Actor and author Brett Gelman is best known for his role as Murray in "Stranger Things." (Photo/Netflix)
Actor and author Brett Gelman is best known for his role as Murray in "Stranger Things." (Photo/Netflix)

S.F. bookshop: ‘Stranger Things’ actor’s ‘intemperate’ remarks led to cancellation

Updated Feb. 12 at 9:30 p.m.

Book Passage has responded to actor Brett Gelman’s allegation that the bookstore canceled his upcoming tour date in San Francisco due to “protester intimidation,” saying the event was actually canceled because of “intemperate” comments made by Gelman.

On Friday, the “Stranger Things” actor told the New York Post that Book Passage and The Book Stall in Winnetka, Illinois, canceled events to promote his new short story collection, “The Terrifying Realm of the Possible: Nearly True Stories,” over the threat of protests because he is an outspoken Zionist.

“I didn’t get a lot of specifics … [but] I definitely believe it’s because of my vocal support of Israel and because of the fact that I’m Jewish,” Gelman was quoted as saying. “I think that this is a completely antisemitic act.”

Bill Petrocelli, a co-owner of Book Passage, told J. on Monday that Gelman’s event in March was dropped from the calendar due to “intemperate and ill-advised remarks that he made against some other ethnic and social groups.” Petrocelli declined to say which remarks he or his staff found objectionable.

“I don’t think it’s helpful for me to go into any detail about the comments Mr. Gelman made that prompted our decision,” he said. He also rejected the implication that he and his staff are antisemitic, saying that many members of the staff are Jewish.

Since the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attacks, Gelman, 47, has vigorously defended Israel on social media, sometimes in crass fashion. In a video he posted Oct. 31 to TikTok, where he has 4.7 million followers, he sings a song to “fake woke liberals” and members of Gen Z: “You don’t read, no no no/ So how [do] you know history?”

@brettgelman

♬ original sound – Brett Gelman

On Jan. 4, he posted another song on X: “I pray for peace, I pray for life/ But most of all I pray for most of you shutting the f— up.” In his X bio, he refers to himself as a “Zionist pig,” apparently as a way to defang that slur.

In a statement sent to J. on Monday evening by his publicist, Gelman said that the only groups he has publicly disparaged are Hamas and antisemites.

“I have never said anything against an ethnic or social group,” he said. “I have repeated multiple times that I am horrified over the deaths of innocent Palestinians, and feel deeply for all innocents affected. So it seems as if Mr. Petrocelli is proving himself to be antisemitic by saying that me advocating for the self determination, safety, and humanity of my own people equates to disparaging Palestinians.”

Gelman spoke at the March for Israel in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 14 and made a solidarity visit to Israel in December. While there, he appeared in a sketch on the satirical show “Eretz Nehederet” that mocked UC Berkeley and progressive attitudes toward the Jewish state and its history.

“The Terrifying Realm of the Possible” is Gelman’s first book. He told the New York Post it has Jewish elements but does not have any content related to Israel. He said he will hire security for his other tour dates if necessary.

Book Passage, an independent store with branches in Corte Madera and San Francisco, has hosted thousands of Jewish authors over the years, including many with ties to Israel, according to Petrocelli. The store has presented several events with Jewish authors in recent weeks, including Oren Jay Sofer, Guy Raz, Scott Badler and Joshua Weissman. In the fall, it hosted an online book group on contemporary Jewish American fiction.

This article was updated with a statement from Brett Gelman.

Andrew Esensten
Andrew Esensten

Andrew Esensten is the culture editor of J. Previously, he was a staff writer for the English-language edition of Haaretz based in Tel Aviv. Follow him on Twitter @esensten.