What is your name and where are you from?
My name is John Early. I grew up in Nashville, Tennessee and I live in Brooklyn, New York now. You know… I live in New York.
Where did you get your education?
I went to NYU for the drama program. I did the Atlantic Acting School within NYU and then I did Experimental Theater Wing and the program in Amsterdam.
How did you get your start?
Well, I did a lot of theater after school because you know it’s just a natural extension of… theater school. Doy! And some of that theater included coming to SPACE three or four years ago to do a workshop of a play. But I always wanted to be a comedian or a comedic actor or work in comedy and then I finally just—two or so years after college after growing very tired of trying to be a part of an ensemble. You know and doing a lot of mediocre theater that I would never ever, you know, like. I finally started doing stand up. And stand up is what has led to a lot of… I started working with Ars Nova and became a host of their show and that’s led to a lot of other stuff. Really just starting to do my own material exclusively. I’ve always written my own stuff, written videos for myself, but then I just had my full coming out as a comedian.
What project have you been working on at SPACE?
I have been working on… one was just an audition like a character reel that I had to just get out of the way because it was just stressing me out… and that was not my intention but it just timed out like that.
But truly it was so nice to work on it on a farm and not in my horrible apartment in Brooklyn that has like 17 leaks and black mold and, you know. So so nice. It gives me a little perspective, like… none of this matters, I’m funny, I’m fine. So I worked on that and then I worked on two short films that I’ll be making this summer with Daniel, who joined me the first few days. He’s my DP and he shoots all my stuff and we brainstormed and plotted stuff out. And these last few days, now that he’s gone, I’m going to try to finalize those and write the actual shorts. And I’m also realizing now that I’m here that this is a perfect place for me to write some more stand up material.
Has SPACE been inspiring you?
Oh yeah. I’m like wanting to do all this material on plants. I’ve just been cracking up. I was making Daniel laugh the other day while we were canoeing. I was talking about lily pads and how they’re just… to me they are so alien. They basically, to me, are a sign that there is no god. Cause it’s like when you see something that alien… when people are like: “Oh God, look at the creatures God’s created, all things great and small. How can you not believe in God when you look at the beautiful things in the universe?” And I’m like: “are you including plants with like teeth, are you including Venus Flytraps? Cause if God created lily pads and Venus Flytraps he’s a sadistic fuck.” Like I think the world is beautiful but I don’t believe in God. And I think some plants are proof of that. And literally that thought only came to me here and I’m very grateful for that.
Do you improv in your sketches or do you like to write it out?
The reason I actually wanted to come here was because I like writing and I want to get more diligent about writing. Because as much as stuff does need to get improvised and magical stuff can happen when its improvised, I do want to push myself to structure things better and not just show up and figure it out on the day you know with my charm. So the goal of this trip for me…and it’s kind of working… is to actually write and structure more. But then I would definitely improvise. But it’s good to know where it’s supposed to go.
How have you been spending your time here?
Well I’m shocked by the actual – I’ve done writers retreats before – and this is the only one that’s never been completely racked with guilt. Like I’m not in a constant panic about if I’m working or not working which has made me 10,000 times more productive than any other retreat. I don’t know what it is about this week here but I’ve been walking a lot to the lake… the canoe is back by the way… and the first morning I was here I was drinking the beautiful coffee and I was on such a caffeine high and I went to the lake and just sat at the table and just began furiously writing, which has literally never happened to me. And then after that happened I was like “This happened on the first day!” So I’ve been walking around a lot and sitting out in the sun. I also shot some stuff with Daniel. I’ve talked to people, you know, they have a really good group of people here. Had some great conversations with people. Talking to Daniel way into the night on the porch. It’s been heaven and you know drinking beers and eating the beautiful food. It’s very simple.
What’s coming up next for you?
I am just getting ready for a show I have at Joe’s Pub that I’m doing in late July and its like an evening of me. I’ve done this show before at other places but Joe’s Pub is the biggest venue that I’ve done where I feel the guiltiest about charging people – you know it has a drink minimum – and it like terrifies me. So I just want to make sure that’s really good and then I’m gonna do that show again in LA in early August so I just want to make sure that both versions of that are really good. And then there is always a plan – a larger plan – of writing a feature. I have all these amazing collaborators and all these resources so that’s the goal to actually write a god damn feature. I want to write and direct something… with me. I have made tons of shorts with all different characters that are crazy, weird and trippy. And this year was about – I want to start seeing myself as me now on screen – I don’t want to see myself in a wig. Like I still love that part of me and it still feels very truthful to me but I am wondering now about things that are more me and can evolve in a long form. So that’s what I’ve been working on like writing stuff that’s my comedic persona where I look like me and I’m… a gay guy and its kind of my life.
Where is your favorite place to work here at SPACE?
I think it’s the lake because it actually feels like solitude. Not that it’s hard sharing the house with these people because there aren’t that many people but its also nice to feel yourself walking like 15 minutes away and then the walk you have to jog your brain and then you arrive somewhere that feels kind of secret and you can go out on the water. Yeah that is my favorite place.
If you were reincarnated as a farm animal what animal would you be and why?
I felt such a strong connection with the sheep today… that maybe it’s a sheep…but why would I want to be a sheep? Yeah I’ve had all these beautiful moments on my walks with these sheep that I love and I’m probably reading too far into it…but they don’t care. Okay probably a pig because pigs are very unapologetic and they just don’t give a fuck and I’m not like that – in some ways I am but in most ways I’m not like that but I aspire to be like that. I aspire to be like a badass, funny pig who’s not apologizing who’s eating a lot of literal shit – who’s also cute. Pigs are cute. But they are definitely messy.
Interviewed by Michael Calciano.