Before The Other Two, Drew Tarver was primarily known for his work in the improv and sketch comedy scene. “I had spent most of my 20s just putting a mustache on and screaming at an audience at midnight. There would be 17 people like, ‘That was funny, but mostly loud,’” he recently joked to me over a Zoom call. So the 35-year-old relished his role as Carey, one of the titular siblings in The Other Two, a Comedy Central-now-HBO Max sitcom about a brother and sister dealing with the sudden fame of their younger brother (and later, their mother).
From the beginning, Tarver noticed numerous overlaps between himself and his on-screen counterpart. Like Carey, Tarver also self-identified as a struggling actor; he also knew what it felt like to come out as queer later in life. In the currently-airing second season, Carey is treading new ground — he has his first real boyfriend, has said his first real I love you, and is even booking consistent acting gigs (even if they aren’t the ones he really wants) — but not without experiencing his fair share of hiccups.
Of course, it’s in this latter part where much of the show’s humor shines brightest, mining endless laughs from Carey’s general ineptitude, whether he’s mistaking a gay May-December couple for an actual, blood-related father and son, subconsciously plagiarizing Beginners when charged with writing an entire screenplay over a weekend, or gradually coming to terms with the fact that he might need to spend more time living as a single gay “sex boy” in order to, as he puts it, “see more dicks before I settle down.”
Two days after an evening spent sharing Domino’s pizza at a bar following the official premiere in New York, I hopped on a Zoom call with Tarver to talk about the joy he feels on a set where he doesn’t have to hide his queerness, fan-girling over Molly Shannon, and how the show manages to stay hilarious despite unpacking some devastating themes.
It’s been a long journey to season two. How does it feel to finally have it out in the world?
It feels so good. We were working on this thing for so long, and with the pandemic delay, it was just devastating. It was like, “Oh, you’re so close, but now you’ve got to wait a full year more.” So it feels really nice. Even at [our New York] premiere, just hearing other people laugh was great because you do this stuff and you’re like, “I know this is funny,” but you don’t really get that immediate satisfaction. So finally, it’s like, “Oh, great. People are watching it — and they like it!”
Have you been tracking the reactions to the new episodes?
I can get devastated by one even medium-happy comment. I can take it pretty hard, so I try not to look. But if somebody I know sees something that is good, they can tell me. I’m so sensitive, so I’m like, “Hey, if you see something and it’s medium, don’t tell me.”It has to be a full-on, straight-up compliment.
Coming from a sketch comedy and improv background, what was the biggest change you had to make in order to really build a single character from the ground up?
I had spent most of my 20s just putting a mustache on and screaming at an audience at midnight. There would be 17 people like, “That was funny, but mostly loud.” But through my training at Upright Citizens Brigade, even though you are playing these big characters in sketches at times, you’re also playing the straight man in a sketch, where you’re the one responding to the big character. The training there is like, “Play it as real as possible so that the comedy can really shine opposite this very normal character who’s kind of just pointing out stuff.” So I just used that training because my character is mostly responding to bigger characters. Carey has some bigger storylines himself, but it’s mostly calling out or being the voice of reason in moments. I had a lot of prep and training for that in sketch comedy.