Rant: Kate Berlant

Kate Berlant in "The Characters" (ep #1.4) (2016)

I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to “notice” Kate Berlant, considering how many great shows she’s already been in (e.g. Another Period, The Good Place, and Loki), but suddenly I’m a big fan, and have watched my way through 35+ YT skits… a couple of which also co-star her frequent collaborator/bestie John Early. My faves so far have been: “How To Sit In A Chair” (link), “Beach Painting Club” (link), “How To Make A Reservation” (link), “Paris” (link), “How Have You Been?” (link), “Exploring The Now” (link), “How To Tell Time” (link), “Zoom Call” (link), “The Rock Collection” (link), and a (deliberately) self-sabotaging appearance on The Tonight Show (link). I also found a promo video for a California-based boutique called “The Dog Show”, in which Berlant lip-synchs (sexy-style) to Alicia Keys’s “Try Sleeping with a Broken Heart”, and a few (far too brief) snippets of her stand-up act (link and link).

Back in 2016, Netflix “presented” a series called The Characters, giving eight “up-and-coming comedians” (including Lauren Lapkus, Paul W. Downs, and Tim Robinson) a 30min episode each in which to showcase their sketch-writing/acting skills. Berlant and Early both had their own eps (#1.4 and #1.2, respectively), but also swapped supporting roles in the other’s. Of all the characters Berlant plays here, I think my fave has to be the self-consciously “adorkable” YouTuber… on one level it’s a very funny parody, but the sad truth is that if she existed irl I would un-ironically watch those vids every week, and maybe even donate to her Patreon… tch!

Kate Berlant as 'Rachel' in "Rachel" (2019)

Then in 2017, Vimeo commissioned B&E to write/star in an “exclusive” 5x ep “short-form” anthology series titled 555, directed by Andrew DeYoung… who has now posted it for (free) viewing on his own page. Each ep focusses on a different duo, though there is a little bit of overlap between them, as they all ostensibly live in or around Los Angeles, and most of them are (unsurprisingly, given the setting) aspiring performers. Ep #1.3 even features a cameo by Kristen Johnston as “herself”, leading a very intense acting class in which the mains are enrolled! Around the time of 555’s release, the “BUILD Series” hosted a very enjoyable interview with B&E, where they talked/joked about their inspirations for the show, and the origins of their long-standing partnership/friendship. Bless ‘em. Fun fact: At one point Berlant “brags” that she made her (fleeting) on-screen debut in an ep of Lizzie McGuire (specifically #2.12, aka “Best Dressed for Much Less” (2002)), which some kind soul has clipped for YT. Caution: Don’t blink, or you’ll miss her! Oh, and DeYoung has also cast B&E in several unrelated shorts, including the true-life-horror story Rachel (2019), which reminded me of a similar incident from my days living in “student dorms” at university. Shudder.

Kate Berlant circa 2015

More recently, Berlant had a leading (romantic?) role in the old-timey show-within-a-show segments of David Harbour’s 2019 special Frankenstein’s Monster’s Monster, Frankenstein (co-starring Heather Lawless), which were very enjoyable as a Darkplace-esque spoof of stagey horror movies/shows, though I didn’t enjoy the (Berlant-free) modern-day stuff as much. Looking ahead, B&E have another special (Would It Kill You to Laugh?) scheduled for June 24th on Peacock, and Berlant has a recurring role in the upcoming A League of Their Own TV series (co-starring Abbi Jacobson, D’Arcy Carden, and Nick Offerman)! Just to taunt me, she’s also appearing at the Soho Theatre in London from July 11th – 16th, but I’m too poor/cowardly to go. Boo!

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About Dee CrowSeer

A comic-book writer with an interest in philosophy, equality, and diversity. He/him.
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