"That's what I love about it the most, that we apply philosophy to how we approach standup. So it's been kinda cool. We're actually using our degree for something."
– Kenny Lucas
"I know! We might be the highest-paid philosophers."
– Keith Lucas
Guy MacPherson: Hey, Lucas Bros. I'm going to have to transcribe this and I'll need to know who's Kenny and who's Keith so gimme your voices.
Kenny Lucas: So here's what we'll do: I'll say 'Kenny speaking.' That way you'll know it's me. And then when Keith speaks, he'll say, 'Keith speaking.'
GM: That helps, thanks. So you guys are coming to Vancouver. Is it your first time?
Keith Lucas: This is Keith speaking. Yup, this is our first time going to Vancouver. We're excited.
GM: Yeah? What have you heard about it?
Kenny: Kenny speaking. We got, uh, Vancouver Grizzlies, former NBA franchise. Uh, that's pretty much it.
Keith: I've heard that it looks beautiful. That's all I've heard. I've heard that it looks really, really immaculate, [and] that the weather's pretty cool.
GM: You know, before I wrote about comedy, I used to cover the Vancouver Grizzlies for their five years here.
Keith: Oh nice.
GM: That was a sweet gig.
Kenny: They had Mike Bibby... who else did they have?
GM: Shareef Abdur-Rahim.
Kenny: Abdur-Rahim, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Keith: They had Big Country, too, right?
Kenny: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
GM: Yeah, they did. Good job. Stu Jackson was in charge.
Keith: Oh yeah. What happened with the franchise? Why didn't it work out?
Kenny: You know, not the right personnel, a new franchise. It's tough. It can be a tough league to stay in.
GM: Their attendance was among the best in the league for a couple seasons but they were just so bad that attendance started dwindling, they got a new owner who said they were going to keep the team in Vancouver. Too bad. Now we gotta cheer for the Raptors.
Keith: Yeah, they're pretty good.
Kenny: They're not bad.
GM: Hey, I heard you guys on Maron's podcast.
Keith: Oh nice. Yeah, that was fun.
GM: I loved it. I studied philosophy in university. You guys know your stuff.
Kenny: Kenny speaking. We don't know anything.
Kenny: I pretend to know stuff, but I don't know anything. But we did study philosophy. I do love it.
Keith: Yeah. This is Keith speaking. Yeah, philosophy is amazing. I wish my breadth of knowledge was a little bit more substantive, but getting to read what we have read, it's a beautiful thing to do. What did you write your thesis on?
GM: I didn't. I took English and Philosophy and I didn't have to do a thesis.
Keith: That was fortunate.
GM: I know less than you. But I just love reading about it, not so much the original texts because I'm too dumb. But I love everything about it. I'm always gravitated toward the philosophy section of bookstores.
Keith: Keith speaking. Yeah, it's an amazing subject. You see it affect so many other different fields, too. And it holds up.
Kenny: Oh, yeah. I mean, just the basic things that you learn in philosophy, they just sort of stick with you in our comedic process. That's what I love about it the most, that we apply philosophy to how we approach standup. So it's been kinda cool. So, like, we're actually using our degree for something.
Keith: I know! We might be the highest-paid philosophers.
GM: How do you apply it to standup?
Keith: Keith speaking. I mean, just in terms of how we understand logic. Comedy is more or less a disruption of logic. In philosophy you're trained in the disruption of logic. You can utilize it in that way. And also just abstract thinking. Jokes can come from anywhere and if you're trained at probing your mind, you have a better – I think, at least – you have a better opportunity at probing your mind for jokes as well.
Kenny: Kenny speaking. Other than that, we like to engage in the dialectic so I'll put forth a proposition and he'll offer a counter to it. Just in terms of developing jokes, I'll say, 'Maybe we should do it this way' and he'll say, 'No, let's try it that way.' Then we usually synthesize. So that's another way.
Keith: The Hegelian synthesis is our approach to developing our jokes.
GM: I think it was Kenny who said, 'I don't know anything about philosophy.' That just shows that you do know something because you know that you know nothing.
Kenny: It depends on your interpretation of your term 'knowledge.' I say that I'm aware of certain concepts in philosophy but I couldn't explain it to you the way Hegel would explain his process.
Keith: Keith speaking. I think you're being facetious.
Kenny: I'm being facetious. (laughs)
GM: You guys wrote theses? Who did you write on?
Kenny: Kenny speaking. I wrote about John Stuart Mill.
Keith: Keith speaking. I wrote on a theory called evidentialism, the study of evidence, what constitutes evidence and yada, yada, yada.
Kenny: But I wrote on John Stuart Mill's conception of liberty. I kind of analyzed his conception using [Isaiah] Berlin's conception of liberty. He breaks it down into positive and negative. John Stuart Mill never did that so I just sort of tried to come up with some answer. And it's wrong and poorly written and poorly argued.
GM: You chose those two topics because you thought they would be easy papers or they really spoke to you?
Keith: No. Keith speaking. I've always been fascinated with epistemology and theories of knowledge and I wanted to do something...
Kenny: Even when he was a baby.
Keith: Even when I was a baby it was all I talked about.
Keith: Naturally I was born to write it. I mean, it was poorly written. But I've always been fascinated with how do we know the things that we know. It comes into play now with Trump as president and how facts are becoming obsolete, but back then it sort of mattered. And it always fascinated me how we obtain the knowledge that we have and how do we justify it and what's a belief and how do you justify a belief. Dealing with and grappling with those questions has always fascinated me.
Kenny: Kenny speaking. I've always been fascinated in liberty. Both from a moral standpoint and a political standpoint. How do we obtain freedom? Are we free? I really gravitated towards John Stuart Mill when I was in my sophomore year in college. He included a cool form of activism in his philosophy and he was liberal and I thought he kind of spoke to me.
Keith: Keith speaking. And he also spoke about a myriad of different topics. He spoke on feminism, he spoke about...
Keith: ...slavery. He was one of the first philosophers, I think – not first but one that I was made aware of – who spoke about those things at that time. And his conception of liberty is still pretty influential.
Kenny: Yeah, some of his insights are still very profound.
GM: I think of your guys' love of weed. Does that play into liberty?
Kenny: Absolutely. Kenny speaking. I think the drug laws are draconian. I think that they infringe on the liberty of individuals to enjoy consuming in particular types of drugs. I'm not talking about heroin and the drugs that are very damaging to society. I'm talking about marijuana, for example.
Keith: No, I think marijuana brings you closer to the universe.
Kenny: I agree.
Keith: And, yeah, I do believe that the laws infringe in our ability to do as we please in that regard.
Kenny: And I'm not making an argument for anarchy. I understand the necessity of some laws but I think that it's also possible to write bad laws that infringe on your individuality and liberty. And I think that some of the drug laws are just bad laws.
Keith: Yeah, it just doesn't make any common sense, I think. There's people out there who really, really need marijuana. There are medicinal advantages to marijuana. So it just seems like there's more evidence to support it as opposed to go against it.
GM: There's not a lot of philosophical writings on drug use, are there?
Keith: That's a great question. I would imagine that – Keith speaking – that there are some philosophers who spoke about the benefits of marijuana.
Kenny: Or at the very least there are a lot of philosophers who spoke about the right to do harm to yourself.
Kenny: And if you ingest drugs and alcohol, you're doing harm to yourself, so I guess some of them would be okay with it.
Keith: But I've never really heard any musings on it from philosophers.
GM: I'm surprised you guys didn't write your papers on that.
Keith: I wasn't really smoking that much when I was in college. I didn't smoke at all, really.
Kenny: I was getting high off of philosophy, man. That shit was so trippy. Plato's cave, all that stuff.
Keith: It was spellbinding.
Kenny: You don't need drugs when you're reading Descartes.
Keith: It's such a mind-fuck already that you don't really need it. But I wish I did smoke weed back then.
Kenny: I know.
Keith: I may not have been as productive.
GM: I was Googling this morning to see if there was any writings on it. I found one article that was going over the arguments and basically said what you said refuting the arguments. But one I thought was the closest said, "Progress in philosophy requires clear memory, astute critical faculties, and the ability to draw fine grain distinctions together with the patience and discipline to work these things out with the necessary circumspection and care." So that would be an argument against marijuana, I'm thinking.
Keith: That's a fair argument.
Kenny: I mean, marijuana does necessarily infringe on certain aspects of philosophical process.
Keith: It impairs your cognitive functions for sure and it definitely has an impact on long-term memory and things of that nature. So, yeah, I see that argument.
Kenny: It's a good thing we're comedians.
Keith: Yeah, yeah, it's a good thing we're comedians.
GM: So which is more important to you: philosophy or weed?
Kenny: Uh... I would say philosophy's way more important.
Keith: Yeah, philosophy has been more important, but weed has certainly calmed me down.
Kenny: I don't think I would have been able to get to the next level in comedy – this is Kenny speaking – I don't think I would have been able to advance as a comedian if I didn't smoke weed.
Keith: Yeah. But one could make the argument – Keith speaking – that you probably wouldn't have advanced in comedy, either, if you didn't study philosophy.
Kenny: That's fair.
Keith: I mean, they both were necessary. That's a good question. I don't know which one I value more. I think I need both of them for sure. I guess if the question was, 'If you had to choose one, which one would you choose?'
GM: It would be difficult, knowing what you know about philosophy, to not choose that because you can't just purge it from your brain.
Keith: That's right.
Keith: Yeah, that's a tough one.
Kenny: I'm going to think about that all day.
GM: As you smoke up.
Kenny: As I smoke up and think about philosophy, yeah.
GM: Do you still read philosophy or is it just more of a way of life?
Keith: Great question. Keith speaking. I don't read it as much as I used to in college. And it's certainly more of a way of life, but I do try to engage my critical faculties as much as I can in a given day. So I'm not reading like terse philosophy but I'll read articles in The Atlantic or I'll engage in philosophical conversation with my brother.
Kenny: We're writing a book now that's autobiographical but it'll also be philosophical so in that way we're still engaging in the process I think in an academic way. I still read but not as frequently.
Keith: No, no, I definitely still read but I mean there were times when I would spend all day reading philosophy. Now I'll read a chapter here or there or I'll read a bunch of articles. I get really obsessed with individual theories.
Kenny: Talking about evidentialism or cosmopolitanism. I'll get obsessed with ideologies and then I'll go down this wormhole. And then I'll forget everything after smoking a joint.
GM: Do you ever bring philosophical ideas to standup? Maybe the crowd wouldn't get it, but I'm sure there's a way you could bring things up.
Keith: Sure. This is Keith speaking. That's a great question. When we first started, we didn't really incorporate philosophy into our set. Not heavily. But as we improve, I think we're starting to figure out ways to incorporate it in a more clever way. So you would say we're putting more philosophy in it now, right?
Kenny: Yeah, we're trying to put more philosophy in there. Like, we'll make utilitarian arguments for really absurd positions: Rupert Murdoch's racism is bad but from a utilitarian standpoint, you can make an argument for why it's okay. You do it that way. You take a pop culture reference and you apply it to a philosophical concept so it's kind of fun.
Keith: Yeah, and then we also have a bit where we misquote Bertrand Russell. We bring up The History of Western Philosophy and we actually quote Nas but we attribute it to Bertrand Russell, just as a weird misdirection. And we're just trying to sprinkle in little thoughts on philosophy throughout the set.
Kenny: Related to the topics that we cover in standup.
Keith: We're trying to critique capitalism so we'll bring up Adam Smith. We're weaving in all this different stuff that relates to our childhood and how we were brought up in the inner city and went to law school from there. So we're also bringing up legal theorists, too.
GM: That's great. I think a lot of comics are afraid to talk above the general knowledge in the room, whereas when I hear comics talk about things I don't know about, I'm fascinated. I think anything can be talked about.
Kenny: Kenny speaking. Sometimes we underestimate the knowledge and the intellect and the abilities of the audience. I think sometimes we spoon-feed them easy jokes when I think that sometimes they want to be challenged.
Keith: This is Keith speaking. I was going to say we sort of live in an age – I know it may not seem that way because Trump's president – but there's a lot of general curiosity out there because there's so much information, so I think minds are more open than we think, especially audiences in a comedy club. I think their minds are generally more open. So if you can write a well-written joke, it shouldn't matter what the subject is. If the joke is well-written, people will laugh.
GM: I've always thought standup comics were modern-day philosophers.
Keith: This is Keith speaking. Yeah, people say that, and I've heard that before. I dunno. I don't necessarily agree with it because I think philosophers and comedians serve two very very different functions. They're both necessary in critiquing a society, so I wouldn't want to merge the two. I can see how people would make that judgment because they're both critiquing society...
Kenny: Using a systematic process, using logic.
Keith: Using a systematic process to ask questions about human nature and its relation to the state, and yada, yada, yada.
Kenny: But then there are some comedians that don't give a fuck about that type of stuff, and then there are some philosophers who couldn't care less about being humorous.
Keith: Yeah, I mean, if you look at the history of comedians and philosophers, they actually had a lot of tension. Plato hated Aristophones and he wrote so many negative things about humour, both him and Aristotle.
Kenny: And there was a huge beef between Democritus, who they called the Laughing Philosopher, and Plato, who didn't laugh much. It's weird that comedy and philosophy are being grouped together now when they were like Crips and Bloods.
Keith: So tense.
GM: Who was the funniest philosopher in history?
Keith: I think it's Bertrand Russell.
Kenny: I think it's Bertrand Russell, too, yeah.
Keith: He's so funny. His language is so concise and clear but he has that UK sense of humour – deadpan, very matter-of-fact.
Kenny: Bertrand by far for me.
GM: You said that weed helped you guys for whatever reasons. And people that go out and buy self-help books or new age stuff. But philosophy can help, too, right?
Kenny: Kenny speaking. Philosophy – if you're reading all the important work – I don't think the conclusion you draw from that is life's not that bad. When you read Kant and Hobbes and even Descartes, you leave that tutorial in philosophy thinking, 'Wow, humanity kinda sucks. And I don't know why we do what we're doing. What's the point of anything?' You get into this real weird, nihilistic phase and then you have to find a way to get out of that. It's not new-age self-help. I don't think philosophy was trying to help. I mean, I think they're helping but in their own kinda way.
Keith: It's a different kind of helping. It's more like, 'Life is fucked up. It's brutal.'
Kenny: 'Any assumptions that you have, you should probably question.'
Keith: Yeah. It makes you a little mad, but then there's a serenity. You go crazy at first because you're questioning all of your beliefs and all of the ideas that you thought were foundational. You critique all of that and then you're sort of left feeling alone. But then, I think...
Kenny: You have the skills to sort of build anew.
Kenny: Philosophy teaches you how to tear down your belief system but it also teaches you how to rebuild it. I think that's the greatest thing about it.
Keith: Yeah, it's that rebuilding part that I feel gets us through life.
GM: Whatever an individual philosopher says about how bleak life may be, it's matter-of-fact and there are ways of living your life without thinking there are great rewards after you die or anything like that.
Keith: Yeah, you can just live a virtuous life.
Kenny: I think Bertrand said the point of a philosopher is to prepare himself or herself for death. Whether there is something afterwards or not, the point is to just prepare yourself.
Keith: At least for me, I find more comfort in life knowing that when it ends, it ends, so you should have more of an appreciation for what you're going through now – the bad, the good, the ugly. Appreciate it all.
GM: A book I read a few years ago, and have read a few times since – and maybe it's looked down upon by serious philosophers – is The Consolations of Philosophy by Alain de Botton. Each chapter was on a different philosopher and it was biographical, historical, philosophical, and then the practical applications of his philosophy. I thought it was a self-help book. People should read this instead of self-help books.
Kenny: I agree with you, man.
Keith: Yeah, I totally agree. That's sort of how Bertrand sets up History of Western Philosophy. He'll go through a particular philosopher but then provide the historical context and then talk about how they applied their philosophies to life. It has helped me better understand humanity and the universe. Yeah, they do sort of serve as self-help.
GM: Is it common that identical twins have all the same interests? Do you have differences where one of you likes one thing and the other doesn't? You both love philosophy, you both studied law, you both love weed, you both love standup, you both hate Nixon.
Keith: Keith speaking. We have a lot of similarities. Most of our interests are aligned. We have some slight differences, I guess.
Kenny: Kenny speaking. I don't know where we diverge. I think you tend to be more nihilistic than me.
Keith: I'm a bit more pessimistic than my brother, yeah. Keith is more pessimistic than Kenny. Kenny's a little bit more optimistic, for sure.
GM: Is that common with identical twins that you know of, that you share a lot of the same interests?
Kenny: Kenny speaking. Our relationship is very weird. It's weird even a twin sense.
Keith: But I do think that twins tend to share a lot of stuff.
Kenny: Yeah, but very few twins go on the road together and have an act.
Keith: Absolutely. Yeah, it's definitely abnormal. I think for the most part twins do find healthy boundaries but we haven't. We haven't figured it out yet.
GM: And as a comedy team, there's no one straight man. You speak as one, but with different voices.
Kenny: Kenny speaking. I read a lot of the stuff they put on us, and I'm obsessive, and one of the things I've been trying to figure out is are we a traditional duo? I think that we might be, only it's not really perceptible to the layperson. I think Keith is more of the funny guy and I'm more of the straight guy because I tend to set up jokes and Keith tends to punch them. Sometimes the task of setting up falls on Keith but for the most part, it's fallen in that sort of rigidity. So I think we're a traditional two-man, but people can disagree and say that we're not.
GM: I guess in the more traditional two-man team, it was more obvious. It would be like somebody asking a question, or somebody being the dominant force, and then the funny one getting all the laughs.
Kenny: Yeah. But the funny thing is the straight man would get laughs.
Keith: To be an effective straight man, you have to get laughs.
Kenny: It might be the most important part. The straight man has to set everything up. The clarity in the premise is the most important part to understand than the punchline.
GM: Maybe it's that one isn't the foil of the other with you guys.
Keith: Yeah, we're way more agreeable. With the traditional two-man, there was certainly some contrast.
Kenny: A stark contrast.
Keith: A stark contrast.
Kenny: In personalities and temperament.
GM: Kenny, you said you've been studying historical two-man comedy teams?
GM: And who are your favourites?
Kenny: Oh, man, there are so many good ones. I would say Martin & Lewis, Abbott & Costello, the Smothers Brothers, Laurel & Hardy.
Keith: Cheech & Chong.
Kenny: Redd Foxx and Lamont. I like to take some sitcom duos and call them two-man acts. Lucy and Ricky.
GM: George Burns and Gracie Allen.
Keith: Oh yeah.
GM: Do you know where Cheech & Chong started?
Keith: Yeah, they started in Vancouver, right?
GM: So that's something else you know about Vancouver.
Keith: Yeah, I forgot about that.
Kenny: Was it a festival or did they meet at... Where did they meet?
GM: They both lived here. Chong is Canadian and Cheech was an American living up here. Chong was in bands. He was in a Motown band. Then he started this topless improv troupe in Vancouver with strippers. And Cheech was working for a magazine in town, I think. They met up. They didn't really perform here. They got together. They both had stars in their eyes and moved to LA quickly. But they met here.
Keith: We met Chong last year for the first time. He's a fucking wicked dude. He's cool.
Kenny: It was in Colorado. It was fucking dope.
Keith: It was a lot of fun.
Kenny: We were all stoned, man.
GM: Yeah, I bet.
Kenny: It was the highest I've ever been.
GM: That's a good guy to get stoned with.
GM: Alright guys. It's been great talking with you.
Keith: This was an amazing interview. This is Keith speaking, by the way. You asked really, really great questions. Thank you so much; I really appreciate it.