Kate Berlant: ‘There’s a connection between being psychic and improv’ – The Guardian

Posted: October 3, 2019 at 11:44 am


without comments

To fellow comic Bo Burnham, she is the most influential/imitated comedian of a generation a millennial Lenny Bruce. As anyone who saw her Edinburgh fringe debut last year will know, Kate Berlant is the real deal a silly/clever impro-comic majoring in how identity and ego are performed in the too-much-information age. And yet here she is arriving in London for a short standup run, to zero name recognition and minimal fanfare.

That may change: after roles in Tarantinos Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and 2018 hit Sorry to Bother You, she now has a TV sketch show in development with sidekick John Early. Telly connoisseurs will identify Early as a star of hipster comedy-thriller Search Party, in which Berlant also appeared. The duo have posted a series of hilarious videos online skewering as Search Party did the smart, shallow and self-absorbed millennial way of being. But their TV projects have yet to escape in-development gridlock, obliging Berlants genius to remain, for a little while longer, a secret shared by comedy lovers alone.

But thats fine by her, she tells me, on the phone from LA. (Shes a Santa Monica native.) When I do a show and people turn up, that means more to me than anything, says the 32-year-old. Live performance is my favourite thing. Pause. That being said, please hire me for film or TV if theres anyone reading this.

In the past, shes been bullish in response to TV commissioners complaint that her and Earlys slippery brand of humour is too weird. So were supposed to try to make something that appeals to everyone, and by doing so make something that appeals to no one? We firmly reject all of that. Today, she doesnt accept the premise. I dont think what Im doing is niche. I cant stop making faces or crossing my eyes. Im embarrassingly lowbrow at times. Earlier in her career, her ambition was to be the new Jim Carrey.

The truth is that her comedy scrambles lowbrow and highbrow, as it does the distinction between the real Berlant and the character she may or may not be playing. On stage, she presents as a precious, preening comedian-cum-savant, hypersensitive to the atmosphere in the room and to every teensy indication of her own fabulousness. She barely seems to have any actual material, save for her stream-of-consciousness commentary on the gig and her experience of it. The vibe is: its our privilege to be in her presence the more so when the show devolves into (of all things) a demonstration of her psychic powers.

The clairvoyancy act, Berlant reports, is sometimes effective to a spooky degree: I think theres a connection between being psychic and improvising. Theyre both about following intuition and not trying to overthink things. But finally, its just a joke and an excuse, she says, to be more herself onstage. Most comics, I venture, dont need that much artifice just to reveal their own voice. But Berlant distrusts authenticity in comedy: Performance is always not you, I would argue. She will accept though that her stage persona is an extrapolation of the most annoying parts of myself, including my boredom with the idea of the self-deprecating comedian. Im more like: I very much want attention, thats why Im doing this. I just exaggerate how desperately I want to be seen.

Alongside that, she says, I wanted to confuse my legibility onstage. Is it a character, or a real person? Why is the language I use falling apart? Why indeed? Because it reflects the post-internet language that derives from half-reading a million articles, from hearing opinions regurgitated in a couple of sentences. That fragmented access to information that we all have. Berlant on stage is a person cobbled together from internet fragments. Wellness culture, corporate feminism, academic jargon: its all in there. Im playing a person so steeped in the cultural critiques that Im obliterated. Theres so much commentary on myself that I cease to really exist.

You could blame her time at NYU, where she did a masters in the cultural anthropology of comedy, and acquired a fascination with the performance of knowledge. Or you could blame the fact that her dad is the artist Tony Berlant, renowned for his collages of found metal objects which might just have inspired the provoking juxtapositions in his daughters comedy.

But youd have to admit that, just as it can be read through an art-intellectual lens, so Berlants comedy can simply be enjoyed for its ridiculousness and flamboyant liveness. Shes so totally in the moment, says her mentor Sarah Silverman. Berlant says: I have tremendous respect for comics who have their 60-minute act scripted in advance. But for me, it feels dead if I dont keep it open, and keep myself in a place of terror.

Maybe thats not wise for my mental state. But in performance, I just find it impossible to not acknowledge whats actually going on in the moment. At the core of her comedy so self-aware, so aware of the contexts is a hyper-awareness of the essential weirdness of performance, says Berlant, the brutality of the expectation of doing comedy. And how inherently bizarre that encounter is.

Kate Berlant is at Soho theatre, London, 7-12 October.

More here:
Kate Berlant: 'There's a connection between being psychic and improv' - The Guardian

Related Post

Written by admin |

October 3rd, 2019 at 11:44 am

Posted in Self-Awareness