John Early: Now More Than Ever (2023)

John Early: Now More Than Ever (2023)

R

Comedian John Early leans all the way into the self-indulgence of performance in this stand-up-musical concert hybrid

7.9

Movie

United States of America
English
Comedy, Music
2023
EMILY ALLAN, LEAH HENNESSEY
Dominique Toney, John Early
64 min

TLDR

Come for the bit about asking apps not to track your activity, stay for the 🎯 Britney Spears impression

What it's about

John Early performs a live stand-up set interspersed with musical performances and fictionalized backstage scenes.

The take

Comedy special John Early: Now More Than Ever is shot like a monumental concert documentary: it’s all nostalgic ‘70s cinematography, with intercutting backstage scenes that detail pretentious pre-show prayers and spikes of tension melodramatically flaring up between the performers. All this self-aggrandizement is the special’s overarching joke, though — it literalizes what Early does with his ultra-narcissist onscreen persona, last explored in sketch special Would It Kill You To Laugh? with Kate Berlant.

Early’s decision to blend comedy and musical performance here means you can count the actual stand-up bits on one hand. It’s also true that his observations on subjects like the Access Hollywood tape and app permissions would struggle to carry a conventional special (sharp and heightened by physical comedy though they may be). But the interplay between music, outright jokes, and the tongue-in-cheek framing of the special is what makes Now More Than Ever such a rich and layered show. Early is a master at character-building, and the way he manages to unearth sincerity even amidst all this self-satirization speaks to both his comedic and dramatic genius, making this hourlong show a testament to just how deserving he is of the spotlight.

What stands out

The show’s standout moment comes after a bit about millennials’ tendency to hyperbolize: Early immediately follows up his skewering commentary with a soulful rendition of a Neil Young song. The tonal whiplash is the joke, and the self-seriousness of the moment underscores the ridiculousness of Early’s diva persona, but he doesn’t just let the song be a punchline — it’s also a genuinely beautiful moment on its own. Together, these scenes are a stunning display of both Early’s multihyphenate talents and his deft eye for combining the sincere with the silly in a way that doesn’t undermine either.

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