Peep John Early's Toni Collette-Centric Zine

Peep John Early's Toni Collette-Centric Zine

The actor's homage to his favorite actress is an ode to mid-aughts queerness.

The actor's homage to his favorite actress is an ode to mid-aughts queerness.

Text: SAMUEL ANDERSON

John Early fans will be familiar with the actor and comedian's long-held obsession with Toni Collette, who makes frequent cameos Early's impassioned stand-up. And while he may be known for satirizing contemporary culture with his elastic expressiveness and exaggerated character work, his love for the grinny Australian actress is no schtick; much of his Toni routine involves showing slides from an actual Toni Collette fansite that Early launched in 2001 when he was just a tween.

That website is the inspiration for a new zine by edited Early in conjunction with A24, the studio behind Collette's latest vehicle Hereditary, which hits theaters Friday. The zine chronicles Early's deep-seated Toni Collette fandom, which began with the 1997 year film Clockwatchers, a dark comedy also starring 90s queens Lisa Kudrow and Parker Posey. “I first saw Clockwatchers when I was like 10 years old because it was in the 'Sundance Recommends' section at Blockbuster, which just meant that it could have gay content in it,” Early explains. “And she was this very mousy woman Iris, a sweet, unformed innocent woman. And I felt very obsessed and connected with her in the way that one can at that age.”  

And while most of his peers growing up in Nashville, Tennessee may have been quietly stanning JT or Britney, Early began preaching the Toni Collette gospel both IRL and online. “I was and still am a very evangelical person when it comes to the art and the actresses I love. I’ve learned to reign it in a little bit, but I was telling everyone about it. I was telling my teachers. I was telling my straight male classmates.”

Using the erstwhile web platform Geosites, Early claimed the domain “go.to/toni-collette,” and began sharing primo Toni Collette content with his albeit limited audience. “It had polls and a guestbook and it had a chat room that literally not one person ever used. And it was just kind of all the things you would imagine on a shoddily made website in the late 90s.”

In addition to serving as a document of pre-Myspace html, the zine also tracks Early’s journey of personal discovery in the pre-woke aughts. “The birth of my sexuality was very much linked with like my love for Toni,” he says. “And I didn’t know I was gay at the time. I hadn’t come out yet. So there was this very strange conflict. Like, once I did realize I was gay I was like, Oh god. I basically have this proof.”

Today, with shows like Big Little Lies ushering in an era of actress worship, the culture has caught up to Early’s ecstatic brand of fandom. “I love expresses actresses. I don’t give a shit about subtly. I really don’t,” says Early. “I don’t understand why we applaud subtlety. I love Laura Dern, I love Toni Collette—people who use their voices and. And that’s clearly my style, too.”

Indeed, the zine is, after all, an homage not only to Toni Collette, but to Early himself, who has appeared in Search Party and Netflix’s The Characters, building his own army of devotees with a brand of unsubtle queerness, perhaps best epitomized in the “About Me” section of the zine, in which he writes, “Song that describes my life: Pull Over That A** Too Fat by Trina”—a descriptor he says still stands up today. “I definitely do still have a thick ass,” Early says. “So it definitely still applies.”  

Credits: IMAGES COURTESY OF JOHN EARLY

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