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.
Genre: Comedy, Music
Actor: John Early
Director: Emily Allan, Leah Hennessey