There’s something funny about John Early and Kate Berlant
In the opening scenes of John Early and Kate Berlant’s new comedy special, Would it kill you to laugh?, the pair are billed by Meredith Vieira — yes, the real Meredith Vieira — as “arguably the most iconic and influential comedic duo in entertainment history.” We see viewers around the world listening with excitement to the long-awaited reunion of these two titans of comedy, two decades after a bitter falling out – rumored to involve an incident of “artificial insemination” in some way – and the subsequent cancellation of their shot Show, He’s gay, she’s half Jewish. A deliciously bitter confrontation ensues, as the pair quickly shrug off all their niceties and plunge into passive-aggressive squabbles.
“It all stems from our love for actresses, and especially that performance of being humble and kind and grounded, which no actor can be, including ourselves,” Berlant explains.
Of course, anyone with even a passing acquaintance with Early and Berlant would be aware that such mutual contempt – first explored with delirious glee in a 2019 YouTube skit called “How Have You Been”, in which two former friends bump into each other at a home goods store – couldn’t be further from the truth. “I think we’ve been very public, maybe sickeningly, about the mythology of our friendship,” Early says. “We’re very romantic and religious about it, so I think there’s something funny about creating a counter-narrative where there’s been a bitter feud, and we smile at each other, but with this river of hostility below.”