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Party of Two

Oberlin Alumni Magazine
Summer 2017

The original article can be read here: http://www2.oberlin.edu/alummag/summer2017/issue/html5forpc.html?page=16&bbv=1&pcode=

In December, TBS renewed for a second season the dark comedy Search Party, co-created by Sarah-Violet Bliss ’06 and featuring Clare McNulty ’07 in a recurring role. Revolving around a missing-persons case and the group of clueless Brooklynites who band together to solve it, Search Party was met with the kind of universally positive reception usually reserved for, say, the Toy Story franchise, or surprise celebrity pregnancy announcements. Written by Bliss, Charles Rodgers, and Michael Showalter (Wet Hot American Summer), and starring Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development), the show’s brand of sharply satirical, millennial-skewering humor appeared to be a welcome shock to the systems of most television critics.

“To be perfectly honest with you, I’m not surprised,” says McNulty, one of Bliss’ long-time collaborators and best friends. “I think Sarah-Violet’s a genius, and I have always thought that. I’ve told her this a million times, but she’s the most emotionally intelligent, kindest, smartest person I know.”

Bliss speaks in similarly glowing terms about McNulty, whom she calls her “muse," bringing to mind a quote from Girls, another show created by an Oberlin alum that explores the ennui of post-grad life: “A friendship between college girls is grander and more dramatic than any romance.” The women’s friendship blossomed at Oberlin after a rom-com-worthy beginning, in which McNulty propositioned a group of acquaintances—including Bliss—with grandiose plan to stage a play in her hometown of Tucson over the summer.

“My sophomore year and [Bliss’] junior year, we were performing in Top Girls together and I was freaking out about boy stuff, I think, and I was trying to come up with something really elaborate to keep myself occupied,” McNulty says, “and one day I drank a lot of coffee and was like, ‘I’m going to do a show in Tucson. I’m going to do a show at home.’”

McNulty burst into rehearsal soon after, asking, “Who wants to go to Arizona with me?” 

“And in an effort to just avoid going back to New York, and possibly accidentally get back together with my boyfriend, I was like ‘Yes, I want to go to Tucson with you!’” laughs Bliss.

After Oberlin, Bliss entered the graduate film program at NYU and made Fort Tilden, a blisteringly funny film about the attempt of two twenty-somethings, clad in rompers and craving iced coffees, to reach the titular New York beach. Starring McNulty and Bridey Elliot, Fort Tilden premiered at the 2014 South by Southwest Festival, where it won the Grand Jury Award and effectively launched Bliss’ career. Search Party developed soon after, another razor-sharp take on so-called “millennial culture.” This foray into television allowed Bliss to apply her own brand of observational humor to a medium she had always felt a connection to. “I love actors and I love mocking—even if it’s not intended to mock,” she says. “I love that art of recreating life.”




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