Brett Gelman Talks Characters At Book Event

Brett Gelman as Willy in Strays. © 2023 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved. (Chuck Zlotnick/Universal Pictures)

Brett Gelman was on hand to promote his new book, The Terrifying Realm of the Possible, in the Chicago suburbs on Wednesday night.

Nearly 400 gathered at Am Shalom on Wednesday after the initial venue–The Book Stand–caved to antisemitic intimidation. Threats of protests certainly didn’t stop the crowd from coming out to see Gelman. If anything did, it was probably the weather forecast. Among them were family, friends, aspiring actors, or just proud Jews. The actor discussed his book, the Marx Brothers, Jonathan Glazer’s Oscars speech, antisemitism, the March for Israel, going to college in North Carolina, acting, meeting Joan Rivers, etc. Attendees were also able to submit questions beforehand–you can read my question below.

The Terrifying Realm of the Possible: Nearly True Stories by Brett Gelman.
The Terrifying Realm of the Possible: Nearly True Stories by Brett Gelman (Dey Street Books).

During the talk, Gelman also made mention that Duck Soup was an RKO film. It is actually the last of five Marx Brothers movies at Paramount Pictures. Room Service was the only Marx Brothers film at RKO, coming in between MGM movies.

Gelman’s book is a collection of short stories about characters at a different stage in their life:

  • ABRAHAM AMSTERDAM (the child)
  • MENDEL FREUDENBERGER (the teenager)
  • JACKIE COHEN (the adult)
  • IRIS BELOW (the senior)
  • Z (the dead)

Following the talk–a conversation between Gelman and Am Shalom Rabbi Steven Stark Lowenstein–attendees moved next door to meet Gelman during the book signing aspect of the event.

What do you typically look for in a character when reading a screenplay?
Brett Gelman: If there’s a—that it’s good. That the writing’s good. Yeah, that it’s a complicated character. It’s the whole project. You meet the director. Nowadays, that’s the process, where I’m choosier. Before, it was like, Oh, a job? Yes, please! But yeah, that there’s something interesting being done and that it’s not spelling anything out. I mean, if there’s a movie that I feel like is going to be a good business move, that I don’t necessarily like, I’ll do that because a movie is not a huge commitment. But a television show or a play, that’s a real—you’ve got to be down. You’re going to be spending a lot of time on that. Of course, I’ve been lucky that especially lately, I’ve worked on great stuff with great people. But yes, it’s the whole package of the writing, director, and the vision of the thing.

The Terrifying Realm of the Possible is now available.

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.