Why Comedy Queen Kate Berlant Wants You To Be More Demanding And Annoying
On this week's episode of Girlboss Radio, Kate Berlant dives into the paradox of simultaneously loathing and needing attention, the culture of sexual harassment in entertainment, and why it's OK to be messy AF.
Comedian Kate Berlant got her start in the art of embellishment earlier than most. At age three, she’d tap into her prenatal memory and ask her dad about that dark, "warm place" she used to hang out in.
Admittedly, she might be making it up—“I have very strong false memory of the womb,” she explains to Sophia on this week’s episode of Girlboss Radio. But what’s always been incontrovertible is Berlant’s desire to leave an impression. In high school, she put on her first standup show, called “Just Another Pretty Fuss,” and at 17, she got a fake ID so she could start doing the stand-up open mic at The Laugh Factory.
Moving from LA to NYC to attend college, Berlant held a number of odd jobs as she pursued comedy, including being the “duped girlfriend” on morning radio talk shows and working for an energy healer who fed her seeds for lunch. And all the while, she was doing standup sets, almost nightly, eventually landing on bills with Sarah Silverman and Maria Bamford, and opening up for Reggie Watts.
But when Berlant met John Early circa five years ago on the set of a friend’s shoot, there was immediately something special in the air—“It was like fireworks,” she recalls. “He spent a week in my apartment and we could not stop hanging out. That lasted for a few years.”
After appearing in the Netflix sketch anthology Characters, Berlant and Early went on to create 555, and absurdist sketch comedy series for Vimeo, which has garnered a cult following.
On this week’s episode, Berlant gets frank about what it takes to succeed in the rapidly changing comedy scene—including how the kindness of more established women were complete and utter game-changers. Plus, how the sexual harassment allegations sweeping across the entertainment industry is the fire we need. Check out the full episode below.
On making progress:
“Take up space. Be demanding, be annoying, be loud. Allow yourself to be messy and not worry about reflection.”
On why she never "learned" improv:
“I didn’t want to bow down to this system in order to do what I want to do. So I abandoned it."
On the established comedians that saw her potential and helped her out:
“Mentorship is everything. Without that encouragement, it's just so impossible to continue.”
On the diversification of the comedy scene:
“I think about the number of women and queer people and non-white people that are in comedy now, and it blows my mind.”
On the #metoo movement:
“[These sexual harassment allegations] are a cleansing fire. Burn it down. Bye, bitch. Goodbye.”
On why "success" being ever-illusive is a good thing:
“You should never be finished. You should never be done. For me, I know that I'm only as good as my last show.”
Words: Deena Drewis