Brothers are naturally competitive. Comics and brothers Jon and Michael McBrine seem to defy the natural competitive nature that defines so many sibling relationships. They've both been selected as solo acts to compete in this year's Funniest Comic in Texas competition and neither of them care about which one wins or if either of them
"We're both going on and we both want to win but I'm just glad we're competing and not sitting on the sidelines watching other comics do their stuff," says Jon, a Waco native who lives in Carrollton. "It's easy to just say, 'Nah, I'm not going up.'"
The McBrine brothers' bond seems to come mostly from their shared love of comedy. They joined forces in 2007 as a parody pair of motivational speakers called The Helpers, who presented a seminar called "Pathway 2 Power" in clubs and bars around Waco,
Michael, the older of the two brothers, says that he discovered his love of comedy when they were 8 and 6 years old. Jon had been bullied by a couple of heartless middle schoolers on the way to school and Michael found a way to cheer him up.
"We walked back to the house and I just sort of sat there in a state of shock and I took all of our stuffed animals, and we really loved The Muppet Show and the old Saturday Night Live," Michael says. "So I decided to put on my own variety show to make him laugh and after a few minutes, I'm doing scenes that I've improvised with these stuffed animal actors and I looked up and hear him laughing really hard and I realized that's what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I wanted to take people who were depressed and not feeling good and change them by making them laugh."
Jon says they continue to share bits and ideas with each other for their acts even though they aren't working as a duo. They also collaborate on story ideas for sketches and even whole movies.
The brothers were originally scheduled to perform in this year's Funniest Comic in Texas competition on the same night, but the contest's organizers decided to separate them. Michael will perform his set at 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 3, and Jon will perform at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 9, both at the Arlington Improv.
Michael says he's nervous to compete, but it will help him to focus on his performance. However, he said he was a little concerned when he found out he'd be competing against his brother in the same show.
"When I found out he was doing it, I thought, 'Cool, let's support each other,'" Michael says. "It turned to rage when I realized we were on the same night. Then when I found out each person gets three votes. I felt like a tool because that way, we could support each other."
Performing on different nights will prevent voters from accidentally lumping them in the same category simply because they are siblings. The two comics have different styles and ways of crafting comedy, even if they occasionally touch on the same themes once in awhile. Michael seems to like writing more and Jon prefers to test material on the stage.
"A lot of it comes from conversations with people," Jon says. "They'll say something like, 'Hey, that's funny' and I [write it down]."
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Jon says even though he would be ecstatic if he or his big brother won the competition, he's not too focused on the competitive nature of the show.
"Even though it's two different styles, I never consider it to be a competition," Jon says. "If anything, I should be competing with myself. ... We both want to win but the only thing we can both do is commit to our bits."
Michael says he also hopes both of them will at least be able to come out of the competition with the pride in knowing that they did a good show and maybe a couple of extra fans.
"I think our styles are different enough that people won’t blend us in their mind together," Michael says. "It's not like we're telling the same jokes either."