The Characters Netflix series is a series of short specials that features one sketch comic per episode and John Early’s episode we see Early as four wildly different characters.
In other episodes, such as Kate Berlant’s, the different characters stories intertwine whereas Early’s characters had nothing to do with each other.
Early began the show as an unsettling youth pastor with a middle part. The walls and speakers are orange and every time that character comes back the same orange tone is present. In the first scene we see Jason, the youth pastor as a teen with braces sitting silently in an all orange room with hundreds of pictures of men cut out from magazines taped to the mirror. This was an insightful opening scene because it set up the awkwardness of the character of Jason. Jason’s next scene is him in an orange restaurant with a redheaded woman. When asked his favorite food he said, “Lasagna…. If I’m being honest: pizza”
Another character that Early played was Vicky, a loud, Southern stand up comedian who based her entire set around looking for her denim. Most of her scenes take place in the green room with two other female comedians. She is wearing a purple silk shirt and matching eyeshadow. She keeps smoking in the room even after the production assistant tells her she really can’t smoke there.
The most intriguing character of the show was John, a dramatic financé who was throwing the engagement party for him and his husband. In this sketch, John gets in his head that the paid staff might actually be slaves so he spends most of the party trying to do all of their work for them and making the staff go out and enjoy the party. Other telling aspects of this character was his inability to let his husband speak. It went so far that when his husband was giving the toast, he pretended to faint and then opened one eye to see who was fawning over him.
The final scene of Early’s episode of The Characters showed three men in navy suits sitting on clear stools on stage. They were all lip synching to a soulful tune and their gestures made the performance much more captivating. There was a women on the corner of the stage who pretended to play both the flute and the trumpet. Although the it felt a little tangential, it was a goofy and satisfying way to end Early’s special.
The Characters is a unique show. There has been a surge in popularity in stand up comedy in recent years. It’s incredibly common for a new hour long specials to come out each month and Netflix produced a shorter show called The Stand Ups that is kind of similar to The Characters in the way that comedians are showcased a different comedian each episode. Sketch comedy is a little harder to find in mainstream media. The only other places that come to mind for watching sketch comedy is Saturday Night Live, Portlandia or Comedy Bang Bang. Being able to see a different element of comedy is refreshing.