to 'When You're in Love, the Whole World is Jewish,' " she recalls.

Of course, the whole world's changed since, but one thing to make it spin off its axis is to win the title of "Last Comic Standing," the comical contest being revived this summer by NBC.

Okay, so she didn't win it; so rather than spin off its axis, her world's comfortably wobbly. But she did finish in the Final Four the last time the series aired.

"That would be great if I were playing basketball," she says, mockingly annoyed.

Beneficial Act
Yes, the LCS is no NCAA, but the hoopla never stops when you're adjudged one of a quality quipster quartet on national TV and one of "Top 10 Comics," this honor accorded back in 2004 by Backstage Magazine.

So, Michele Balan, stand-up for your crowning; sure, she says, but that's her natural position, anyway.

Indeed, stand-up is what she'll be doing April 22, performing at "Sing Out Loud and Proud," a benefit to which the Philadelphia Gay Men's Chorus is also adding its voice and support on behalf of the Planned Parenthood Association of Bucks County.

The comic and the choristers will be joined by the performing youth group, Rainbow Room, at the gag-laden gig at New Hope-Solebury High School.

It all computes, this comedy career with bite, for the jokingly self-described "bi-comical" performer who once was a computer executive.

Apple of her eye, she discovered, was comedy: "I found I couldn't fit in the computer empire," she says.

Not enough RAM? Not enough ramifications for a joyful future. She went microsoft on computers and fell hard for performing; her co-workers encouraged her to log on to laughs.

"I was always funny," she says. "Okay, but I told them, I wanted to remember whose great idea it was. Because when I'm homeless I wanted to remember who to blame."

Instead, she found a home opening for stars such as Jennifer Holiday, Bruce Vilanch and Nell Carter, for whom she wrote a parody that's included on the comic's CD of her work at the Improv.

Improved, better than ever is Balan, who, on balance, is a wonder woman, a middle-aged marvel who's made it.

Better mishuga than mish-the-boat. "The 'Last Comic' meant validation for me," she says. "I've been doing this for 17 years. You have to be crazy."

And funny. Reach out and help someone else -- sure, as long as the reach retrieves a raucous laugh line. "Remember," she instructs at her Web site, "we can always help others when we can't do anything about ourselves!"

Ask not what your comic can do for you, ask what you can do for your comic ... "I'm performing now in Marco Island, Fla., where the medium age is ... dead. But that's my audience."

Don't kid a kidder: Planned Parenthood knows to plan on a lively crowd for her upcoming show. Balan calls herself "old-school," but she's proven the class act.

As far as maybe returning to "Last Comic Standing" for another shot at guffaw gold, no, she says, the show's by-laws probably wouldn't allow it.

The bi-comic performer will have to bypass the bit. Besides, doing another reality series?

"I'm living one," says the very much real winner of a comedian getting the last laugh. 

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