- The Washington Times - Monday, August 21, 2000

In the 1960s futuristic cartoon "The Jetsons," George Jetson loved watching robots battle it out on a football field, though his mechanical maid, Rosie, might have found it offensive.

After all, robot fighting which started out with a cult following in the San Francisco area in the 1990s is "the cockfighting of the 21st century," comic Randy Sklar quips.

And, let's face it, "People like watching stuff flying around. They really do. It's that simple," says Randy Sklar's twin brother and comedy partner, Jason Sklar.

The brothers are there, as roving reporters, for Comedy Central's first foray into sports programming when "Battlebots" debuts at 10:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

"Battlebots" is a half-serious sports show that half lampoons our national obsession with competition, the Sklars say. In each episode, two homemade robots, operated by remote control, duke it out in a "Thunderdome"-like arena, avoiding traps set up to destroy the 'bots themselves. After each match, the eccentric robot creators will be profiled in segments reminiscent of feature stories done on "The Daily Show."

To demonstrate how serious the show isn't, Comedy Central has lined up Bill Nye as the show's commentator as well as "Baywatch" babe Donna D'Errico and the Sklars to interview the creators.

As play-by-play announcer Sean Salisbury puts it, tongue firmly planted in cheek: "When sparks fly, robots die."

"Comedy Central wanted to lampoon sports in general by doing this show," says Jason Sklar during a telephone interview. "These people, these competitors, take this very, very seriously … so [Comedy Central] wants us to make fun of the post-game interview.

"They want to make fun of the fact we take all this so seriously in the realm of this sport, which can be … absurd sometimes. I mean, it's two robots in a ring, one with a saw and the other with a pickax, trying to beat the [stuff] out of each other.

"And then, you have this guy who has to explain how he can go on from here after his robot loses its pickax arm."

"Battlebots" has its own niche as it walks a fine line between serious competition and sly satire. The audience that likes watching professional wrestling for laughs will understand the humor behind the antics of "Battlebots."

"It's smarter than [MTV's] 'Celebrity Deathmatch,' and it's different than WWF. It's more real," Jason Sklar says. "Without hyperbole, I can honestly say that there will be no greater drama in all of sports than this show … but that's just my opinion."

To make the matches fair, the robots are paired in weight class. You won't see C3PO facing R2D2. The game is played in single-elimination rounds, and three judges determine the winner of close matches.

Its participants "aren't rich people. They put all their money into this," Jason Sklar says. Some of the robots cost up to $10,000 to make and are ripped apart in seconds. A pit crew will be on hand to help put the robot together, if possible, to finish a round.

Their creators range from a rocket scientist from California to a mechanic from Illinois who drove to San Francisco for the competition.

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