If you follow any amount of LGBTQ people on social media, you've probably heard the rave reviews about Comedy Central's The Other Two by now. Created by former Saturday Night Live head writers Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider, this sitcom about the older siblings of a 13-year-old internet celebrity is gaining a reputation for subtle, instant-meme-worthy comedy about gay culture — and frankly, they didn't have to come for us that hard.
While ChaseDreams (Case Walker) gets instant fame and success from a viral music video, his brother Carey (Drew Tarver) struggles to make it as a gay actor, and his sister Brooke (Heléne Yorke) ends up working as his assistant and trying to pull her personal life together.
The latest episode, airing on Comedy Central at 10:30 p.m. Eastern, sees Carey trying to land an audition with the latest American Crime Story series, but he has to reach a certain number of Instagram followers to even be considered. He starts hanging out with a group of gay social media influencers so they'll tag him in all their selfies, and the portrayal of "Instagays" who "run around with no shirt on, posting song lyrics that have nothing to do with the pic he's put up" is so spot-on it's almost painful.
We recently talked to Kelly and Schneider about why they decided to explore this specific online culture, Carey and Brooke's awkward interactions with the queer community, and how their years on SNL inspired them to indulge in a more niche style of comedy. (Mild spoilers ahead.)
The Advocate: Congratulations on being renewed for Season 2. Were you expecting the enthusiastic response this show has received?
Sarah Schneider: We're excited! It's always gratifying when you put something out there and people reach out to you saying, 'I relate to this!' or 'This really speaks to me!' That’s always so nice to hear.
Chris Kelly: People have been commenting and mentioning the smallest moments or specific lines that they relate to, and that's very fulfilling. You work on something for so long, you forget all the details and you never know what someone is going to notice or not notice. It's been very cool.
— Chris Kelly (@imchriskelly) March 4, 2019
For this upcoming episode about the Instagays, there's a clip of Carey at a pool party asking gay influencers, "So, what do you do?" YouTube star Tyler Oakley retweeted that clip and said he's "finally feeling represented in media." We haven't really seen a sitcom make fun of this online culture in such a specific way before. Were you leaning into the fact that audiences consume entertainment as much online as they do with TV?
Kelly: It was just something we talked about a lot in the room. We wanted to brainstorm different parts of the entertainment industry that [Carey and Brooke] could be having to experience, and at the same time we wanted to make sure it wasn't something we'd seen on TV a thousand times. That just felt like something new and fresh that we hadn’t seen before. Our room had a lot of gay writers in it, and [gay influencers] was something that we all knew so deeply, and we followed so many of them. Once we started spitballing and coming up with jokes, it just came so easy that we were like, this is enough for an episode, because everyone has so many opinions on them.
Schneider: Even the non-gay writers in the room were like, 'Oh yeah, we're aware. That has gotten to us.'
Kelly: Yeah, it's not just gay people, but it's definitely a subset of this type of person on Instagram and social media.
Schneider: We wrote this episode early last year, like a year ago, and we were like, 'Please, nobody beat us to this!' We hadn't seen it [on television] yet, but we were like, people must be noticing and talking about this.
This episode is actually well-timed, because there was a recent article about gay influencers potentially promoting an unhealthy body image; and the Fyre Festival documentaries portray social media influencers as this toxic, narcissistic culture. But The Other Two takes a much kinder and funnier approach to the subject — why is that?
Kelly: We didn't want to go in and just be mean to these guys. We never wanted our show to be mean or overly cynical toward a group of people. We wanted to have fun at their expense and make fun of them a little bit, but we also show that Carey is the villain in this situation. It was important that over the course of the episode, if you really think about it, they are nothing but nice to him. Yeah, it is a little bit dumb, what do they do for a living, but they are friendly to him and kind and ask him to hang out. They never do anything wrong. Carey's frustration is just based on the fact that they're not working as hard as he is. It's just coming so easily for them.
Schneider: Going in, we knew we didn't want to stereotype them; we wanted them to feel real. Like Chris was saying, we liked showing the idea that any group in society can be dismissed if you don't spend the time to get to know them, as lofty as that idea sounds. We liked the idea that we get to know them a little bit and see their point of view when Carey starts saying, 'This is all you do, you don't work.' We liked seeing both aspects of it.
Kelly: I also think Carey spends all season struggling with his little brother putting out one music video at the age of 13 and then getting success right away, while Carey has been working tooth and nail to be successful, and for ten years it's just not happening for him. And then to meet these guys who are his age who are also just finding success — they just started social media recently, and they're hot, they're cool, and it's working.
Schneider: And just more people who are completely comfortable in their own skin, when he's clearly not. He's just a blank slate, and he's taking on their attributes, just to think 'This could be my personality, maybe…?'
can confirm this is 99% of straight girls at gay bars pic.twitter.com/ygqoLjfzO3
— Jarett Wieselman (@JarettSays) February 15, 2019
Brooke has a very funny interaction with gay culture this season, like the episode where she drags Carey to a gay nightclub and yells, 'Everyone here loves me!' and a random guy responds, 'Everyone here hates her!' How fun was it to explore that part of her character?
Schneider: We love Brooke's bald confidence in an identity that's just wrong, a beloved ally and a young hot progressive, and realizing slowly as her world builds that she's not exactly these things. There's a joke in the first episode where she says, 'I'm basically bi,' and Carey says 'You're not bi, you just dress up for Pride.' We loved the idea that someone is claiming this so baldly, and her brother is like 'please get real.'
Kelly: And in the second episode, where she says, 'Am I just a straight woman? That's nothing anymore!' In such a wrong way, she wants to be not just straight, just to have something about herself. I feel like that's a way some people talk about being gay. Sometimes people are like 'I'm basically bi' as a way to show their support for the LGBTQ community, and it's like, you don't have to be bisexual if you're not. If you are, great, but it's not homophobic just to be straight. Brooke is like, 'I'm not homophobic, I'm bi!' But we don't need that from you.
And it's so funny, because Carey starts out being a bit reticent about being a part of the gay community. He's so uncomfortable in his skin, and a little self-hatey, and he has this community that he's learning to embrace and to be an active part of. And meanwhile Brooke is like, 'I want to be in the community!'
In a way, The Other Two is the gayest show on TV right now, but at the same time it doesn't feel like a "gay sitcom" — it's not going out of its way to explain gay culture, it's just being upfront about it while telling stories about this family. How confident were you that mainstream audiences were ready for that approach?
Kelly: I can only speak for me when I say, I don't care. It never really entered my brain. Me and Sarah were just writing a show based on people who feel like us, and we're going to write what we think is funny and hope other people let us make it and other people watch it. I personally try not to get too bogged down in that stuff, because that can not be helpful for writing what you think is best.
Schneider: Yeah, that wasn't even really a conversation that we had. The stories that we wrote and wanted to tell came up organically, just talking about the real experiences of Chris and our [writers] room. As long as we felt we were telling an authentic point of view that felt real and relatable to some people, then we felt that was completely fine to write.
Kelly: It feels like it's a family show and a gay show. We kind of like that it's all the things at once. Somebody once mentioned, "There were so many jokes that were so niche or are about a specific show that I've never heard of, are you worried that people aren't going to get the joke?" Sarah and I talked about that, because sometimes we'll dig deep and write a joke about something that's very specific to a show that the two of us are watching at that moment. But we think that if someone misses a joke, it's still hopefully okay, because it feels realer.
Schneider: In a way, it was probably a little bit reactionary to writing on SNL, which had to be for a large audience. Anything that was super specific, you were a little bit wary that, first of all, a live audience wasn't going to respond to it, and then that the broad audience watching wasn't going to. So once we had the chance to make our own show, we were like, 'Okay, we can mention every Real Housewife and no-one can stop us!'
The Other Two airs on Comedy Central on Thursday nights, 10:30 p.m. Eastern.