The Simple Joys of Kate Berlant and John Early’s Video, ‘Paris’
2016 was a very, very bad year no matter how you slice it. In tough times, comedy is often a form of escape that people turn to when they need comforting. With that in mind, we asked our contributors to pick the one piece of comedy in any form that they turn to when they really need cheering up. We’ll be sharing their choices throughout the week in a package we’re calling “The Best Medicine.”
Kate Berlant and John Early’s video “Paris” has a simple premise: Two pretentious Americans, utterly changed by their Parisian sojourns, reminisce about the City of Lights. But even though Berlant and Early play the last people you’d want to be stuck talking with at a party, I probably watch this video five times a year and it never ceases to crack me up. I think it’s due to the brutal specificity of its satire that takes the trope of the Post-Euro Trip Enlightened American to absurdist heights. When Berlant and Early’s characters nostalgically recall how much better everything is in Paris compared to boring, uncultured America, it’s not just the men and the cafes that have a certain je ne sais quoi. Mattresses and hangovers are incomparably exquisite next to their bland American versions. Even time and space are more sophisticated across the Atlantic. I’m not Christian, but I’ve always liked the expression “There but for the grace of God go I” which is in the back of my mind when I watch “Paris.” I see these vapid characters in viral magazine articles about organic juice stores or hear them loudly argue about Globalization over avocado toast two tables next to you at brunch. And I know that even the most casually spiritual and progressive Californian can slowly morph, without realizing it, into these two European fetishists who yearn to replace their Silver Lake bubble with a new bubble, even if its one of their own psychotic making.
Or maybe that’s just a bunch of highfalutin’ nonsense and the real reason I watch this over and over is that Berlant’s lazy eye twitch at 1:30 makes me guffaw.