TV

Ex-“SNL” Writers Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider on Their New Comedy “The Other Two”

Kelly made “SNL” history as the show's first out head writer.

In the pilot episode of Comedy Central’s The Other Two, floundering late-20-something waiter and aspiring actor Cary (Drew Traver) auditions for the role of “man at party who smells fart,” makes out with his oafish “straight” roommate, and performs in a cheesy flash mob for bored tourists in Washington Square, among other minor daily indignities. Then his 13-year-old brother Chase (Case Walker) becomes a Bieber-esque over-night sensation thanks to a viral YouTube video, plunging Cary and his equally adrift older sister Brooke (Heléne Yorke) into late-quarter-life crises.

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Sarah Schneider and Chris Kelly attend Comedy Central’s ’The Other Two’ series premiere party at Dream Hotel Downtown on January 17, 2019 in New York City.

Chris Kelly, the 35-year-old five-time Emmy nominated former co-head writer of Saturday Night Live—the only out gay man ever to hold that position in the show’s 43-year run—is not Cary. But you wouldn’t be crazy for wondering if Kelly, who co-created the show with writing partner Sarah Schneider, based the character on himself. After all, his 2016 film Other People was inspired by his own experience losing his mother to cancer, with Jesse Plemons playing a version of Kelly. But while Brooke and Cary’s dynamic mirrors theirs, Schneider is not Brooke and Kelly is not Cary.

“Actually, ChaseDreams is based on me and it’s rude that you suggest otherwise,” Kelly jokes. “The way [Brooke and Cary] relate to each other, the way they talk to each other—Sarah and I are very similar. We have a very familial type bond. Obviously, there are going to be things [about Cary] that pull more from me than from Sarah because I’m a gay man, and she not. Try as she might, she’s not a gay man.”

Kelly met Schneider when they were both hired as writers for SNL in 2011. They began developing the idea for The Other Two when they were both supervising writers. (At no point during the process, Kelly says, did anyone suggest that their show might get more traction if they rewrote Cary as a straight character.) By the time they were promoted to co-head writers in 2016, they were already shopping around the pilot script with Lorne Michaels attached as an executive producer, putting an expiration date on their tenure at NBC’s long-running sketch show. “I know it looks like we got promoted, did it and then were like, Bye!” Kelly says. “It did feel very dumb to leave my dream job, but we were also very excited about this show.”
 

And The Other Two, which premiered Thursday, January 24, is definitely generating excitement. “I don’t know what our buzz is. I want buzz. I love buzz!” Kelly says breathlessly, in a tone that can only be described as buzz-hungry. He’s kidding, but there is actual buzz: the show is getting excellent early reviews and podcast hosts are already talking it up in much the same way they did sleeper sensation Schitt’s Creek.

Of course, The Other Two has the advantage of airing on Comedy Central, a network that people have actually heard of, after Broad City, a show with the kind of urban, millennial (It’s 1982 and after!), hipster audience Kelly and Schneider are hoping to appeal to.

“The thing that was interesting to us was, we wanted ChaseDreams’ success not just to make his older brother and sister jealous,” Kelly explains. “We really wanted Chase’s success to shine a light on real, legitimate anxieties and insecurities that Cary and Brooke have in their lives regardless. If Chase didn’t exist they would still be having to deal with some shit. Chase just makes them have to deal with their shit on a different level, in the spotlight.”

Kelly is a self-described political junkie. At SNL, he gravitated toward the show’s political sketches, putting him directly in the eye of the storm when he and Schneider’s season as co-head writers just happened to coincide with the 2016 presidential election. With The Other Two, he’s making a conscious pivot away from topical political humor.

“It was so cool and bizarre and surreal to be one of the people who got to be there for that moment,” he says, “It was so fun while we did it, but I think I was ready to write a narrative—and, frankly, to just not be responding to Trump every week. Now I’m happy to write for ChaseDreams.”

John Russell is a New York-based entertainment and lifestyle journalist. He has been called “the Courtney Love throwing Chanel compacts at Madonna and Kurt Loder” of his generation.
@john_russell