It’s been a decade since Kate Berlant and John Early first started making beautiful, odd humor together. They’re bringing their most ambitious drawing effort ever to Peacock on June 24. Would It Kill You to Laugh? allows the duo an hour to mine for awkward laughs while exploring some extremely bizarre premises.
Meredith Vieira hosts an uncomfortable primetime interview special in which the two former sitcom stars reunite after 30 years of not speaking. However, it turns out that the inspiration for the joke came from an actual episode of Three’s Company.
Before the premiere of Would, It Kills You to Laugh? The Hollywood Reporter met up with Berlant and Early for an interview. to discuss their long-standing friendship, their approach to comedy, and why being a beaver is always funnier when you don’t mention it.
I’m wondering how the two of you met and how your friendship and partnership came to be.
Kate Berlant: That’s right. We first met in New York City, of course.
John Early: As of May 5, 2012
Berlant: Basically. Just a few weeks ago, we celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary. During the production of a friend’s short film, we struck up a conversation and became friends. But we’d been circling one other for a while.
In the beginning: Yeah, we had both seen each other’s YouTube videos early on. In addition, these mutual friends had long hoped for us to meet. In addition, I believe it was widely acknowledged that our aesthetic tastes converged. However, I’d been hearing about Kate for what seemed like an eternity. Then we both did stand-up on the same program, and I was absolutely floored to watch someone my age perform at the level of one of my heroes. I was speechless.
Then, a few days later, we shot the short film, which solidified everything. Strong comedic chemistry was evident in the brief. The two struck up an instant connection and became fast friends. I went over to her apartment the next night and we didn’t really separate for like two years before Kate moved to L.A., which was difficult for both of us to deal with. But a few years later, I relocated to Los Angeles, where I’ve been since.
As far as humor goes, were there any discussions about your own ideology or who you want to be like?
Berlant: It was truly just a spontaneous development. We were never told what we should do or how we should act. We just finished it.
As far as our interests go, there was a lot of overlap between us. Our favorite Stella cast members were Michael Ian Black, Michael Showalter, and David Wain, and our favorite Variety Shac cast members were Shanoli Bhowmik, Heather Lawless, Andrea Rosen, and Chelsea Peretti. It was inspiring to see these two comedic teams make their own short films, which were wildly unhinged and freewheeling, while also exploring genres we enjoy.
However, when it came to actually create our own work, it was almost immediate. This video of Suzanne Somers and Joyce DeWitt meeting for the first time in 30 years was one of the first things we viewed together. So I believe that we would have found our way there naturally, because Kate and I admire people who say one thing, only to reveal an undercurrent of hatred. Because of this, we started down a specific comic route after watching that YouTube video.
Let’s use it to get to the special, shall we? For the sake of clarity, let’s just say that you and your co-stars were on a popular sitcom and haven’t communicated in years. Then there’s the big reunion, which is taking place right now. Describe how you came up with He’s Gay, She’s Half-Jewish as the sitcom’s title.
A stage in our writing process where I’m constantly asking Kate, “What should we call our sitcom?” is referred to as “early.” He’s a homosexual, and she’s Jewish.
There’s a novel called Clancy’s Reward, which we reference in the special. When John asked, “What’s the name of the book?” It’s just a random notion at the moment, to be honest. As soon as Clancy’s Reward appears, there are like 14 props.
How did you persuade Meredith Vieira to do this?
Berlant: I don’t know. We had a good run of luck. We made our way over to her, expecting her to arrive at any point. Then, to our astonishment, she said yes! For the joke to work, she has to be a big part of it.
When we first met her, she told us that her children are admirers as well.
Early on: Moreover, they insisted that she do it. As a result, we were quite thankful to her children.
Some of the sketches are so bizarre it makes me laugh. Paying your restaurant bill with hot caramel is like a sequence of sketches. Its origins of it are unknown.
Since this was an opportunity to properly present ourselves to a wider audience, we went back into the vault and found some of our favorites. We reminisced about some of our earlier pranks. When we were first getting to know one other in Brooklyn and went out to eat, the idea of paying with hot caramel made us laugh so hard. As a result, we resurrected the idea of a “theater of paying,” which is one of our favorite comedy tropes, in order to explore some of our favorite humorous interactions. Additionally, dining out offers its own unique brand of spectacle.
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