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John Early: 'Would it Kill You to Laugh?' is 'timeless and silly'

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Left to right, Kate Berlant, Meredith Vieira and John Early can now be seen in the sketch-comedy special, "Would it Kill You to Laugh?" Photo by Peacock
Left to right, Kate Berlant, Meredith Vieira and John Early can now be seen in the sketch-comedy special, "Would it Kill You to Laugh?" Photo by Peacock

NEW YORK, June 24 (UPI) -- Afterparty alum John Early and A League of Their Own actress Kate Berlant say their new Peacock sketch-comedy special Would it Kill You to Laugh? mines ordinary, relatable situations rather than current events for humor.

"It's been important to us to try to make something that is not topical at all and just leans as timeless and silly. We've always identified as vaudevillian performers," Early told UPI in a recent Zoom interview.

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"Despite some of its sour or acidic notes, it has lots of tenderness," he added. "It's colorful. Also, things take their time. They're not just super Internet-y short. It feels soothing. I hope people find it funny and soothing."

Berlant said their formula for comedy isn't a complicated one.

"We don't give it too much thought. It's really just what makes us laugh. I know it sounds so simple, but it really should be that simple," she noted. "We just follow what makes ourselves laugh, what makes each other laugh and we have such a shared sensibility."

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Debuting Friday, their hour-long special casts Berlant and Early as fictionalized versions of themselves, a former comedy duo and sitcom co-stars, reuniting after an epic falling-out and subsequent lawsuit for an interview with talk-show host, Meredith Vieira.

The special is on trend with fans' recent obsession with celebrity reunions like the casts of Harry Potter and Friends, and revivals of old shows like Roseanne and Will & Grace.

"We wrote this before the Friends reunion, but, of course, when we saw that we thought, 'Oh, wow, everyone is going to think this is a parody of that.' We don't see any part of this as a parody of anything, except maybe ourselves," Berlant said.

"We just love those moments that are in the pop-culture - - authentic moments between these celebrities."

Early chimed in: "But where you know the public relations team is hovering around the corner.

"The idea of that [reunion] being news is so funny to us, which is why it was so important to us to have someone as high-profile as Meredith Vieira to make it feel like it was real journalism."

The comedians came up with that angle because they both love an awkward, old interview that brought together former Three's Company co-stars, Suzanne Somers and Joyce DeWitt, after a 30-year estrangement.

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"It's very funny and very much an inspiration to us," Berlant said.

Early added with a laugh: "It's very tense. There is a lot going on."

Berlant and Early said Vieira was fun and professional, clearly understanding that they needed her to convey sincerity so they could be as ridiculous as possible.

"But I have to say that now that we are editing it and doing the sound mix, I can hear moments where she is laughing or stifling laughter and it is so touching to me because I didn't really see it happening in person," Early said.

The faux interview footage frames several hilarious sketches as well as highlights from the pair's fictional series, He's Gay, She's Half-Jewish.

Memorable scenes show Berlant and Early playing newcomers who become belligerent when called out for only pretending to read the assigned novel at book club; the heads of a werewolf family having trouble at the airport; ultra-competitive adults in a child's dance class; and restaurant guests who pay their bill with melted caramel.

Some jokes recur through seemingly unrelated sketches.

"We hope that people will find [fun details] as they, hopefully, like it enough to rewatch it," Berlant said.

"It gives it some sort of cohesive element and makes it feel like it belongs in the same world, even if we go to these totally different places and play different characters."

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One of the toughest scenes for the duo to get through without laughing was when they played elderly, has-been stars, dying to be recognized at a restaurant.

"Those characters - - much like John and I - - have a transparent need to entertain," Berlant joked.

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