Rothaniel Audience Interview: Nicole Grieco
Updated: Jun 1
New York attorney Nicole attended the first of the four shows that were taped on 2/16-2/17 to create the modern comedy masterpiece.
Here is her story, edited and condensed for clarity purposes.
Bo Burnham Historian: Hi, Nicole!
Nicole Grieco: Hey!
BBH: So how did you first hear about what would eventually be called Rothaniel?
NG: I'm not sure how all the tickets were distributed, but I heard about it from an HBO website where you could sign up a few days before to receive 1-2 tickets by lottery.
I actually got the heads up from other Bo Burnham fans, because we had an idea he was gonna be directing it even though it wasn't 100% confirmed yet. (Honestly I was almost worried it would end up being a lot of white Bo Burnham fans in the crowd, but that wasn’t the case.)
BBH: Right. And you attended the earlier showing on 2/16/22, correct?
NG: Yes, there were 2 nights of shows, a 7:00 and 9:00 on each night. I had put in for the lottery and got 7:00 on the first night.
BBH: Awesome! I remember meeting you while in line for the second taping. It was cold out there, but it was definitely NOT snowing! Haha
A photo of Kinja, myself, and Nicole before Rothaniel
NG: Exactly! Just movie magic.
BBH: Before the taping, either in the announcement you heard about it from or some sort of pre-show email, did they say anything about how to dress? How to behave?
NG: We were not told much before the show. Not even the name, since it was billed as “An Evening with Jerrod Carmichael” and we knew it was his new special being taped for HBO.
There was the standard disclaimer we could be on camera and to dress in "elegant club attire", darker colors preferred.
BBH: When you arrived at the taping, were there any instructions? (Like did they say, "Please feel free to ask questions?")
NG: I honestly don't recall being encouraged or told we could talk/ask questions or anything like that! We were specifically told not to stand up or walk around during the show.
At least at my taping, it was not as "active" a crowd with throwing questions at him as it seemed in the special! He did sometimes respond to people's reactions and play off the crowd though.
BBH: Yeah, he did a Q&A at the tapings after yours, so I am betting that's where a lot of the questions came from in the final product.
Have you watched Rothaniel? Did the set you saw follow that general order?
NG: Yes, his set essentially played out just as it did in the special. There were definitely some bits here and there that were cut.
I don't want to get too deep into the cutting room floor stuff, but there was actually a little more (humorously told!) about his dad’s other kids and a previous time when he confronted him. Some reactions and specific stuff with the audience (like the woman going "wow!" over his white boyfriend lol) was definitely off-the-cuff and from a different taping than the one I was at, where he addressed that in a slightly different way.
My impression was that the 'I'm gay' turning point came about a third or halfway through, and the focus on his mom toward the end, but I can't say the minute-by-minute breakdown.
BBH: Same with mine (the woman's reaction was actually during my taping! haha).
When there weren't as many laughs by the end, did it play like that in the room?
NG: For me, I definitely got the sense of it going to a more heavy confessional-comedy place a la Nanette or Inside. There were still moments where he'd say something hilarious and sort of alleviate the tension in the room.
And I still felt the audience was there with him, if that makes sense, like it wasn't *uncomfortable*, it was intentionally taking a more serious turn. Something I've always liked about Jerrod, just from watching his previous specials, is he isn't afraid of pauses and silences like other comedians might be. He has this really chill, quiet, conversational energy. You're hanging on what he's gonna say next.
BBH: Absolutely! So from what I've discerned, there was no Q&A at the earlier taping, only the ones later in the night on 2/16 and the two on 2/17. Is that correct?
NG: Right. There was no Q&A at my 7:00 show, but I heard there was at the later show. My theory is that some of the most therapy-like moments of audience interaction in the special actually came from the Q&A part, but were edited earlier into his monologue to give the illusion of a more active give-and-take from the audience (which is really compelling IMO).
At the show I was at, there were one or two moments where people in the audience interjected or talked back audibly to him (like positive heckling), BUT at the time I didn't think anything of it and assumed anything like that was going to be cut out. It was a huge surprise watching the special and seeing the audience feedback being such an important part of it.
BBH: I completely agree. With Bo helming the direction AND the editing, I was certain he'd cut out most of the audience interaction, but I was happy to be wrong in this case!
When did Jerrod reveal his real name? Was that at the end of the taping in the same way it is in the special?
NG: I was shocked to see the special was being advertised as Rothaniel because it was like, THAT'S A SPOILER! He put that at the very end! Ha. Yes, that was basically the closer moment that ended the show and got a big round of applause, and afterwards he briefly came back out to thank the crowd again.
BBH: I know! Crazy that we only knew about it as an Evening with Jerrod. Haha
Any final thoughts or ideas you wanted to share about the special?
NG: My hot take is that I was a little worried after seeing it live that there was something "unfinished" and work-in-progress about it that maybe should not have been filmed right away. Like, there's too much stuff with his coming out and family that he's still actively working through and a part of me was like "this is good but would it be amazing if he made it a YEAR from now?"
But watching the final product, it DOES feel like it’s complete, like the immediate and honest and unresolved nature of it all is really beautiful actually.
BBH: That's a great way to put it. Thank you for doing this interview, Nicole!
NG: No problem!
For more interviews from Rothaniel audience members, please see the aggregate post here.