While on vacation last week in the LGBTQ mecca of Provincetown, Massachusetts, a group of friends and I sat down to watch The Other Two. We’d been positively drowning in gay culture all week, but we were still not prepared for the show’s most recent episode: an almost Shakespearean comedy of errors involving Grindr, “dad/son” couples, and threesomes that felt like something we’d never seen before in a mainstream TV comedy. It was at once shocking and yet also strangely moving.
“The storyline is so stupid and heightened and sitcom-y in a way that I really like, but we also wanted to land it emotionally,” show co-creator Chris Kelly told me in a phone call on Monday, “to make sure that it was an over-the-top comedy of errors but also make sure that there were reasons we were doing it.”
The Other Two — now on HBO Max after a switch from Comedy Central and an extensive filming delay caused by the pandemic — never shied away from gay storylines in its first season — as the older brother to a famous teen pop star (Case Walker), Cary (Drew Tarver) always seemed deeply uncomfortable with his homosexuality, hooking up with his “straight” roommate (Andrew Ridings) and exploiting a gaggle of Instagays. Writing for BuzzFeed News, Manuel Betancourt declared The Other Two “one of the best shows about gay men on TV right now,” making specific reference to an oddly sweet interaction between Cary and a love interest (Daniel K. Isaac) during a date about who was going to “eat the pizza” (i.e., top) and who wasn’t (i.e., bottom).
But this season’s second episode that was released on Thursday, "Pat Connects with Her Fans," reaches new exploratory depths of gay sexuality. In it, Pat (Molly Shannon) hosts an episode of her new talk show in which she lavishes a $25,000 check from Shutterstock on a young man named Eddie (Noah Galvin) who has recently come out to his anti-gay father, Troy (Tuc Watkins). (“You can learn more about how much Shutterfly loves you by going to their website and scrolling waaaaayyyy down to the bottom,” Pat tells Eddie in a line that rings exceptionally true in the months after Pride).
But all is not as it appears. Troy isn’t Eddie’s dad; he’s his daddy. Pat’s daughter and manager Brooke (Heléne Yorke) has correctly observed the pair are a couple who are fleecing Pat’s show for money after seeing her reward other young gays for their coming-out videos. But chaste Cary and his boyfriend of just 29 days, Jess (Gideon Glick), aren’t as perceptive as Brooke. When they encounter the pair at a restaurant after the show, they see them silently using their phones and innocently mistake it for stilted awkwardness — when in reality Troy and Eddie are scrolling through Grindr to find a top who can fuck them both while they’re on molly.
“He’s from Kansas. He’s probably never even met a gay person,” Cary tells Jess with an earnestness that belies his New York elitism. “We can show them we’re not scary!”
What follows is a deeply uncomfortable trip around the city’s clichéd gay hot spots as Cary and Jess attempt to be do-gooder “gay guides” while Troy and Eddie attempt to keep up their charade despite being exponentially more comfortable with their sexuality.
Their newfound Grindr hookup John (Noam Ash) also shows up at just the wrong time and has to be paid off in order to not spoil the ruse: “I’m his son, I’m straight, and I’m from Kansas,” John tells Cary and Jess stiltedly about a half dozen times in a line that has since ricocheted around Gay Twitter. He also can’t seem to describe his supposed girlfriend in great detail — “she has long hair…and red nails” — and claims his hobbies are wearing cologne, drinking beer, and listening to Green Day (something Kelly said was drawn from his purchasing the band’s 1994 album Dookie as a decoy for the Mariah Carey album he truly wanted).
Gabe González, a comedian who has hosted shows for the Grindr rival Scruff, told me he thought it was a “pitch-perfect storyline,” as well as a “funny and apt indictment of how gays in cities imagine life for queer people who don’t live in New York or LA.”
“Cary goes along with flattening these characters into a pitiable stereotype — young gay men who can't be who they are because of the ‘Kansas’ of it all — even when it's being undermined right in front of him,” González said.
Kelly, the co-creator, said the show doesn’t set out to actively explore new parts of gay culture every week, but instead tries to find ways that the fame of Cary and Brooke’s mother and brother can be used to teach them something about themselves.
“In the writer’s room, we’re always trying to ask ourselves, ‘How can Pat’s fame ruin Cary’s life?’” he said.
Kelly said this episode — which was filmed in February 2020 before production shut down for a year — is all about Cary trying to perform a “sanitized, PG version of himself” that he thinks might make his late father more comfortable with a gay son.
“I could only write to what I experienced,” Kelly said. “I confidently came out of the closet, but still certainly felt like I had to be a certain type of gay so I wasn’t too scary to my parents. I was confidently telling them I was gay and I was proud to be gay, but at the same time I was trying to be like, but barely, guys! I’m gay, but honestly you’ll hardly even notice!”
The Other Two deftly explores this idea that there is a limit to the gayness with which straight people are comfortable and which some in the LGBTQ community feel compelled to embrace: rainbow-saturated corporate culture — like the Big Gay Ice Cream store to which Cary and Jess drag the others — sweet coming-out videos that play on morning talk shows, or “heteronormative” notions of marriage and children. This tension has itself become something of a cliché and meme for Very Online Gays.
Kelly and I noted the episode aired just over a week after one of the most powerful gay men in the country, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, announced he and his husband had welcomed a baby — news that some gay men online joked would cause their parents to wonder when they might do the same.
“My mom was so lovely and was trying to be so supportive when I came out, but I could tell she was kind of grappling with it,” Kelly told me. “It wasn’t until I had a boyfriend and was in a long-term relationship that she could sort of be really OK with it. She could be like, ‘OK, well, he’s not just out there with any man! Lurking the streets with various men!’”
Like Cary, Kelly said he’s felt confused about what he wants for himself and what he feels society now expects of him. “I might get married, I might have kids — I don’t know, but I do still have to sort of untangle in my mind, Do I want kids just because everyone else has them and I’m now allowed to? Or do I actually want to have a child of my own?”
The episode’s ultimate irony, of course, is that it’s the hypersexual couple, Troy and Eddie, who seem to have their bases covered. They’re the ones discussing work schedules and complaining about what their babysitters are feeding their kids, as they also casually toss off mentions of each other’s “hole pics.”
Ash, the actor who plays the Grindr hookup John, told me he didn’t think the show was casting sexual judgment on either gay couple but instead taking a look at the community at large. “It allows you to look at the big picture and think how weird some of the things are that are normalized in gay culture and realize how absurd it is,” he said. “Taking a pic of their holes? You can’t — it’s so real. And they manage to convey that reality of a lot of parts of gay culture. Sure, parts of it are crass, but they do it in such an endearing way.”
On Sunday, Ash attended a music festival and began to realize the burgeoning cultural importance of the episode when people kept coming up to him and saying the line, “I’m his son, I’m straight, and I’m from Kansas.”
“The line isn’t Shakespeare,” he said. “It’s very simple words, but they do it in situations that are so incredible and the language is so ridiculous that it makes it unforgettable.”
Despite the crudeness, Ash said he watched the episode with his 95-year-old grandmother. “She said, ‘That’s so funny! … Do…you do that?’ and I’m like, no comment.” ●