By Matt Byrne. Byrne is a freelance writer based in Chicago, IL. He runs The Steamroller, a blog about the alt/not shitty comedy scene.
Hello! It’s time for week two of Funny Human of the Week. This week’s human: NYC-based standup weirdo Kate Berlant. I was turned on Berlant’s absurdist comedy things by friend of BYT (and future FHotW) Stephanie Hasz just one month ago. Since then I’ve thrilled to her web videos, read the myriad interviews she’s done in the last few months with everyone from L.A. Magazine to Playboy to the wildly underappreciated Chicken Scratch comedy blog, and searched, to limited success, for clips of her actual live standup sets.
Here’s what I know about Berlant, having, at this point, not seen her perform live: 1) her style is most commonly described as “experimental” which probably (rightfully) puts you off a little bit. It’s just the best word we have for unique, boundary-pushing stuff, you know? 2) Her sets are largely improvised. 3) She recently toured with Father John Misty, which is pretty cool. 4) She is a thoughtful, intelligent, and insanely funny performer. Okay. Let’s watch some stuff!
This video, featuring her frequent collaborator John Early, is a perfect illustration of her mastery of language and the ease with which she can adopt a fully realized personality. Also it’s very funny!
She’s very good at pretending she’s an expert on things. Like rocks!
Or you! Yes, you!
Sometimes on Twitter, Kate explores her personal life:
My mom just attacked me for having not played enough with a cat that’s been dead 11 years— Kate Berlant (@kateberlant) June 4, 2013
Just tried to make a joke at the Genius Bar & was greeted with medieval stoicism — Kate Berlant (@kateberlant) December 16, 2013
I remember being so crazy with depression a few weeks ago that I thought a ghost was standing behind me and I didn’t care — Kate Berlant (@kateberlant) January 2, 2014
Sometimes, she doesn’t!:
Rode a jet ski past your family plot — Kate Berlant (@kateberlant) February 7, 2014
yOu cAN NeVEr TrULy LOSe yOUr PhOnE— Kate Berlant (@kateberlant) October 25, 2013
Neoliberal fantasy of a sweet horse — Kate Berlant (@kateberlant) December 7, 2013
Other times, she spills oil on her tunic:
There’s an oil stain on my fucking tunic — Kate Berlant (@kateberlant) January 17, 2014
Great. Just spilled more oil on my tunic.— Kate Berlant (@kateberlant) January 22, 2014
Like I mentioned before, it’s hard to find live clips, so here’s something close, a video of her doing standup in a restaurant for some IFC thing!
A lot of the time I feel like there’s nothing more boring than truth in comedy. This profile of Berlant the New York Times ran last fall explains my feelings better than I ever could: “[The] veneration of comedic truth, often at the expense of less-cited virtues like imagination, has become so widespread and unquestioned that comics sound like rappers boasting about being ‘real.’ Ms. Berlant’s comedy makes a mockery of realness.”
Who needs truth when you have Kate Berlant?