Comedian Brett Gelman is no stranger to monsters, from Adult Swim’s Dinner with Brett Gelman specials where he portrays a problematic version of himself to his turn as disgraced journalist Murray Bauman on the second season of Stranger Things. From Nov. 10 to Dec. 10, Gelman will take on a monster of a different kind: the titular character in the Huntington Theatre Company’s production of Tartuffe. We checked in with him to discuss Molière and the Netflix phenomenon.
What inspired you to enter the world of comedy? I was 6 years old and I saw A Night at the Opera with the Marx Brothers, and that was it. I was hooked. I was completely hooked.
You’re about to play the lead in the classic comedy Tartuffe. What drew you to the role? I received training at North Carolina School of the Arts, and we studied all the classics. A big part of our curriculum was Molière, and this was my favorite play and one of my dream roles in theater. …I love the character of Tartuffe because he is just such a hilarious monster. But also, he really is a reflection of a lot of dark things that are going on in the country right now.
What was the inspiration behind the Dinner with Brett Gelman specials? The first one, Dinner with Friends with Brett Gelman and Friends, was originally my co-writer and director Jason Woliner’s idea. He had this idea of me doing a comedy special around his dinner table, and it developed into these three pieces that were sort of horror comedy. They were equally as horrifying and disturbing as they were funny. The first one was really based on how he and I felt at odd ends with people around us in the world and how we felt like monsters within that.
Speaking of monsters, the second season of Stranger Things was just released. What was it like joining a show with such a cult following? It’s a thrill. The Duffer brothers just have such an incredible vision of what the show should be. Everybody is really nice—you would never know that this was a hit show with how humble and down-to-earth every single person on it is. But everybody’s very focused and intense about the work, and that’s a combo I like. … It’s crazy. I haven’t really processed that I’m on a show that’s this huge. It’s such a pop cultural phenomenon.
If you could play any other character on Stranger Things, who would it be? [Laughs.] I would be the Demogorgon.