Justin Michael and Jacob Reed might have relied on a mysterious online word generator to name their sketch comedy troupe, Tremendosaur, but all other forms of their creative output are distinctly their own. The comedic duo teamed up in 2007 and has yet to put the brakes on their mission to create all things funny. Along the way, they’ve left their mark at Los Angeles’ Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, on FunnyOrDie.com, and on Comedy Central. In the world of comedy, standing apart from the rest often means sharing a common point with the best – an innate sense of humility that lets the jokes communicate louder than the person telling them. Justin and Jacob neither express nor have any need for excessive self-praise – the world is soon going to be clapping (and laughing) for them.
I think a lot of people know you guys as a unit. What’s your back story? How did you meet?
Jacob: At USC. We were on an improv group called Second Nature. I started the year before – I’m a year older, I’m twenty-five. God, that makes me feel so old. I’m halfway to thirty.
Justin: You’re a quarter of a century.
Jacob: Oh, shut up. That’s terrible.
Justin: You’re going to be dead tomorrow.
Jacob: I hope not. Anyway, Justin and I were kind of ridiculously serious about sketch writing.
Justin: We were already writing a bunch of stuff sort of together – we’d be constantly checking in with each other about how the other person felt.
Jacob: I think we just got hungry to get stuff out there. So then we started Tremendosaur.
Justin: Our first video was this one called The Number 24.
Jacob: That sketch blew up on the internet, but someone uploaded it to Break.com and cut off Tremendosaur at the end, and cropped it so you couldn’t see our watermark. I think this video got two and half million views on Break before they took it down, and no one knew it was us. First opportunity at internet stardom…a swing and a miss.
How’d you guys get the name, “Tremendosaur?”
Justin: Well, it wasn’t originally Tremendosaur. One night I woke up, had an idea, and for some reason thought it was brilliant. It was… “kitten penis.” It was about a guy who has a kitten for a penis. I wrote it down, and the next morning…
Jacob: … he shows me the paper and all you can really read is scribble-scribble-scribble-scribble KITTEN PENIS. Scribble-scribble-scribble-scribble KITTEN PENIS. Scribble-scribble KITTEN, scribble-scribble PENIS.
Justin: So then when we were like, “what could our name be?” –
Jacob: It was perfect! But… a couple months later, we kind of assumed that people might hear Kitten Penis and not take us seriously… so we decided to pick a REAL serious name: Tremendosaur. We found this online word generator and typed in a bunch of things we liked and it just spit out all these words… and one of those words was Tremendosaur.
If Tremendosaur had a motto or a mission statement, what would it be?
Justin: Easy. Our goal really is to continue to do what we love – which is making comedy –
Jacob: Do it with friends of ours that are super-talented and funny –
Justin: The end goal is, I guess, to get paid for what we’re creatively passionate about.
Jacob: Recently our motto has been kind of inspired by that last Conan monologue…
Both: Work hard, be kind.
You guys have a lot of projects going on aside from Tremendosaur.
Jacob: We both do a lot of improv. I’m on a Harold Team at UCB [Bangarang! performs Monday Nights].
Justin: We do Fiasco! together – which is a group of Second Nature alums.
What’s the LA comedy community like? Is it small?
Jacob: It feels like college for comedians. At UCB, there are generations of people – the same way there are at college. You can see the next group above you breaking out, becoming successful, and the people who are above them are now famous or well-known. UCB is the place we would most consider our home.
Justin: Definitely our favorite place to perform.
Jacob: Everyone is very supportive. You see people backstage who are on TV or are really talented comedians but at the theatre, everyone’s on the same team.
Comedy is terrifying because there’s this silent expectation that people are coming to laugh. So what happens on the nights that the crowd isn’t laughing? What do you do?
Justin: It depends –
Jacob: I don’t want to say that then it gets FUN, but –
Justin: Sometimes it gets fun. It almost takes a weight off your shoulders –
Jacob: Yeah, like, if the audience isn’t into us, then, whatever.
Justin: We don’t have that to lose anymore.
Justin: I feel like that’s our philosophy for anything that we’re doing. If something doesn’t work out, it’s like, “All right, well, we’ve learned that.”
I heard you wrote for something on Comedy Central.
Justin: We wrote for a pilot for a show called This Will Get You High.
Jacob: It just recently aired as a special.
Justin: Yeah, the pilot didn’t get picked up.
Jacob: We’re doing a deal right now with Atom.com (Comedy Central’s web division) for ten videos.
What are your other upcoming projects?
Justin: Right now we’re working on a project for -
Jacob: I’m not sure if we’re supposed to say anything about it. It’s a web series for a stand-up comedian. A big name. Someone who tours a lot.
Justin: We’re working a lot with Funny or Die. And we’re directing a music video for Paul Rust. He’s incredibly funny.
Jacob: And then there’s all of our own stuff that we’re writing – our own web series or TV series ideas.
Any favorite comedians you could mention?
Justin: As far as influences go, The Muppet Show.
Jacob: Yeah, the Muppets, early Conan…
Justin: Any Conan, really. Bill Murray. Ghostbusters.
Jacob: Seinfeld, Larry David.
Justin: Curb. Right now I’m a big fan of Louie and Delocated.
What’s the most difficult part about what you do?
Justin: This sounds really cheesy, but… believing in yourself? [laughs]
Jacob: No, that’s true.
Justin: Things aren’t always going to happen immediately. I think that’s what’s great about us; we kind of keep the other person going…
Jacob: Oh yeah. Two-thirds of the way through anything we’re like, “This is awful. This is terrible. We should never be comedians.”
Justin: When you sit in front of a computer after writing a script, shooting it, and editing it for hours… it’s like, “Is this funny?”
Jacob: Also, take this with a grain of salt, because I definitely don’t want to say that we’ve “found” our voices yet, but… so many people are really, really funny, but the final product of what they do doesn’t show that. I think one of the hardest things for me over the years was getting what’s in my brain – and in our brains – to show in the final product.
Justin: I think being able to organically communicate what we’re excited about is the goal – at least – for every video or piece of comedy we do.
What isn’t funny?
Justin: Jokes that are easy. There’s a difference between easy and simple.
Jacob: Something that’s not funny to me is something that isn’t earned.
Justin: Especially if it’s controversial or offensive. I think anything can be funny if you’re smart about it, if you earn it.
All right. You know what’s coming. What can Daily BR!NK readers do to contribute to your success?
Justin: Well, we have a website… Tremendosaur.com…
Justin: … while narrating about himself.
Jacob: I think getting more eyes on our stuff would help. We’ve had a really hard time selling ourselves.
Justin: We’re not great with publicity. How many times can we tweet, “check out this video!” You know?
Jacob: A producer would help. Anyone related to making videos – editors, production designers. If anyone needs writers for anything. Just watch our stuff, spread the word.
Any last thoughts before I turn off the microphone?
Jacob: No, porridge.
Justin: Go see live comedy.