Paul Scheer is creepily hovering over Rob Huebel onstage at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in Hollywood. “What's your first question?” Scheer asks an awkward-looking Huebel. “Fuck you!” Scheer barks, just as Huebel is about to speak. “This is my theater. I ask the questions!”
The room erupts with laughter at this impromptu reenactment of my interview with the two funny men, with Scheer playing himself and Huebel portraying yours truly. It was an opening bit for Crash Test, a show created by comic Aziz Ansari at the original Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in New York and transplanted to the UCBT's L.A. branch by Scheer and Huebel. The show is a comedic amalgam of guest stand-ups, sketches, videos and anything they happen to come up with onstage. The duo, along with Ansari, are regular staples in the comedy world and co-created the cult hit MTV sketch series Human Giant, which ran for two seasons. Both Huebel and Scheer thrive on experimental event-type shows.
“Rob and I hosted an election-night special for the '04 election back in New York. We thought it was gonna be great and were sure Bush was not going to get a second term,” says Scheer. “The show got progressively more depressing as the night went on. And then we met up with Aziz, who was doing a show called Crash Test, which was this show right here.”
“Crash Test is just an excuse to try out new stuff,” Huebel says. “We always feel good about it, but sometimes we're just trying stuff out for the very first time.”
“The cool thing about the show is that the audience that keeps on coming back become a part of it,” Scheer adds. “We actually know more than a quarter of the audience and have this interesting relationship with them.”
Both are comedians of the millennial generation, adept at using Twitter and Facebook for their own hilarious gain. They recently produced A Night of 140 Tweets, a benefit to help build schools for children displaced by the earthquake in Haiti. It was the first show of its kind to feature tweets by an army of 140-plus celebrities, with enough star power to rival the Oscars. The show follows the pair's M.O. of comedy experimentation and pushing boundaries.
“We didn't know what it was going to look like,” Huebel says. “A lot of people could have not shown up. The restaurant could've kicked us out. The valet could've gotten fucked up.”
The UCB Theatre shut down Birds, the restaurant/bar next door, to accommodate the overflow of celebrity tweeters.
“There were a lot of Hail Marys by the end,” Scheer points out. “Will Ferrell decided that day he wanted to do it. Demi Moore was the week of.”
Their other popular show, Facebook, an improvised hour of comedy based on the audience's Facebook profiles, sells out regularly.
Despite the hilarious and highly inaccurate reenactment of our interview, both exude a genuinely friendly vibe backstage before Crash Test. They often finish each other's sentences, revealing strong chemistry and sarcasm that can only exist between people who have been performing together for a long time — in their case, since the late '90s.
“We sort of came up together in New York, really getting our legs onstage,” says Huebel. “We performed at UCB for years in New York. Our writing style, or at least our sensibilities, are similar, but we do different things better. Paul plays really dumb pretty well, because he is so dumb.”
“Rob is also racist and homophobic,” Scheer adds.
“But hilarious,” Huebel replies with a gleeful grin.