KATE Audience Interview: Nicole Grieco
Updated: Sep 13
Similar to our Rothaniel audience interview last July, this discussion was with my good friend Nicole Grieco. She and I had attended two of the same shows for Kate Berlant's one-woman play in New York City, and I spoke with Nicole about what she thought of the performances and her opinions as a major fan of both Kate and Bo Burnham.
Here is my interview with Nicole, which has been edited and condensed for clarity purposes.
Stand-Up Comedy Historian: Hey, Nicole! Thanks for sharing your thoughts about Kate with me.
Nicole: No problem!
SUCH: Wonderful. So first, can you tell my readers a bit about yourself?
Nicole: Sure! I'm from New York, and I'm a lawyer/court attorney. :)
SUCH: Great. So let's get into it.
What show(s) did you get tickets for? Previews or full show (Previews=8/20-9/6; Opened 9/7-10/8)? Or did you attend a Winter Encore performance (12/19-2/10)?
Nicole: I had attended the 9/3 preview and 2/10 encore.
SUCH: That's right. We were at two shows together—SO much fun!
Nicole, Kinja, and me in my Tour shirt
So, I know the answer to this, but are you from New York, or did you have to travel to attend?
Nicole: I didn't travel to attend because I do live in NYC!
SUCH: That's certainly convenient! Haha
So where were you seated? And did Kate walk through your section for either performance?
Nicole: For the first show, Kate DID walk through our row if I recall correctly, and we had good middle row seats.
For the second show, I had a "partial view" seat off to the side of the main level.
SUCH: Yeah, the prices definitely went up considerably for the Winter Encore, but it was so worth it to see Kate perform again!
Did you see/meet Bo or Kate (or both!)? Did you see Bo in the audience/lounge? Please explain in detail (and provide any pictures if you have them!).
Nicole: I saw Bo both times before the show, but I didn't have the guts to go talk to him :P
The first time, he was in the lounge ~art experience~ area. The second time, he was chatting with someone inside the theater before the show.
I did take one very-hard-to-see stalker pic the second time...I spent so many minutes just trying to tell if it was him or not, but I recognized his voice.
SUCH: HARD same there. He just looks like an average dude in person. It always takes me a few minutes to figure out if that random tall guy is Bo or not haha.
Did you walk in the sand (barefoot or not)? Or sit in the armchair? If you went to the Winter Encore, did you see the snow Kate?
Nicole: I had observed the sand because I did NOT want to walk barefoot in it, lol. For the winter show, I saw the Snow Kate!
I got the sand/snow experience each time, but did pop into the armchair room with the home movies afterwards.
SUCH: Yup, same. I wonder which seats went with Experience A (the armchair)? I was certain that I would be in that group for the Winter Encore show, but NOPE!
So did you buy any Kate merch (shirt, sticker, etc.)? It was only available at the Winter Encore shows.
Nicole: I didn't buy anything. :(
SUCH: That's cool. I got a t-shirt heh.
Did you read everything in the lounge? What was your favorite element?
Nicole: I don't really remember specifically what was written, but I just liked the pretentious art show vibes.
Kate and her IGNORE ME sign was my favorite element if that counts. :)
SUCH: Oh, definitely! I enjoyed the whole lounge area, and Kate said on Birbiglia's podcast recently that she and Bo came up with that sign concept only two days before the show had opened.
Kate: This was a very last-minute joke that fucking made Bo and I laugh like two days before we opened. It was always like I'm gonna sit in the entryway in sort of a gallery environment. And I'm going to be sitting with a spotlight on me and it was like I should have a sign around my neck or something. It's like what should the sign say? It should say "IGNORE ME." It made us laugh and it was just like "Yeah, let's make the sign Ignore Me", and it just stuck.
The Guardian explains the satirical atmosphere in the following way:
It plays with pretension: in the lobby as audiences file in, they find a museum-like exhibition of her costumes and notebooks, and Berlant herself, sitting in dark glasses on a chair wearing a sign that says, “Ignore Me”.
It's iconic, in my opinion (and the image I chose for Kate in my website header haha).
Did you shake hands with a stranger when prompted?
Nicole: I definitely shook hands with a stranger at the second show! The first time I was around people I knew, and the second time I was seated by myself with people who were seeing it the first time closing night.
SUCH: Did you spot all the Kate images adorning the venue? Any favorites?
Kinja, me, and Nicole in a Welcome to the Internet Schroeder shirt (I have the same design!)
Nicole: I can't be sure that I saw ALL the Kate images! The little tiny ones were my favorites, also the one in the bathroom.
SUCH: Yes, the bathroom one was one of my favorites too! [Ed. note: You can see all the Kates I could find here.]
Who was your bartender? Do you remember where they were from?
Nicole: I don't remember the bartender except that one of the shows the person had a too-appropriate job, like an actor right?
And one person was from far away like Wisconsin. Am I misremembering? (Likely!)
SUCH: Your guess is as good as mine, but I do recall the first bartender being named Noah.
What was the neutral word that made Kate cry at the end?
Nicole: MY MEMORY IS TRASH APPARENTLY, it was too many months ago and I don't remember the words! Pleeease help, you saw both shows with me.
Why do I think the first was "cantaloupe"? Or a similar food word like that?
SUCH: No worries—it was over a year ago since the first show! I can only remember because I took copious notes like I always do haha.
You can see the specifics of our shows in my self-interview here.
Did you go to the decorated bathroom? What did you think of it?
Nicole: I had missed the decorated bathroom at the first show, and luckily you told me and I didn't make that mistake the second time!
SUCH: That's awesome that you were able to experience it at the second show. And I'm glad I helped!
Since you went to more than one performance, can you explain any differences you had noticed between the shows?
Did you prefer one over the other? Why?
Nicole: The show itself was very similar without much changing between performances.
I think simply the "feel" of it was different between going in the first time totally blind and not knowing what to expect versus the second time and knowing all the beats that were coming.
For the surprise element, I think I preferred seeing it the first time, but on the other hand I was excited to see it again (and I'm sure I did pick up on stuff I'd missed, though they've blurred together now!).
SUCH: Yeah, the final show was my personal favorite—Kate gave it her all that night, and it was electrifying to watch!
What elements were Bo-like (glitter, glass, etc.) that you had noticed? Did you find any similarities to Inside or Bo's other works?
Nicole: I could definitely see the "Bo" theatrical elements of what. and Make Happy—like you had mentioned with the glitter/confetti and the glass smashing.
I also thought the use of video was very Bo, like it was unclear how much was pre-recorded and how much was live, and it sort of played with the audience's uncertainty about that (at one point, she acknowledges the fact there's a delay between her and the video).
You can tell how finely tuned the whole show was, besides the obvious moments of (very light) improvisation with the audience.
There were audio and light and video elements that had to be the same every night. I swear, even her quick costume change to be the "janitor" at the end was identical both times I saw it.
To me the most interesting thing is that between Inside, Bo directing Rothaniel, and even his Chris Rock special [Ed. note: Tamborine on Netflix], he's been a huge part of this trend of "comedy" specials that take a darker and more personal turn. And obviously I enjoy those and find them really meaningful!
But the climax of Kate is that she's sort of poking fun at those deep confessional-type shows, and she doesn't really have a big traumatic secret to talk about.
Even though she was basically making fun of artsy, self-important One-Woman Show type things the whole time, there was still a point watching it the first time where I thought it might get more dramatic toward the end (as she does kind of a tense build-up to her iron deficiency story), and then it didn't and her big emotional breakdown was entirely A Joke.
To be clear I wasn't disappointed in that, it was actually kind of a relief and I laughed harder at the last 20 or so minutes of Kate than anything else in a while. And I think maybe the Bo connection added an extra layer to that? Like he's so good at making stuff that's artificial and sincere at the same time, and she went up to that line and then subverted it, like oh this is not sincere at ALL. (But it is extremely fucking funny.)
SUCH: Absolutely! I agree with you that Bo has been a huge component of "traumedies" as Neal Brennan calls them, and Kate definitely subverts that. I just think Bo enjoys putting an audience in a state of unease and making them sit in that uncomfortable state as long as possible before providing the relief of a joke.
As I said to Stucks in our podcast interview, it's that element of sadness or suspense in comedy that makes the funnier parts that MUCH funnier. We all want to escape that uncomfortable feeling and feel the release of tension.
The Guardian puts it this way, which I agree with:
They don’t hand an audience the laugh – you have to sit there with them for a little while, go on their awkward little journey to earn it.
It truly deepens the performance (and I obviously ADORE it lol).
So what did you think of Bo's direction specifically?
Bo Burnham directed it, the brilliant Bo Burnham.
He directs the show. He's fantastic, he's amazing.
Nicole: Yeah, don't know what else to add to my previous answer. BO DID A GOOD JOB. It was just a really well-done show on a technical level without ever taking the focus away from her.
Actually going back to the video thing, the extreme close-up bit made me REALLY appreciate just how funny Kate is with her facial expressions, not just the trying-to-cry part but the earlier scene in the guy's apartment. There was just something extremely silly and fearless about it, and I think the direction was a big part of that as well.
SUCH: Yes, I loved the apartment scene too. At first, I thought it was going to go in a casting couch/Fame direction of the Producer being a sleazebag, but it's one of my favorite parts of the show for sure. [Ed. note: Apparently the world doesn't want to remember that awful exploitative scene in Fame, so here's Family Guy's take on it ugh.]
And I agree, Kate did all three versions of the emotions beautifully. You could really see the differences between theater, television, and movie acting!
What was your favorite part of the show? Most memorable? Funniest?
Nicole: Honestly the whole last sequence from when she starts crying had me in absolute stitches. Just the whole meta thing of her realizing they've run out of time, the Marvel guy (who might be inviting her to A Universe) never showed up, and she's just rushing through the rest of the show (THE MASK OF MY FATHER or whatever, MASK. MASCULINITY.) and coming back out as the janitor character while still crying.
The fourth wall breaks in general made me laugh a lot, like there's an earlier part where she broke character to assure the audience she Knows What She's Doing. The fact they played "Sandstorm" when she was in the club.
When the pre-show intro video started scrolling through her IMDB page. The inexplicable Irish accent of her mother. And like I said, the build-up and release of tension in her big iron deficiency secret...honestly that whole monologue was just so perfectly delivered with faux-somberness—it lives in my head rent-free.
I think the highlight for me was her recalling the doctor writing her a prescription and then correcting himself that she doesn't even need a prescription for it. And then she goes through an abbreviated version of the whole thing again. Yeah, that was the bit that made me laugh the hardest.
SUCH: Yes, the whole correcting herself the entire time and making sure we KNOW that she knows what she's doing was hysterical to me. She was like constantly holding our hands throughout until she broke down. And her iron deficiency monologue was the BEST!
Feel free to write about anything else that happened the night of the show(s). Were there other celebrities in attendance?
Nicole: I got a picture with her afterwards! I feel like you asked this earlier, and I got distracted by the Bo part [Ed. note: As do we all haha].
It's funny because in the pic she still has the running mascara from the end of the show. It was closing night of the show so I was happy to gush even briefly that I loved the show and loved her on A League of Their Own (RIP).
SUCH: You got such a lovely photo with Kate, and I had never noticed the running mascara in that picture until now lol.
Don't remind me about ALOTO! Sob...she was WONDERFUL on that show as Shirley.
Bo with Kate and fellow A League of Their Own cast member Kelly McCormack
Well, this has been a great discussion, Nicole. Thanks for talking to me about the shows you had attended!
Nicole: It's been a pleasure. Thank you!
For the complete list of Kate Berlant articles, including all the audience interviews, please click here.