BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — "Are you brothers? Or twins?" a reporter asked comedians Keith and Kenny Lucas."Both, I think," replied Keith (or was it Kenny?) in a way that made everyone laugh.The Lucas twins were gathered with five fellow funny people at the summer TV critics' tour to talk about their new sketch-comedy series, "Friends of the People."Among other ways, the show is distinguished by the network it will air on, truTV, where it premieres Oct. 28 for a 10-episode season.TruTV is broadening its focus in a new upbeat direction, adding not just comedy but, among a slate of upcoming projects, a wacky competition series, "Fake Off," which pits teams against each other to re-enact famous moments in pop culture. Yet another series, "Branson Famous," goes behind the scenes of a long-running variety show in Branson, Missouri, for what the network bills as TV's first-ever reality musical.Other shows include "Kart Life," which takes viewers into the world of kart racing, and "The Shake Up," a competition series that pits bar owners against each other to learn who can mix it up best.The seven-strong "Friends of the People" troupe is reminiscent of the racially diverse cast of Fox's "In Living Color" sketch show of two decades ago. The young comedic "Friends" include five black men, a white man and a white woman, who came to the series as a fully formed unit: They had known and performed with one another for years."We were all at the Montreal Comedy Festival, and we were bored," Jermaine Fowler said. "We thought, 'Wouldn't it be great to put together a show?'""We were all good friends and respected each other," Kevin Barnett said."We were together a lot, so why not get paid to do it?" cracked Keith Lucas.Chris Linn, truTV president, acknowledged that his network might not have been the obvious choice for this series to call home."But we want truTV to be a creator-driven network," he said. "We told them, 'We're gonna give you some general parameters. Then run with it.'"Jennifer Bartels agreed with the rest of the cast that truTV has given the show creative freedom. And as the lone woman in the group, she said she felt like just one of the guys (who also include Lil Rel Howery and Josh Rabinowitz), as both a performer and a writer."A writers room can be a competitive place, not like a warm hug at all," she noted. "But ours is a supportive room."And their common goal, all agreed, is to mine laughs, with no particular focus on racial issues.Showrunner Neil Punsalan pointed to "In Living Color" as a show he loved watching 20 years ago."It didn't feel like a show about race. It was just funny," he said. "And I think that's what we're trying to do."
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