The Lucas Brothers. Photo by Bobby Bank
The internet has been part of our lives for long enough that a generation of writers and artists has come of age with it, and used it as a tool to construct their creative and professional identities. But that also means that they grew up alongside an internet that today's teens would find foreign and scary, during the days when MySpace was the biggest social network, AIM buddy profiles were important social statements, and having your own GeoCities page was a big deal. Our column, A/S/L, asks the people who are best at the internet to tell us about their personal Web 1.0.
This week, we talk to comedy duo Kenny and Keith Lucas, aka The Lucas Bros. Primarily known for their delightful, surreal animated show Lucas Bros. Moving Co., which airs as part of FOX's Animation Domination Hi-Def block, the brothers (identical to the point where it's difficult to tell their voices apart on the phone) are also excellent stand-ups, and helped create truTV's Friends of the People sketch show, currently airing on Thursdays at 10:30 p.m.
What was the first internet service you made accounts for?
Kenny: It was AOL. That was my first major account, and I made it because I wanted to talk to girls online.
Keith: Ditto. I started with AOL as well.
Was it also to talk to girls?
Keith: Yeah, the motivation was... pretty much the same.
What were your screen names?
Kenny: HPCBison03. HPC was High Point Central, that was my high school, Bison was our mascot, and '03 was the year I graduated.
That's a surprising amount of school spirit.
Kenny: Oh, I was just unimaginative. I didn't have any high school spirit. It was the first thing I thought of.
Keith: My furst one was MVPiazza41. I was a big Mike Piazza fan, and 41 was for Dirk Nowitzki. I'm a big Dirk Nowitzki fan, so I just combined the two.
How did you guys find people to chat with? Was it people you knew, or the kind of stuff Dateline did reports about?
Keith: It was a little bit of both -- it was such a new way of communicating that sometimes you'd talk to people that you knew, but sometimes you'd veer onto other sites, just because it was something new. So I did both.
Kenny: I didn't have many friends from high school that I talked to. I talked to a few, but for the most part I talked to strangers.
What kind of away messages did you guys have?
Kenny: I was actually really silly with mine. I would leave, like, wrestling quotes. The one I'm most proud of was "I'm the best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be." That's from Bret "Hit Man" Hart, my favorite wrestler. I thought it was cool.
Keith: I wish I would've saved some of them. But I changed it so frequently. I had mostly rap and wrestling quotes.
Were you guys on MySpace or LiveJournal or anything like that?
Kenny: Yeah, I was on both. That was freshman year of college. I don't remember my screen name from MySpace, though, no idea what it is.
Keith: I just used my first name.
Kenny: Oh, really?
Keith: Idiotically, I just used Keith Lucas, for my MySpace. But for my LiveJournal, I was like... I had a LiveJournal where I just talked about philosophical things. It was in college, when I really started to get into philosophy. I figured I'll keep a LiveJournal to keep track of it.
What kind of philosophy?
Keith: John Stuart Mill's On Liberty, I talked about his Rights for Women. It was a lot of stuff, actually -- anything that I thought was interesting, basically from the liberal perspective, some stuff from the libertarian perspective. So I just wrote about that.
Have you heard of Philosophy Bro? He summarizes stuff like that, like, "You have the freedom to pound all the Natty Lights you want, as long as you don't interfere with anyone other sick bros' freedom to pound Natty Light."
Keith: Damn, that's really funny.
What else did you guys do on MySpace and LiveJournal?
Kenny: It was just a continuation of what I did on AOL, trying to talk to girls. On LiveJournal, I would write about stuff that was happening in my life. I had a private profile, so I didn't care. I just wrote about how I felt, what girl I was interested in -- that pretty much dominated my adolescence. But it was not philosophy. I was not as smart.
Keith: MySpace was just me trying to be cool. It was one of the few ones were you could put music on the site, so I kind of took advantage of that and put whatever music I was listening to on my site. I remember at one time people had like, the collage of pictures going across your MySpace, and I did that, but I didn't spend a ton of time on MySpace, because Facebook came out almost immediately after, and once Facebook came out it, my days on MySpace were through.
Kenny: It changed the game.
You were immediate adopters?
Kenny: Yeah, MySpace just started getting really weird. Facebook felt more selective and insulated.
Did you guys keep trying to talk to girls?
Kenny: Nah, I stopped. I grew up. I was like, "It's getting weird now, Kenny."
Who were the internet-specific celebrities you guys cared about?
Keith: I don't remember it being as big as it is now, where you have Instagram stars, and YouTube stars, and Vine stars. Maybe Bill Simmons? He was pretty huge through the internet, so he wasn't really on TV or anything like that at the time. We knew him as The Sports Guy. So he was one of the first internet celebrities that I'm aware of.
Did you guys ever meet any of the girls you were trying to talk to?
Kenny: I met one girl from my AOL days, and it was creepy. Because you talk so freely on the internet, but when you meet in person, we were both really timid, so it didn't work out and I almost vowed never to do that again.
Kenny: I don't think I've ever done it again, meet people off the internet, except Instagram I guess. With Instagram, you can see the pictures, and it's a little bit more humane than MySpace.
Make a timeline of your lives, tracked by the websites that have been most important to you each year. [Note: This is a condensed version of the timeline, with direct quotes where applicable.]
2000 -- AOL
2001 -- MySpace
2002 -- Facebook
2003-2008 -- ESPN, Napster, and we had this thing on our college campus called Direct Connect that I used a lot
2009 -- Facebook, a lot of blogs, just like LiveJournal and stuff like that, ESPN, NBA.com, RottenTomatoes, IMDB
2010-2015 -- Bleacher Report, Twitter, Instagram, and a bunch of -- like, The Atlantic, The New York Times, that's when I started reading sophisticated stuff. The New Yorker
Who were you guys starting to read on those places?
Keith:Ta-Nehisi Coates, I read him a ton on The Atlantic.
Have you read his new book yet?
Keith: I just bought it, I think I'm going to start reading it today. I've been reading so many interviews he's done -- he was on Charlie Rose, I want to see that interview. He's such a provocative thinker, I can't wait to read his book.
Is there anyone else you feel like you've had a relationship with, professionally or otherwise, because of the internet?
Kenny:Ricky Velez. He's a really fantastic comedian, and I had only met him on the internet -- I think it must have been through Facebook -- and then we did The Nightly Show together, and we became really good friends. I like him a lot.
Keith: Yeah, stand-up comedians -- a lot of comedians you meet on the internet first, because you're friends with so many mutual people, and then you meet them in real life or at a show or something. Like, Morgan Murphy, we met on Twitter, and then we did the Doug Benson podcast, and she was really awesome. I feel like I know most comedians before I meet them. It's kind of strange.
Kenny: It's really weird.
Do you feel like that's been a good thing, to be part of that community?
Kenny: Yeah, I think being part of the comedy community has been fantastic. It's so honest, and you're going to laugh constantly. It's so great, and just a fun, cohesive group.
Keith: And there's so much going on that it's impossible to keep up with everybody, but with the internet it's much easier to keep tabs on what everyone's doing, and what's the next evolution of comedy. You get more informed.
That kind of answers the next question, which is about the best opportunities you've gotten from the internet.
Keith: Yeah, the information -- you just have so much information at your disposal. You know, just learning about the history of things. It could be World War II, or it could be whatever. It's just so much, it's overwhelming, and sometimes you feel like -- well, I know I don't have the brain capacity to take in all of it, but I think we're just fortunate to be able to have that tool, especially as comedians. We live off of our information, information is what helps us feed our jokes, so the more you have the better off you are.
Like, when we were writing Lucas Bros Moving Co., we all lived on the internet, because there were so many references that we wanted to utilize, but sometimes you just can't remember what references you want to use. With the internet, they're at your disposal. Ithink it made us sharper writers.
Kenny: And it also increased the competition for comedians, it made us work harder -- you have competition from Vine people, YouTube guys, Instagram people, so you just have to stay ahead of the curve. You have to embrace it.
Do you feel like that access has changed the way those references function from the way they did in, say, the '90s?
Keith: Yeah, I mean, I still think you have to be even more clever, because of the fact that the information's out there now. You don't want to use an obvious reference -- you want to use something people may not even know of, but if they look it up, they'll say, "Oh, that reference is perfect." And that's how we try to do we it -- we try to use references to stuff we don't think other people would use, or are aware of.
Kenny: Or, if they do use it, as I said, you just have to be a bit more clever. And that's where your training comes into play.
Do you wish you spent less time on the internet? Do you wish you spent less time on it now?
Kenny: I personally believe the internet came to me at the right time. Because I think I had an authentic childhood, from, say, six to 14 -- I was outside, I was exploring, I was going on journeys with my friends. There was very little internet, so I thought it was perfect -- I didn't have it. But then I got to college, and I think that's when you really needed the internet, because so many things relied on it. I'm happy we had it. I don't think I spent too much time on it, but it's getting there now.
Keith: Yeah, I use it so much -- I use it every day -- that I can't imagine what life would be like if I didn't have it. But I guess on some level, I'd like to use it less, because sometimes the information can just be overwhelming. It's not always positive, and like, if you check The New York Times every day you're going to be bombarded with negative -- or not negative, but just, like, sad stories.
Kenny: It can be a bit of a mood-altering thing.
Keith: Yeah, sometimes it's good to just step away and embrace the outside world.