Julian Shapiro-Barnum, 23, is a comedian and actor known for his viral online show, “Recess Therapy.” By channeling the energy of Mr. Rogers and Art Linkletter, as he tells us, “I conduct on-the-street interviews with children ages 2 to 9 about their hopes, confusions, and dreams, eliciting thoughts on topics including climate change, love, stress, and most recently, corn.” (Yes, with more than 6 billion impressions, Shapiro-Barnum’s “corn kid” interview was last summer’s most shared video.) Shapiro-Barnum was raised by five gay parents in Brooklyn; the Crown Heights resident says “unconventional” Jewish upbringing helps him connect with widely diverse children.
For the full list of this year’s 36 to Watch — which honors leaders, entrepreneurs and changemakers who are making a difference in New York’s Jewish community — click here.
What inspired you to do what you do?
I make “Recess Therapy” because I think adults can learn a great deal from children. Kids are full of empathy, love and joy. They are always willing to learn and rethink their ideas! As we get older our ideas and sense of self hardens into an identity. Kids can teach us to be malleable and embrace change!
Who is your New York Jewish hero?
How does your Jewish identity or experience influence your work?
Growing up within a culture of storytelling and music greatly influenced my interest in the arts. I feel like my early exposure to Passover tradition — putting on a play on the story of Passover and hearing my dad sing — got me interested in the arts.
What is your favorite place to eat Jewish food in New York?
My dad’s house.
What is your favorite book about New York?
“10:04” by Ben Lerner.
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In one sentence, what was your best experience as a Jewish New Yorker?
Going to Benj Pasek‘s Passover seder.
Do you have a favorite inspiring quote?
“Elmo thinks it’s important to be kind because if you’re kind to somebody, then they’ll be kind to somebody, and it goes on and on and on.” — Elmo
What are three spots in NYC that all Jewish New Yorkers should visit?
Ursula (best breakfast burrito in NY!!), the Vale of Cashmere (a beautiful spot in Prospect Park) and Su’juk (the best vintage clothing spot).
Where can people follow you online?
On Instagram @recess_therapy or @julianmsb
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