NYU Alumni Mock Entertainment Industry in “555”


Courtesy of Kiran Kunar

Tisch alumni John Early and Kate Berlant perform in their new project “555.”

Natalie Whalen, Entertainment Editor

The chemistry between Tisch alumni John Early and Kate Berlant is unmistakable. The pair are frequent collaborators, and their newest project, the Vimeo Original series “555,” pushes the boundaries of absurdist humor showcasing Early and Berlant’s talents both as individual performers and a comedy duo. Watch out for these talents in the coming months, as they are definitely forces to be
reckoned with.

Both Early and Berlant’s names may not be entirely unfamiliar — over the past couple years, the actors have slowly established themselves within the entertainment industry. Early, who earned his undergraduate degree at NYU’s Atlantic Acting Studio, had a starring role in TBS’ “Search Party,” a secondary role in Netflix’s series “The Characters” and was featured in the 2016 Sundance Festival favorite “Other People.” Berlant completed her MFA on women in comedy and has appeared in Comedy Central’s “The Meltdown with Jonah and Kumail” as well as in “The Characters.”

“555” does not beat around the bush. From its first episode, the series establishes Early and Berlant as comedians who are unafraid to show what they think is funny — and this fearlessness works. Each of the five episodes, all approximately 12 minutes long, feature the actors in various situations and relationships with another. In the first episode, Early is a star on the rise who has stolen paraplegic Berlant’s failed pop song. In another episode, Berlant is the over-the-top mother to the illiterate child actor Early.

All of the episodes seem to poke fun at the entertainment industry — or those desperately trying to make it. Given Early and Berlant’s recent success, but not yet superstardom, it makes sense that the two would make this series at this time. They’re past the early period of desperation for exposure, but are not too far removed from the world of talented (or not-as-talented) individuals just trying to make it.

At the same time, the series seems like the type of show that might catch the eye of a producer at SNL, signaling that Early and Berlant may not be so far removed from the hustle. But it is this self-reflective and layered humor that makes the show so great, and it is clear that both John and Kate are aware that they are, more than anything, making fun
of themselves.

In conjunction with the series’ premiere, Early and Berlant will perform a stand-up tour, along with a mini-residency at Joe’s Pub in New York City, where they will also screen episodes of the show.

“555” premieres on Vimeo on Jan. 31.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Jan. 30 print edition.Email Natalie Whalen at [email protected]