2005_04_ticandtac.gifOn any sunny afternoon in Washington Square Park, you'll find a large crowd of awed passersby encircling the recessed fountain that serves as a stage for the highflying antics of Tic and Tac, a break-dancing, acrobatic, comedy duo. When interviewed, as in their act, they really do speak as one entity--not just finishing one another's sentences, but actually speaking and laughing in stereo.

The Basics:
Who are you, how old are you, what do you do, where are you from?
Tic, Tyheem Barnes. Tac, Kareem. We're 29, we're twins. We're the Tic & Tac All-Stars. We come from the Bronx, River Park Towers. Now we're in Grand Concourse.

A few for you:
How'd you get started doing this? Where'd you learn?
We've been doing this since we were six. We've done everything together. We're pioneers of break dance. We started with some break-dance groups, like Breeze Team, and then we had our own, Ill Poco. We've always been Tic and Tac, and for over 15 years we've been the Tic & Tac All-Stars.

Is the fountain the best stage?
Washington Square Park is the entertainment capitol of the world.

Where else do you do you perform?
We travel all over the world, but Washington Square Park gives us eight months to be home with our family. Cincinnati was off the hook. St. Louis, L.A. was tight. Dallas wasn't that bad either, we went to a country bar. We toured with the We toured as third-quarter showmen for the Harlem Globetrotters, Off Broadway plays, NBA halftime. People see us all over the place. We were touring with Alicia Keyes for a little while. Her management right now is in the process of working on a movie with us.

Where do you find inspiration for your act?
Our material comes from real life stuff, our jokes, our punch lines, our standup. You'll hear me say, Ladies I'm single—well I'll be honest I'm not really single, but I've got one foot out the door. Relationships are funny.

What do you guys do when you're not entertaining?
Actually this is our love and heart, it's our culture. This is what we do 24/7. I've never worked a 9-to-5 in my life.

How much do you practice?
We practice every day. Any time we get in front of an audience, we're doing new material. It's always changing. We have a set, but we're standup comedians as well. Inside of a small stage, we can do this. We wanted to be the best entertainers more than just the best break-dancers. All-around entertainers, like that Sammy Davis Jr. kind of thing.

Who would you want to work with if you could?
Almost everybody we'd want to is dead. Maybe Stevie Wonder. It would've been nice to do something with Sammy Davis. Us and the Nicholas Brothers would've been retarded.

Who are your favorite entertainers, break-dancing or otherwise?
The Nicholas Brothers, Sammy Davis Jr., Savion Glover. For breakin', there's Crazy Legs, Turbo, Low Committee, Breeze Team.

What advice would you give somebody who wants to start break-dancing?
Hard work. Stay dedicated. Don't let anyone tell you you can't do it. You're going to hear 'no' more than 'yes.' For some reason, it's easier to down someone than to try and lift them up. There are jobs we didn't get because they told us we were too talented. We were in this Off Broadway show called Forever Swing. The cast, the rehearsals, everybody loves us, until the reviews started dropping. We actually got a review on that: "Tic & Tac is as original as the show is routine." The show was actually cool, it's just the energy we bring to the stage … The New York Post endorsed us last year as "The Best Buskers in New York City."

Is the busking harder than the act?
It's street theater. People don't know how difficult it really is to stop people from doing whatever they're doing and just look at you. Especially New Yorkers. New Yorkers are prone to, even if you go to a comedy club, they're in there demanding "Make me laugh." What kind of attitude is that? In street theater, sometimes we get up there and we haven't even done anything yet and you still have people looking at you like, "You better do something good." It's fun to be able to win them over.

Can you teach me some moves?
[Lots of laughs.]

Outside of Washington Square, where's your favorite place to go in the city?
Times Square is always fun. Actually, we hang out here as well. There's no place like this area, Greenwich Village. It's the true melting pot. The best multicultural place you can go in New York or anywhere else, period.

Ever see anybody famous in your audience?
We see Dave Chappelle all the time. Dave started out here. He met his wife out here. He went and bought himself some skates and was busting hiss out here for here. He was like, "I'm out here busting my ass, you better at least give me your number."

What law would you pass to improve New York?
Leave the public parks alone. Leave the street entertainers alone. What they're trying to do now is change New York into a commonwealth. It's becoming impossible to live here. This whole Village area is changing.

You've been in this neighborhood for years; how have you seen it change?
It's crazy. They're running out all the small business owners. It's ridiculous when the church can't even afford to rent space. And Fry Records, Sam Goody's gone, Bizarre – these things that have so much history, gone.

They want to close the park for two to then years for reconstruction. It took them ten years to finish the arch! They want to turn most of the parks into private parks, put fences around them.

What would you do if they closed the park?
Move to L.A. I'm almost on that route right now. And I love New York too, it's just becoming impossible. Harlem already is overpriced. They changed rent control and stuff like that. They're not making it for working-class, middle-class people.

But they got 20 million to mess up the park. They want to make Washington Square Park into a garden park, because the Village has too much voice. It's too multicultural for them. They want to make it a garden with five-foot fences and lock it up. It's not in Phase Two yet, it's still in Phase One. Two committees already passed it. And that's almost illegal—you can't change a public park. And the community boards who want to change it don't even use this park.

Any advice for Mayor Bloomberg?
Our votes count. I was for the Jets thing because it brings in money and it's not messing up anyone's community. If it was, I don't know if I could totally support that. You have to respect history, landmarks.

The community of Greenwich Village always kept a short leash on the politicians, but now NYU wants to the circle moved so that all the students can be on one side for graduation. But the students don't care, and the students don't want the park closed for umpteen years. Lord knows there'd be three different mayors before it's done. All the construction, the debris—who wants to be around that?

Best place to eat or drink?
I like 40 Miles on 125th and Broadway. They make good drinks, Chinese food, seafood, everything.

What's the craziest thing you've on the streets of New York?
The Naked Cowboy in Times Square. I can't believe they let anybody walk around with tight briefs and "Naked" on their back.

Where are Tic and Tac ten years from now?
Doing film, being actors. We're already comedians. I see us doing more comedy and more acting. And if we lose the love for dancing… We really felt that we could take dancing over. Actually, for some reason dance is the black sheep of hip-hop. Breaking into dance actually opened up the doors for rap, DJing, and so on. And now they don't care to pay the dancers what they should.

If the world were ending tomorrow, how would you spend your last 24 hours?
Workin' Washington Square Park. I would hope it was a Saturday, we'd do our three or four shows. Washington Square Park made us the people who we are.