Julian Shapiro-Barnum
Nepotism With Julian

Nepotism With Julian, video, 2020, 6:32 min.
Actors (in order of appearance):
Julian Shapiro-Barnum
Mallika Chandaria
Eleanor Pearson
Tei Blow

Scoring for interviews: Jacob Lawrence Kreiss
Credit Music: Surf Party USA

For a transcript of the video, click here.
A group of three people stand sipping drinks and conversing in a party-like setting. They each fill their own shot as they speak, breaking their perspectives into three separate spaces and providing a layer of irony. They remain separate and shot from the shoulders up until they begin to discuss each other’s “slips” (whether this be a “nep” slip or a nip slip). The camera continues to make quick cuts, still only filming each person individually until two characters make their exit together. The screen goes black and white text appears onscreen one word at a time with Julian’s voiceover reading: “What do you think about Nepotism?”. A handful of bystanders respond to the question in short clips. The screen fades to black once more and opens with a man holding a microphone, white text appears reading “Tight 5 with Tei Blow” before sliding offscreen. The camera cuts between Tei Blow and Julian respectively as they speak. Tei Blow begins to interview Julian about nepotism, giving him five seconds as a clock counts down onscreen. Julian is flustered and asks for more time. They continue to discuss nepotism while black text on the bottom right of the screen reads NEPOTISM. As Julian speaks, soft music begins to play and the camera cuts between his monologue and Tei Blow on his phone. Julian finishes his monologue and thanks Tei Blow for being a part of the project. The screen goes black and white text appears reading: “Nepotism With Julian” upbeat music plays and the credits follow.

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

Artist Biography

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!