After Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider’s tenure at “Saturday Night Live,” where they became the show’s youngest co-head writers and wrote music videos like the instant hit “(Do It On My) Twin Bed,” the two headed to Comedy Central to do more “big dumb broad stuff and make fun of pop culture,” says Kelly.
Their new comedy series, “The Other Two,” premieres Jan. 24 and follows two siblings (played by Drew Tarver and Heléne Yorke) who have to reexamine their own lives when their teenage brother becomes a pop sensation and dubs himself Chase Dreams.
Here, Variety speaks with the co-showrunners about teen influencers’ empires, their stacked cast including Molly Shannon, their time at “SNL” and making a comedy series that still has heart.
How did you guys conceive the show?
Kelly: We wanted to tell grounded stories with characters that we related to, that felt like versions of us, or had gone through things that we had gone through in our lives. But then we also wanted to also have our cake and eat it too and do big dumb broad stuff and make fun of pop culture and be at fun events and do music videos. So this premise allowed us to do both.
There’s a scene involving eggs that was inspired by your own interaction with Justin Bieber’s manager at “SNL.” How much of Bieber or real pop stars do you draw from on the show?
Kelly: That specific one-liner, we stole that. Other than that exact specific, we don’t really think that [young pop star] Chase Dreams is supposed to be like Justin Bieber or his manager is supposed to be Scooter Braun. That egg joke made us think about like, “Oh poor Justin Bieber.” He is one boy that an entire team of people is moving around the world and telling him what to do and when to eat and what to wear, so that got our brains churning. So we put that into the show a little bit. In the pilot he’s a sweet kid and then from that day on he never makes a single decision himself.
How much did you want to use this show to comment on the entertainment industry, such as the sexualization of teen stars?
Kelly: Watching any pop culture celebrity or any celebrity, you can see their phases as an artist, and you can tell there’s a team behind that. So we do that in the show, where it’s like: He’s sweet now. Now he’s doing a socially conscious song. Now he’s sexy. Now he’s a bad boy. Now he’s religious.
Schneider: It almost never feels authentic, it always feels like “Okay, well the response we’re getting from people is that you’re a little too risque now, so we should pull it back.” Or Taylor Swift’s songs are all about being in love and breakups, so that’s what I have to do, even though I’m 9-years-old and that’s a completely foreign concept, where I’m emulating these adult ideas. It’s really fascinating.
Have you watched musical.ly or TikTok videos for research?
Schneider: Yeah … we definitely deep dove into it.
Kelly: We wanted to make fun of it a little bit, but we also wanted to legitimize it. There is a full parallel entertainment industry of people that we’ve never heard of and they’ve never heard of us, but they have millions of followers. A lot of them have empires; they have a brand. We like showing both sides, that that world is insane and dumb and crazy. But we also think it’s insane and dumb and crazy because we’re old and don’t understand it.
Beyond satire, how deeply do you explore heavier things such as both adult siblings’ struggling careers?
Kelly: If Chase wasn’t in the show, all of these characters would still be having to go through the same things — like Cary [Tarver] would still be trying to figure out his identity. We just added this dumb pop culture celebrity fame on top of it, like how would these real dramas change because he’s famous? Chase in Episode 4 releases a song about Cary being gay and it’s just called “My Brother’s Gay And That’s OK” and he says Cary’s full name, he says “My brother Cary Dubek is gay.” That song forces him to deal with things that he had never really dealt with, faster.
Is it a relief not to talk politics on this show, versus on “SNL”?
Schneider: We went into it consciously with that thought, but we also loved writing stuff that just felt topical and political in a completely different way and so we couldn’t help ourselves with bringing up some things that felt timely, about sexuality, about identity.
Is there any pressure that comes with doing your first show together, post “SNL”?
Kelly: I don’t think about pressure so much as — this is going to be cheesy, but I just really trust Sarah and I think she trusts me. So all we can do is be like, “We like this and we think it’s good.” I hope people like it but we try not to get bogged down with expectations or anything like that.
How integral is former “SNL” cast member Molly Shannon, who plays the siblings’ mother, to the show and the process?
Schneider: She’s the best. She was so fun to work with. It’s very rare that you work with someone, who could be like such an a–hole based on their talent level, and isn’t.
Kelly: When you are casting a TV show it’s a little different than a movie because if this goes on for a couple of years, you really want the people you’re casting to be good actors, but you also want to want to see them at work. We’ve been very lucky that everyone in the show is so good and also like, a nice human.