Comedy is Julian Shapiro-Barnum’s vehicle of choice when it comes to talking about taboo topics no one else wants to approach. For Shapiro-Barnum, the hoodwinking comes from pairing fun and entertainment with something more challenging. By using humor as an access point for talking about more complicated topics, Shapiro-Barnum brings viewers in through laughter while simultaneously asking them to interrogate societal norms. Nepotism takes something tremendously taboo and makes the conversation accessible to anyone, especially with the inclusion of a talk show section, a format which Shapiro-Barnum has gravitated towards during COVID as a means to stay connected with other humans in the world. By including different perspectives from strangers, Shapiro-Barnum also breaks down the gatekeeping of critical discourse.
Shapiro-Barnum’s piece Nepotism with Julian opens with the skit Nep Slip — a play on “nip slip” — in which a conversation between three friends unravels when one friend reveals that they’ve recently received a job offer through a connection from their dad. It’s chock-full of awkward moments, which are leveraged to heighten the humor around ideas of nepotism while inviting viewers to engage with the topic.
When Nep Slip ends, the video cuts to person-on-the-street interviews in which one seemingly straightforward question is posed to random passersby: “So, what do you think about nepotism?” A slew of replies ensue, from sharp criticism to strong support. Most noticeably, everyone has an immediate gut reaction. The video closes with another skit in which Shapiro-Barnum springs into a monologue about his own take on nepotism. Shapiro-Barnum ends by bringing the critique of nepotism back to himself: “Yeah, duh — I always cast my friend in my work.”
— An Uong
Hi! I’m Julian Shapiro-Barnum (@julianmsb) I’m a comedian, filmmaker, and actor. For the past year I have been attempting to make art that is as hilarious as it is topical, inclusive, and insightful. I use humor to call the audience into conversation with what's going on in the world instead of helping them check out. My series show the confusion and pain of being a young person, all while honoring the silly ways we cope. I combine on the street interviews with scripted comedy to create share heartfelt and funny stories!