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555 Director Andrew DeYoung: 'If We’re Going to Do Comedy, Let’s Go Even Harder'

555 Director Andrew DeYoung: 'If We’re Going to Do Comedy, Let’s Go Even Harder'


In conversation with the comedy auteur. 

By now, it's a crime if you haven't yet sat down and watched the absurd, touching and hilarious Vimeo series, 555, starring comedians John Early and Kate Berlant. While most of the scenes were improvised, the two worked with Director Andrew DeYoung to implement a vision of emotional, visually artistic comedy unlike any other online content being made, right now.

DeYoung, who's also worked on shows like Man Seeking Woman and John Glaser Loves Gear, sat down with OUT to talk about the challenges and perks of filming improvisation. Watch the official 555 trailer and learn more about DeYoung, below.

John and Kate said you guys met over Twitter. What attracted you to working with them?

Someone posted a video of Kate on Facebook and I was enamored by who she was. I did a deep dive, found her Twitter and liked a bunch of Tweets in a row. That kind of set her off and she messaged me and said, "Who are you?" Every time I tell this story I'm like, "Why did she do that?" But then she came to LA, we got a drink and became friends. Then John came to town, and they had this idea for a video about a couple with face tattoos. We made it, and it did well, and that sparked our creative teamwork.

Do you think you all have a similar style?

That's why I reached out to Kate. She was this person doing something that I'd never seen before. She's so smart and funny, and then when I did a deep dive on some of John's videos, I was like, "Oh my god, I can't believe they're friends. Their comedy is so energizing, absurd and human." We all have the same kind of point-of-view. And it's rare to find someone like that.

Related | John Early & Kate Berlant Spill About Their New Comedy Mini-Series, 555

How do you deal with filming improv?

I prefer shooting structured improv--knowing what we're after, but being in a moment of discovery. That's the most rewarding type of filmmaking to me. And most of my work tends to go in that direction. They're so brilliant at being in the moment and improvising. I mean, Kate's show--her standup is insane. She'll do hours and have no plan. She's so in the moment, and she has this free jazz style of comedy that's so filled with energy, because she's discovering it and you're watching her discover it. I also did improv for 7 years at iO West in LA, so that was a helpful base to figure out how to do this correctly.

Have you ever wanted to be in front of the camera?

I never wanted to be a performer and still don't. I got into improv because I heard it helps with writing. But then I just fell in love with it. I've never pursued actual performance, but the world of improv is just intoxicating. I've stopped doing it, but it was essential for me, that world. I'm so lucky to have it, but I've always just wanted to make films.

Related | John Early's Best Year Ever: Search Party, Little Lies, & Kissing Famous Boys

John and Kate said you have a very cinematic style...

I really gravitate toward authorship in filmmaking [and] filmmakers with a very strong voice. Terrence Malick is one of my favorites. I've noticed in comedy there's almost no authorship. There's a few--David Gordon Green movies blend a certain amount of artistry with comedy. I want to pursue that style: blending comedy with considered aesthetics, because I saw there wasn't much of that. So my early work was my attempt to make interesting, bizarre, funny videos that I didn't really see on my Facebook page. My style is basically the opposite of what my friends are posting on Facebook. That's my goal.

Donald Trump is president. Do you feel like comedy can do anything to help?

Do I think comedy can help? No, I don't think so. I don't think we should consider our careers and our brands and our artistic work as something that matters, right now. Charlie Chaplin tried to defeat Fascism with comedy 70 years ago, and it didn't really work for him. Ultimately I think if you're making stuff that's honest and that will communicate with an audience in some way, it's still not going to stop Trump. Certainly jokes don't stop Trump. I think Moonlight isn't going to stop Trump, but it's deeply important to be made and to be seen. I think Manchester By The Sea is very funny and also deeply sad, but something like that, that promotes such deep empathy, is so important.

Related | A Moonlight Revolution: The Black Queer Experience Comes of Age in America

During a rally I attended in NYC, Michael Moore said the one thing getting to Trump most is comedy, judging by how sensitive he is to SNL. I think it is getting to him...

I think all these dudes should be roasted to completion in comedic ways and any other way possible. But if we want to be actually effective, we have to put our bodies in the streets and do something that's going to hurt these people economically, maybe? When Richard Spencer got punched on Inauguration Day--someone suckerpunched him and it became this insane meme--that brings me such joy. I wish SNL went harder. The podcast "Chapo Trap House" is really funny, and they were talking about how Trump is going to watch SNL all the time. They were saying SNL's comedy is just too soft--if they really want to hit Trump, Alec Baldwin should be in a diaper eating his own shit and babbling. And I think that feels kind of right. If we're going to do comedy, let's go even harder.

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