Tuttle twins are duking it out on comedic stage now

Jesse Tuttle has on an open black sports jacket with an unknotted tie, worn like a scarf, threaded through his collar. His head is completely shaven, and his strong jaw line and small eyes project confidence and goofy disdain. He wears glasses.

Justin Tuttle has on a t-shirt and sweatpants. He is feeling sick, so his normally fast-paced voice is congested and low. His head is completely shaven, and his strong jaw line and small eyes project confidence and goofy disdain. He doesn’t wear glasses.

Justin and Jesse Tuttle are identical twins, a reality they both hate and openly exploit in the name of comedy. Every Wednesday at 9 p.m. they take to the stage at Memphis on Main and host a popular open-mike show for aspiring comedians, as well as a Saturday showcase every month for more established performers.

Justin and Jesse only started performing their brand of comedy two years ago, when Justin convinced his brother that his comedic talents would be put to better use in front of an audience, instead of remaining unread in long form, satirical articles. So they went to a local open-mike in Peoria.

“It took me two weeks to convince him to do it. And after, we were like ‘well, that was easy, let’s just keep talking,’” said Justin. “We’re naturally good at being loud and obnoxious.”

Jesse and Justin Tuttle’s stand up is a complex, back-and-forth dance of obscenity, personal attacks, and never-ending arguments.

“As kids we would record ourselves doing our own radio show,” Jesse said. “We never thought we were being funny or anything, but you go back and listen to the tape and there was obviously something there, that we at least liked talking.”

In addition to talking, the young Tuttle twins also fought. Constantly.

“It’s like being married but you can hit each other legally,” Jesse said. “Even when we write stuff we constantly argue. When we see each other it’s usually ten minutes of calmness and then it’s non-stop screaming.”

However, Jesse and Justin’s comedic talents lay dormant for ten years while they pursued a career in professional wrestling. From the ages of 17 to 27, the two, clad in nothing but tights, shoes and grimaces, wrestled as the Phoenix Twins all over the country. While they never made it to the highest leagues, they both said that the experience allowed them to grow a comfort level for being on stage.

“I think (wrestling and stand-up comedy) are both very perverse in their own way; there’s a carnival aspect to both of them,” Justin said. “There’s that weird sense of ‘hey, come watch me do this.’”

The two gave up their wrestling career, and the corresponding dangers of the ring, in March.

“Wrestling was too painful physically, whereas comedy is just painful mentally and emotionally,” said Jesse, who collected numerous stitches and staples during his wrestling career.

The dangers the Tuttle brothers now face aren’t flying side kicks or metal chairs to the head, but the embarrassment of bombing on stage. However, just as repeated blows can toughen the body, repeated shame can also toughen (or numb) the spirit.

“I think going in we know we’re going to bomb 40 percent of the time, and it doesn’t hurt anymore,” Jesse said. “I’d rather do this than wrestling, because with (comedy) I can actually stand up in the morning. With this you just cry yourself to sleep at night.”

In dealing with the pressure of living up to the expectations of their audience, Justin said that they had to let go of inhibitions as well as their fear of rejection.

“Once you lose all pride it doesn’t hurt anymore. You can do a four minute bit about jerking off in front of people, you no longer have pride,” he said — to which Jesse quickly added, “Yeah, in front of your mother no less, which we have done.”

The Tuttle brothers took over the running of the open-mike shows last year, and in a short time they saw the popularity of the show increase.

Jack Adams is a regular performer at the Wednesday night open-mikes, and he credits the Tuttle brothers with building the comedy scene around Champaign County — even attracting performers from Peoria and Bloomington.

“Without these two guys, in this area, there would be no comedy, none at all,” said Adams.

The Tuttle brothers hope to headline larger venues, and perhaps gain the ability to join the ranks of commercially successful comedians like Patton Oswalt and Louis CK. But such hopes are distant for Jesse and Justin, and right now their desires are simple, pragmatic and blunt.

“Come see us, come pay money to see,” said Jesse.

At least the Tuttle twins can agree on that.