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Comedian Neal Brennan's New Show Centers On The Ways He Feels Unacceptable

"Neal Brennan: Unacceptable" will run in New York City through November.
Matt Murphy
"Neal Brennan: Unacceptable" will run in New York City through November.

Updated September 15, 2021 at 1:56 PM ET

Comedian Neal Brennan has thought a lot about whether he's accepted in comedy — and whether or not he even should be. Now, he's tackling those feelings of self-criticism, harsh inner-monologues, and mental health in a new comedy show.

He's best known for co-creating Chappelle's Show with Dave Chappelle, a critically acclaimed comedy sketch show rooted in Black culture.

But these days, Brennan is wondering whether he, a white man, is helping or hurting America when he makes those racial jokes.

"The tension is that it's unknowable whether I'm making fun of stereotypes or encouraging them," he tells Morning Edition host A Martínez. "People don't know your intentions. And then people will take the joke and put their intentions on it."

Brennan has spent north of two decades in comedy, writing for, producing and directing with some of the biggest names in the industry.

He's now performing a theatrical comedy show off-Broadway titled Neal Brennan: Unacceptable, in which he explores why he feels like something is wrong with him. The show will run in New York City through Nov. 21.

Brennan acknowledges that using the word "unacceptable" may be a little harsh on himself.

"My inner monologue can just be rough. I've never walked past the mirror and been like, 'There's my guy.' You know, it's all just sort of like, 'OK, all right,' " he says.

Brennan has also been very open about his struggles with mental health. He says he has no shame about it.

"It's like having plantar fasciitis or something," he says. "It's not my fault. I don't know. My foot just started being weird."

Brennan's outspoken nature has opened eyes. On an appearance on The Breakfast Club, a radio show with millions of listeners both through broadcast and their online presence, host Charlamagne tha God told Brennan that Brennan inspired him to learn more about mental health. Charlamagne now advocates heavily for education on mental health.

"I might be proud of that. Can you believe it?" Brennan says. "Take that, that inner monologue. We might have done some good."

This story originally published in the Morning Edition live blog.

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Ziad Buchh
Ziad Buchh is a producer for NPR's Morning Edition and Up First. In addition to producing and directing the broadcast, he has also contributed to the show's sports, tech and video game coverage. He's produced and reported from all over the country, including a Trump rally, and from the temporary home of Ukrainian refugees.