John Early’s Practical, Saintly, and Futile Guide to Hosting a Party

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For no other reason than his current appearances on the fifth and final season of the HBO Max millennial satire Search Party and the Apple TV+ whodunit The Afterparty, we asked the camp-comedy maestro John Early for his ultimate guide to hosting. He did not disappoint.


Remember that the biggest obstacle to throwing a good party is, of course, you. In the realm of politics, I firmly believe that we must not blame the individual. But throwing a party is not political, honey. “Joy” is not “an act of resistance,” despite what some infographics might tell you. It’s a fucking skill, so listen up.

The morning of the party you’ll be hit by a 100-foot wave of existential dread. Yes, throwing a party is futile, but its futility is what makes it life-affirming and distinctly human. Dogs don’t throw parties, but you do, girl. So turn off the Philip Glass score in your head, get out of bed, and do not succumb. This is valuable time to mop or buy weed.

Twenty-four hours is not enough time to fundamentally change your personality. So focus on the practical and avoid invasive thoughts like, “Why do I cross my eyes to punctuate jokes?” or, “Am I capable of creating an atmosphere that can lead to group sex?”

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We all know by now that food absorbs anxiety, even spinach artichoke dip. So with everything that throwing a party is bound to bring up in you, just avoid cooking altogether. You don’t want to quite literally make your friends eat your dad stuff.

Cooking for a big party can also come across as a little saintly. Really, cooking for anyone in any scenario at all is selfish in its very display of selflessness, much like parenting. It traps you in a performance of martyrdom, and your guests in a performance of gratitude, which then creates a weird, mutual resentment. You would be shocked by how hostile you can sound while saying, “Oh my god, all I did was follow a Molly Baz recipe!”

That being said, don’t put out store-bought snacks without doing exhaustive research into the brands’ labor practices. One time I put out a bunch of Tate’s cookies the same week they were caught union-busting, and now I fear I’ve alienated my new contacts in the dirtbag left.

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Every party I ever throw begins with a thoughtfully curated guest list, but an hour before it starts, I become convinced that no one will show up and I end up inviting a bunch of acquaintances who “I’m pretty sure are friends with Sia.” Avoid this mania by being chill up top and letting friends bring friends. The more is always the merrier, especially when you’re tanked.

Always do a scan for any embarrassing self-help books that could be lying around. One time at a party, I left a copy of Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love on the coffee table, and there was nothing I could do about it. Nothing.

Try not to look at your living space through “the eyes of the other.” About four seconds before the first guest arrives is classically when I start to hate every interior design choice I’ve ever made. What once seemed like a timeless, feminine lilac Formica dining table, now feels like totally received millennial taste. I have a recurring nightmare where there’s a stain on the table, and I can’t tell if it’s blood or a smear of chili oil I bought on Instagram.

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Nothing should be off-limits conversationally at a good party, except of course for what’s on the list of banned topics that you can email guests ahead of time. For my parties, I usually ban talking about social media addiction (which is just another form of social media addiction), pretending to hate the word “moist,” and ’90s references.

The most essential rule of any party is that you must release the fear of waking up your neighbors. Do we not fight? Do we not fuck? Please know I said the last two sentences in a French accent. Any good neighbor will understand that every once in a while you have to turn up Kelis’s Flesh Tone and emancipate yourself.

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Hair: Gregg Lennon Jr.

Makeup: Ally McGillicuddy using Fenty Beauty and Tatcha

Set Design: Savy Dean

Production: Born Artists