A year ago, you probably didn't know the name John Early. Since then, he's established his place in a new generation of comedians ready to take over the world. He's appeared in Broad City, Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp, Other People, The Characters, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, and Difficult People.
His latest role is that of a narcissistic 20-something in TBS's highly-anticipated Search Party. Appearing alongside a cast of fellow fresh talents who perfectly complement each other's comedic skills, Early gives a hilarious, yet often emotional performance. The show's uncomfortably real themes of a mid-20s identity crisis are the perfect demonstration of his awkwardly honest sense of humor.
We recently caught up with Early about his best year ever.
Out: You have some of the funniest lines in Search Party. Was everyone able to keep it together during your scenes?
John Early: It was generally a very laughy shoot. But that was not primarily because of me. It was because of all of us, all of the crew. I have a lot of scenes with Meredith [Hagner] obviously and she is like such a rubber band. She's like '70s Goldie Hawn. She's insane, and it was very hard to keep a straight face with her. Also, John Reynolds is a true genius. His character is kind of subdued and a wet blanket on the show but in real life, he is one of the silliest physical comedians and improvisers in the world. So it was very hard to not laugh. There's a blooper reel that's gonna show it.
Between scenes, who would you say is least like their character?
I would definitely say Alia [Shawkat]. In the story, she's very lost. And Alia is actually a very impassioned, bright, and funny person. She totally knows what she wants and what she's doing, unlike her character.
Meredith Hagner, Brandon Micheal Hall, Alia Shawkat, John Reynolds, and John Early star in Search Party, premiering November 21 on TBS.
What was it like working with Jeffery Self?
It was great. I've known Jeffery for a really long time, and we're both funny people who don't consider ourselves the most prone to searing naturalism. Most of what we do on the show is very funny but there's a moment where we have a very tense heart to heart, and end up kissing. So that was very funny for us. But he's a dream. I also just know Jeffery as one of the greatest conversationalists. He's just so deeply in tune with pop culture, and he has such a hilarious outlook on all of that. I know him as a commentator mostly, and I was very impressed with his acting. I felt like he's a true actor.
You two play a very complicated couple. Have you ever had anything like that in your own life to pull from?
I've had complicated relationships, absolutely. But nothing that is that cynical. I think theirs is a pretty toxic codependent relationship in which my character is wildly taking advantage of Jeffery's character. So I would like to think that I'm not that abusive in real life. But I've definitely had some tough ones, certainly no good ones.
What's it like playing a character that's so unlikeable with such humor?
Well I don't think he's super unlikeable. I think a lot of people will say that and think that. He definitely does some clearly despicable things. I think a lot of his actions are indisputably despicable. But what I really like about him, and what I found to be kind of inspiring about playing him, is that he's not a purist. He has a great line when he says to his friends, "When are you going to learn that lying is a tool that helps you navigate the world?" I'm horribly misquoting Sarah-Violet [Bliss] and Charles' [Rogers] great writing but I just thought that line was so great. Life is unfair, and you've got to play dirty. There's no such thing as being pious and pure and truly good. I respect that he's kind of unashamed by his bad behavior even though I would never endorse a lot of it. A lot of people around him are searching for their truest selves and trying to do the right thing, and they come up short. It's impossible. While he's probably the worst of the four, he's also the most realistic of the four. So I really kind of admire him in a way. I grew up in a kind of sweet, Southern, smile-through-everything kind of world, and it's very liberating playing people who really don't care what other people think, and say the first thing that comes to their mind.
Your character has this huge lie that comes to light. What's the biggest lie you've ever told?
I don't have, like, a big lie. But there are just so many daily unnecessary lies. If I'm exhausted and overworked, and a friend wants to hang out. Rather than just being like, I'm straight up too tired, I bend over backwards like, "I went to get tested. I show up, it's closed. I get on the bus because I ran out of gas." I come up with the most convoluted stories. [Laughs] And I always get caught. They'll walk by and see me outside Panera with another friend, laughing over a bread bowl.
If you had a Dory in your life, would you be along for the ride or would you have to talk some sense into her?
I think I'd be along for the ride, especially after seeing the show. Some of my favorite parts were fully in the midst of the actual mystery. It seems so fun, and I hope that comes across to the audience. As someone who's led a pretty boring life in their 20s, I think I'd be along for the ride now.
Meredith Hagner, John Early, and Alia Shawkat star in Search Party, premiering November 21 on TBS.
You've had a pretty amazing year. What's been your favorite moment so far?
Hands down, doing The Characters for Netflix. The dream for me has always been to make my own stuff, and they handed me and seven other comedians that opportunity. The only concept was that they were going to give creative control to these different comedians. So it was a real thrill. I always wanted to do a special in that way, sketches flowing in and out of each other. It was a dream. It was a total dream that I thought I'd have to wait and do in my '40s. I thought I'd have to get famous first and then someone would let me do this sort of weird sketch idea. It just landed in my lap, and they were so nice to me the whole time. They barely gave us any notes, and I was thrilled with the outcome. I'm very proud of it.
Who's a better kisser between Nyle DiMarco, Dave Franco, and Jeffery Self?
[Laughs] I'm going to immediately take out Dave Franco. He was so kind in that experience but the kiss itself was just a very enthusiastic, kind of adrenaline, we-just-proposed-to-each-other kiss. It wasn't a tender tongue kiss so I couldn't properly judge. It was more just like a lip face-plant, and also I blacked out. So I actually can't tell you. [Laughs] And Nyle was so polite. It was kind of a sudden moment. I didn't have any time to prepare for it because it wasn't in the script. The director was just like, "Why don't you guys kiss? That'd be funny." And again, I blacked out. So I don't remember. [Laughs] So I'd have to say Jeffery. We knew it was coming for months. We were dreading it. And we're friends so it was hell. But it was sweet. It was nice. We had each other's back.
All episodes of Search Party are now available to binge on TBS. Check out the promo below: