You’d be hard-pressed to find a human more idiosyncratically delightful than Brian Jordan Alvarez. The Gotham Award Nominated comedian has developed a cult following on YouTube for his tongue-in-cheek sketches and was named one of Variety’s 10 Comics to Watch. He shot to fame with his hit web series The Gay and Wondrous Life of Caleb Gallo, dubbed IndieWire’s Best Web Series of 2016. Alvarez hasn’t looked back since, most recently landing a coveted guest role on Will & Grace, and will be shooting a pilot for his new show, Stupid Idiots, with Comedy Central in the coming months. Alvarez opened up to Cliché about Caleb Gallo and the fun of creating content with friends.
Cliché: Where did the concept for The Gay and Wondrous Life of Caleb Gallo come from? Were you surprised it blew up as quickly as it did? How has that exposure impacted your career trajectory?
Brian Jordan Alvarez: It has been amazing for my career and that of my friends. It has been such a gift to be able to shine a spotlight on friends of mine who I have known were extremely talented for a long time. I wanted it to blow up fast, and it did quite well! But it was actually about a year after release that it had another huge wind, thanks in large part to memes of the brilliant Freckle. The idea for Caleb Gallo came from driving along the PCH drinking Red Bull and trying to think of a show!
Your character, Caleb, grapples with staying faithful to new love interest Benicio – not because he doesn’t care for him, but because he feels open to and connected with many people he meets. Is this reflective of your own dating experiences? Would you advocate for a more nuanced view of healthy relationships that doesn’t center monogamy as an all-or-nothing goal?
Love is love! I say as long as you’re not hurting anyone, you should be able to love however you like. Of course it does become complicated when one person wants monogamy and another doesn’t. Relationships are the essence of life, and they are endlessly fascinating and sometimes frustrating. But they are what we are here for!
The show emphasizes the glory of, as you’ve put it, lived experiences in “the queer utopia.” Rather than focus on a single facet of gay/queer life, the series enthusiastically incorporates many subjects like bisexuality, non-monogamy, gender fluidity, and polyamory. Too often we see these subjects treated with scorn and skepticism, even by other members of the LGBT community. Why was it so important to you to not only create such a textured portrayal of multiple identities, but characters and a universe that embrace them?
Inclusion is everything. We’re all in this together.
Stephanie Koenig is a good friend of yours – she’s in Caleb Gallo as well as your go-to scene partner for many videos. How did you two meet? What was the process of developing your comedic rapport?
We met on a student film when we were 25! It was love at first joke. She has been the greatest friend I have had in my life, and I am looking forward to many, many more years with her. She still makes me laugh so hard I can’t breathe on a daily basis.
Your channel has been pretty quiet in recent months, but you’ve recently become active again in a big way! What motivated the sudden burst in content? How do you come up with so many ideas for short sketches?
I was working on other stuff for a while, then took some time for myself–there was a beautiful trip to Hong Kong in there around Christmas, which I went on alone as a sort of soul journey, I met a great friend named Scotty there. Then, somewhere in the last couple months, I just got the impulse to start making sketches again! And then we did.I’m so glad you like them and watch them! It means the world to me. I don’t really come up with them; they just occur to me when I’m making jokes about life with my friends or notice something funny. Then I or we will say, “That could be a sketch.” And then we shoot it. It’s so fun.
You’ve also been open about your experiences with drug and alcohol abuse. What compelled you to want to stay sober? Would you say you’ve become more focused in your work in the time since?
I would say one of the primary reasons for my sobriety is my drive to make the world a better place with the work I do. And at some point around 22 I realized that if I was really going to focus on this work, and make any real impact in this life, I just HAD to clear out these substances that were getting in my way.
On a lighter note, your recent credits include Jane The Virgin and Will & Grace. What are the differences between working on set and creating your own content? Have you incorporated things you’ve seen on set back into your channel?
Yes, I think I have incorporated some things. On Jane the Virgin I really watched how fast they moved and how much they were able to shoot. They were all so amazing. Gina is so talented. She actually directed an episode of it recently. I felt so proud. I tried to take some of the speed and efficiency with which they made that show onto my own sets. On Will & Grace, it’s this whole amazing MultiCamera beast, and I am just skimming the surface of how that all works. Sean, Eric, Debra and Megan are all so very skilled at it. I watched them in total awe.
The question on everyone’s mind: Will there be a season two of The Gay and Wondrous Life of Caleb Gallo?
No plans of that for now, but I’m glad you like the show enough to ask!
What advice do you have for other queer comedians out there?
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Brian Jordan Alvarez Reflects on Caleb Gallo Success and the Importance of Queer Solidarity. Photo Credit: Scotty So