When Will and Kevin Hines perform together as the Brothers Hines, they aren't just attempting to capitalize on the success of sibling comedy teams through the ages (or, as it were, the success of dancing brothers Gregory and Maurice Hines). They're actually blood relatives, which I asked them to confirm, much to their befuddlement.
"Why would you think otherwise?" Will inquires during a recent three-way call.
But Kevin admits they get asked all the time. "I don't know how to prove [we're brothers] besides that we talk really similar and have similar mannerisms," he says.
Maybe it just seems improbable that siblings could get along well enough to perform sets of long-form improv together—it's a lot of "yes, and"-ing for two people who spent their entire childhoods sharing a bathroom. But they say a shared history actually benefits their onstage chemistry.
"Growing up we watched the same shows and movies," Kevin says. "If something makes one of us laugh, it's going to make both of us laugh."
"Our family is not contentious," Will says. "If anything, I'd say our family is emotionally shut down and wouldn't communicate a lot about things. I think Kevin and I both responded well to the part of improv that's listening and making your partner look good. We prioritize getting along."
Bred in Danbury, Connecticut, the Hineses got their start at Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in New York, first Will—who's five years older—then Kevin less than a year later, after he saw one of Will's performances. (Kevin still performs and teaches at UCB in NYC; about a year ago Will moved to LA to work out of the UCB theater there, and to pursue work in TV and movies.) It was a few years before the brothers Hines considered performing as a duo. Now that they live in different cities, on different coasts, doing shows together is a good excuse to hang out.
Under the Gun Theater artistic director Kevin Mullaney, who taught both brothers when he was an instructor at UCB, invited the comedians to Chicago for their first performances in the city—independently or as a team. The Hineses are eager to finally play in the cradle of modern improv.
"Chicago is sort of the respected father of it," Will says. "In New York they have equal amounts of respect and resentment."
"It's friendly competition," Kevin adds. "I want New York to [have] the best improv comedy because that's where I am. When people come from Chicago they're great, and we're happy we stole them away."