Ever since the rise of Youtube and the insta-celebrity, we’ve heard the same story a million times. Somebody puts a video up online for fun, it goes viral, getting shared by everyone and their grandmother, and all of a sudden this person has a brand. There are t-shirts, albums, and every other bizarre merchandise in between. This whole culture has only added fuel to our infatuation with the world surrounding celebrity.
This celebrity culture is something that Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider must have been aware of while working on Saturday Night Live, watching host after host, with varying degrees of fame, come in and out. (Though they are adamant that the character is not derived of Justin Bieber alone). And it is featured prominently in their new series, The Other Two on Comedy Central.
But this series goes beyond that fascination, while commenting on it at the same time. We’ve heard the story from the star’s perspective, but what about shifting the camera over to the others? Those who didn’t ask for that fame, did nothing for it whatsoever, and then, all of a sudden, find themselves in the midst of it merely by association. This is where the real interesting stuff is. These people, much like the star’s, is forever altered. But it’s altered in a way less glamorous way. And how does one deal with it?
That’s something this show cleverly sets out to settle. We recently spoke to Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider about the show, their own starting out, shifting from Saturday Night Live to the sitcom format, writing ridiculous lines for Ken Marino, what it takes to cast a young star, and what they’d ultimately like to do next.
How did this all come together? Did it come together while at Saturday Night Live?
Chris: Yeah, I think we came up with the idea during our second to last year at the show or something like that, and then we wrote the pilot and then I think we sold it maybe in the middle of our last year at SNL. Yeah, so we kind of had it in the works. Kind of trying to slowly but surely set up something for when we left the show. Yeah, I think we kind of came up with the idea of being tangential or very close to fame but not having it was very interesting to us. I don’t know. This is what so many shows or movies deal with, or the thing that a lot of people relate to is wondering if you’re doing well enough. Especially if you’re a creative person, if you’re doing well enough soon enough. You’re always comparing yourself to other people and so we were like “Oh, that’s interesting if that person was literally your younger brother.” It’s like “What’s the worse case scenario of that?” So we thought that would be hopefully a juicy idea for a show.
What was the biggest challenge as well as nice change of pace in switching from a sketch show to a sitcom?
Sarah: I think the biggest change was just the pace of it all. We’re just so used to the pace of SNL which we loved and the intensity being live and it being fleeting and every week you got to start over. And with the show we had just been working on it for so long and no one’s seen it. And so the pace has definitely been a big adjustment for us, but in a way that’s been really nice. We’ve gotten to spend a lot of time with these characters and the stories and made sure they all made sense. We had the time. Chris and I could nitpick until we were in the ground. So it was a little nice to have the time to kind of make sure we liked all the stories and all of the characters were fully formed.
Chris: It was a blessing and a curse, because it also really allowed us to overthink things. That’s the thing about SNL tenfold down on Saturday night at 11:30. Whether you got it there or not. Or like “Oh shoot. Can we actually tweak…” You can’t even talk about that because it’s already 11:30. It’s already on T.V. Sometimes that was frustrating for us. “Oh, if I had one more day.” But ultimately, once you’ve done 100 shows, it’s the nice thing about SNL. That’s probably been the biggest difference.
Success is very hard to identify. And on the show, Carrie and Brook do have those typical early, starting out jobs. What were some of the early, embarrassing jobs that you guys had early on?
Chris: I worked at that restaurant [from the show]. I was one of the gay waiters at that restaurant. But yeah, coming up I waited tables a lot and I was a temp for a while. I would go from a temp job and then I would wait tables on the weekend and then I would take classes at UCB night and then one day a week I would intern at The Onion. And so I was constantly cobbling together 12 to 15 jobs trying to make money and make little inches forward career wise. So that’s my biggest memory from my twenties. It was like always running from job to job. That first scene where you meet Carrie where he’s auditioning for a fart commercial and then he’s putting his waiter’s uniform back on as he runs back in for his shift that he snuck out of. It’s very what I remember from being in my twenties when I first moved to New York.
Sarah: When I first moved to New York, I kind of set out on a different career path to be honest, which is what I kind of relate to in Brook, being on one career path and having made the moves in one direction and then realizing part way through that you just don’t want to do that anymore. I thought I wanted to be a copywriter. So I had a day job, basically, as a creative assistant at an advertising agency and I didn’t really have that much to do and it wasn’t creatively fulfilling. And for copywriters a big year for them was getting one tagline onto the air. So it was like a year with three words is great. I was like “I don’t know if I can continue on this path and have to kind of readjust.” So that’s kind of what I see in her and myself.
Something the show captures that I’ve always been very interested in is the whole 15 minutes of fame and the rise and also a bit of a downfall. Was that something you wanted to touch on as well when you set out to do the show?
Chris: We talked a lot about it. The show is from the perspective of the other two. And we kind of, over the course of the season, I guess this is a spoiler, but if you really want to pay attention to what Chase is doing in any given episode, he’s not having a blast all the time. He’s sort of like moved by older men and women around the world. He’s told what to do, what to eat, what to wear, writing songs for him.
Sarah: And that ties into what we were talking about before. To Brook and Carrie, he has reached success. From the outside that is what success is. But then you look a little deeper and you see his side of things, and it’s not exactly what you think.
Chris: Right. Everyone has their own thing.
Is fame happening too fast for younger generations?
Sarah: Yeah. One of the things we were fascinated by was just how this younger generation comes into the world fully formed, fully confident, having a perspective and something to say and putting that out there into the world. For some of them it comes very easily and it’s something that I’m a little jealous of as a world view. I don’t know if I’m weary of it. I’m more impressed. I think it’s definitely interesting to get a level of fame early because I think it does impact how you interact with the world. But this whole generation has created this whole industry for themselves and they put themselves at the top of that industry and from the outside looking in, it’s just impressive.
Chris: Yeah, I think it’s kind of like anything. I think if you become world famous when you’re 8, there’s a real chance that’s going to be bad for you in the long run. There’s a lot of pitfalls there, especially if you’re 15 minutes of famous when you’re 8. But yes, Sarah’s point, what fascinated us when we were researching all of these kids that we were basing this on was more so than when we were growing up, there’s 13 year olds that are like “Hello, I’m 13, this is my name. I am confident. This is my brand, these are my beliefs.” And that’s so impressive and bold and not something we relate to really. So we were very interested in that. Watching a character like Chase very comfortable in his own skin being like “I just wanted to sing so I made this. I put it out there.” He has an ease on talk shows and just feels ready and confident but not cocky. Wherein like Carrie is an actor and has wanted this for so long and has been trying to put himself out there. It’s not working and he’s not comfortable in his own skin and he still has a little bit of internalized homophobia.
So do you think it could be a generational thing?
Chris: (Laughs). We don’t want to make any big grand statement about generations, but that was interesting to us. There’s one side where you can like laugh at this whole world. Like “Oh my God. There’s all of these tweens coming up on like YouTube. This is not going to last.” And I think that’s what Carrie does at the beginning of the show. Like “I’m the real artist. I’m the actor. My brother is fake. My brother is a flash in the pan.” And then halfway through the season, we’re sitting in that diner in the fifth episode, and Brook is like “You need to stop being above all of this. You aren’t real and he’s fake. There’s like a thousand different ways to navigate this world. You need to stop treating yourself like an artist. People find success, people find happiness. People find jobs in like a thousand different ways. Your brother is doing things very different and parts are funny and you can say it’s dumb, but it’s working. And he’s enjoying it and he’s finding success. And he likes it. So it’s a legitimate job, too.” So we liked giving a voice to both sides, if that makes sense.
The balance is pretty good, showing growth amongst everyone, not just Chase. Even the mother character goes through a growth.
Chris: Yeah. Kind of like we were saying with Chase. We like characters that seem just kind of funny or slightly more, not one dimensional but they’re not the focus of the show. And over the course of the season, fleshing them out a little more. Letting the audience see their point of view a little bit more.
In any other show, it’d be about Chase, but there will be episodes where he’s barely in it, which I think is a great unique approach.
Sarah: Yeah, that was a conscious choice and a little bit of a struggle in storytelling, because we often would be like “Well what if Chase did this??” But we had kind of made a rule for ourselves that if the other two were there, we wouldn’t tell that story. It forced us to create all of these stories that involved all of these characters. Involved Pat, involved Streeter, and involves Chase, but really revolves around them because that’s the perspective we wanted to write the show from.
Chris: Yeah. We were like early on “We’re never got to have a C storyline where Chase is somewhere and they’re not there.” We like forcing ourselves to have them be there. I think in Episode 7, he’s only in the episode on Facetime when she’s on a date on the phone. So we made a rule that he has to be in every episode. It can be in weird, surprising places.
I love that rule. Let’s talk a little about the casting. Did you guys wind up writing the series with certain people in mind? Like I know Chris you had worked with Molly Shannon previously. Because it’s a such a great ensemble and some of it almost feels tailor-made.
Sarah: I know, we feel very lucky. We didn’t write specifically with people in mind, but then when we started thinking about casting, a few people really clicked into place for us. One of those was Ken. We started throwing around names for Streeter and when Ken’s name came in, we just both thought that was so perfect. We just loved him in everything. We loved him in Party Down and had loved him forever. And that was one of the ones where we were like “Oh, that character kind of comes to life when we picture it with him in the role.”
Chris: Yeah. And the same thing with Molly. We didn’t have her in mind for the pilot because we didn’t want to presume that she’d want to do our show. And after the pilot, once we knew they were cast, it kind of made us change the show a little bit. So I think the storyline with the dad probably got deeper and fuller and bigger once we knew Molly was the one that was going to be acting it eventually. So we leaned into what we thought were people’s strengths.
Sarah: And similarly with Streeter’s character. He gains more depth and more vulnerability throughout because we know Ken. Once we knew Ken, we knew he could add that to the character and just makes him more of an interesting character than what we initially had in mind.
Chris: One guy we initially did kind of write for was Josh Segarra who plays Lance, Brook’s ex-boyfriend. He auditioned for the pilot as the flight attendant that she has a little fling with at the airport. He auditioned for that and I don’t know why as we had never met or seen him before, but we just loved him and his choices were funny and specific and he just felt like this type of guy that I recognized that I hadn’t seen a lot before on T.V. So then we actually re-wrote the role of Brook’s ex boyfriend because it was written very differently. We re-wrote it to kind of fit his vibe more and then he became a lot bigger part of the whole season just because we liked him so much as an actor. Like I don’t think it really had occurred to us that he’d come back. He’s just so funny. He’s such a good actor.
And tell me about casting Chase. Is it true that you guys had selected him off of a singing app?
Sarah: Well one of our producers when we were talking about casting the role of Chase, Kaylani, told us that her cousin was really into this app that Chris and I had never heard of called Musical.ly. And we were like “Okay, we could give that a look I guess.” And we just started looking through top ten lists of Musical.ly users and he was on one of those lists. And he had never acted before but we brought him in and he just authentically from moment one felt like Chase. You just can’t teach that vibe. We had a lot of great kids come in for it but he just had something. He had an ‘it’ factor as corny as that sounds, that’s what he had.
Right. The hardest part, I’m sure, is to find a kid that doesn’t seem like he was made to be on camera, while also having that confidence and charm.
Chris: Yeah he was like not cocky in any way. He was just very confident and nice and gracious and lovely and sweet. And we had a lot of kids read with Drew and Heléne [the stars] because we had already cast them. And I think Drew said that he made Drew nervous. He made all of us nervous. He would walk into a room and was just so confident and we were just wanting…
Sarah:…Him to like us. (Laughs).
Chris: Yeah. We wanted him to like us and think we were cool. And we were like “That’s a good sign that you’re doing that to everybody.” Because that’s what he does on the show.
Which was the character that, while writing, would make you laugh the most?
Sarah: I mean I think some of the jokes that we laughed the most at as we were writing them were Streeter’s. I think just some of the writing of his, like how he thinks “Love is love” is a Lin-Manuel [Miranda] quote because he represents her. Like there’s details of his that are kind of sketchy.
Chris: I would also say Lance, the ex boyfriend, too. Because I think we tend to like really grounded comedy and things that feel very quiet and real. And so Lance and Streeter were very sketchy so it was sometimes like a treat to write a line that is almost too stupid. We’d be like “That’s too dumb. We have to cut that.” But we got away with it because they were so broad if that makes sense? The hardest we laughed in the edit and on the day was when Drew went on Watch What Happens! Live because that is exactly what we find funny just someone so quietly failing in the background shirtless is just so funny. And we just really got a kick out of how nice Patrick Wilson was to him. He was so friendly and so nice but Carrie is just dying. So that makes us laugh, too.
So you guys have done sketch and now a sitcom, and Chris you’ve done a film. What medium would you like to tackle next?
Chris: Sculpture and Broadway. (Laughs).
The Other Two airs Thursdays on Comedy Central at 10:30pm EST.