Boys, Interrupting
New York magazine|July 19 - August 1, 2021
At home with the members of sketch-comedy group Please Don’t Destroy, viral auteurs of the absurd roommate run-in.
By Rebecca Alter. Photograph by DeSean MCClinton-Holland

It’s 80 degrees out but feels hotter inside this four-bedroom apartment on the upper Upper West Side, where the AC is off to cut noise and the three members of the sketch comedy group Please Don’t Destroy are on their 19th take of the same 15-second stretch of video. The setup of this sketch is that the guys—Martin Herlihy, John Higgins, and Ben Marshall— are all watching Family Feud when an Anonymous-style hacker intercepts their TV feed and addresses them by name. They consider and film every possible variation on the opening segment like food scientists lab-testing a new variety of Twinkie: Should they lean forward when the hacker appears on TV or all fall back onto the couch? Should they play it like terror or just confusion? At what point should their friend—and today’s cameraman—Pete Christmann whip the iPhone around to catch their reactions?

The hacker character isn’t scary, just extremely lame in that male-coded sort of way where he wants to talk about dogecoin and maybe meet up at Barcade. Partway through, Herlihy realizes that the sketch—which, like many of their videos, will probably get at least 100,000 likes when they post it to Twitter and TikTok—is simply them “just being mean to a weird guy.”

“Yep,” Marshall says. “That’s what comedy is!”

If you are even vaguely interested in comedy and know what a “For You” page is, odds are you’ve seen videos made by Please Don’t Destroy. You probably also have no idea that that’s what the group is called—maybe you have referred to its members as “those comedy boys” or the “funny TikTok roommates.” (They signed off emails to me as “The Boys.”) Herlihy, Higgins, and Marshall—22, 25, and 26, respectively—started going viral over the past year as live comedy was mostly shut down and everyone was feeling the burnout of being at home and online all day. Their frenetic videos usually throw the viewer into a scene between roommates in this exceedingly normal apartment, often starting mid-sentence with one character laying out something balls-to the-wall kooky as if it’s the plainest fact you’ve ever heard (a new type of dog has been invented, Netflix made a documentary about Herlihy’s boring life) before launching into a litany of absurd and surprising jokes on the main premise, causing even more absurd reactions. Their videos capture what it feels like to share all your space and time with weird roommates, in a way that manages to be comforting: They have the rapport and selfassured rhythm of friends who spent the pandemic making one another laugh.

They had each been posting individual comedy videos to their respective Twitter accounts that would get a few thousand likes; the first time I saw one of their videos was when Herlihy posted a sketch called “Color-blind Glasses” in May 2020, which he says “was the first one that was like, Oh, wow, people are seeing this.” By the fall, the group was posting more sketches that take place in this apartment—where Herlihy and Marshall live with Christmann and Brady Lees—sometimes with just one of the trio talking on-camera to an off-camera straight man, or with all three, or with the three of them plus Christmann and Lees. Then, in March 2021, they exploded: Marshall tweeted a Please Don’t Destroy sketch in which he announces he has been vaccinated, only for the others to realize that whatever happened to him (“I think it was the Dumbrekka?” he says. “It was the cheapest one, like $300 or something”) was definitely not Fauci approved.

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