A sit-down with Rael Rosen himself, Glen Biderman-Pam
He’s a stand-up comedian, writer, actor and director, who went viral late last year with his spoof of the Oscar-nominated documentary My Octopus Teacher, but we think we can now officially say that Glen Biderman-Pam is best known for his brilliant performance as Rael Rosen, one half (with Darren) of GoldProp, Cape Town’s most ambitious property start-up. We fell in love with Rael as Darren’s well-meaning best friend in Tali’s Wedding Diary. And now he’s back – for a whole lot more. We caught up with him on the set of Season 2: Tali’s Baby Diary.
What attracted you to Tali’s Wedding Diary?
The money. They just offered me an unbelievable amount of money. Many people think there’s not a huge budget, and that’s right, because the whole budget went into my fee. Everyone else is working for free.
Seriously though, I got a call from Sketchbook Studios – I’d worked with them on a small corporate video. They said, ‘We’ve got a show coming up and we’d love you to play this character, Rael Rosen.’ They described him as a young, entrepreneurial property-minded guy, Jewish, a hustler, a do-gooder and the best friend of Darren, Tali’s husband.
I knew so many guys like this growing up; I could really relate to the character. I was on set at the time so I asked one of the guys if I could use their car, and I asked one of the grips to film me. I did the audition in the parking lot of the film set I was shooting on and sent it over to them. We shot the pilot and it was picked up by Showmax – and the rest is history.
“There’s a real relatability to the guy – there’s a charm to him and a certain cockiness that a lot of young South African guys have.”
What was the reaction to your character, Rael?
The reaction was overwhelmingly positive. We didn’t know he was going to resonate so much with the audience. We saw him as there to support Darren – they had a very small storyline but I think the guys who watched the show needed someone to relate to. Tali has a huge female audience and Darren and Rael have a big male audience.
Guys come up to me and say, “I know so many Raels”. There’s a real relatability to the guy – there’s a charm to him and a certain cockiness that a lot of young South African guys have – not necessarily Jewish guys. He’s always got a remark; he’s always got something to say.
Like Rael, I’m Jewish – on my manager’s side. What I love about the representation is that it’s really subtly done. There are a few references scattered along the way, but the story is so relatable no matter what religion you are.
What can we expect from Rael in Tali’s Baby Diary?
In Season 2, the audience can expect to see a much wider range from Rael – he’s got a really interesting and fun storyline. We see a lot more of Rael and Darren’s business, GoldProp, and the shenanigans that go on behind those doors. We see the competition with the Seleibowitz brothers reach new heights.
He’s not only focused on professional success, but his personal journey as well. He’s inspired by Tali and Darren creating a legacy, and is looking to create his own. Rael has some pretty interesting ways of meeting women …
How did your life change after Tali’s Wedding Diary?
I was quite famous already [he laughs]. I was in a TV show in Johannesburg so I got recognised there, but not a lot of people in Cape Town knew me. Afterwards, I got a lot more people in Cape Town coming up to me. There was a huge demand for more, and I’m so glad it happened.
In Season 3, I’m hoping for a spin-off – Rael takes on the crazy property world. In terms of Tali, who knows what she’s going to do! The Shapiro household is one of the craziest in Cape Town so we’ll have to see what happens.
Cape Town plays such an important role in Tali’s Wedding Diary and Tali’s Baby Diary – the city is almost a character in itself. What’s your own background?
I’m Cape Town born and bred. I went to school in the southern suburbs and studied at UCT drama school.
I started out acting in the theatre, but after university I moved to Joburg for seven years. I cut my teeth in the Big Smoke – I was doing stand-up comedy and acting, and started directing commercials.
About two years ago, I moved back to Cape Town and joined Sketchbook Studios as a director – of course, I knew them through Tali’s Wedding Diary and it made sense to work with them as we all know each other so well by now.
Acting, directing, writing – where does your heart lie?
I still love acting but my time doesn’t always allow for it, and, in the current situation, there aren’t a lot of stand-up gigs happening. Stand-up is a difficult profession if you want to be in a relationship and have a dog – it gets quite tricky being on the road all the time.
I’ve put my attention more into content creation – if you go to my Instagram you’ll see lots of sketches. Doing this, there are so many more eyes on my work – a stand-up gig will reach maybe 150 people in a night, while a video, if it goes viral, can reach hundreds of thousands of views. So I’ve started a company with my partner, Oliver Booth, called Panther Punch, which is producing sketches and content.
Of course, the best-known of your sketches is My Kreepy Teacher. Tell us more about that!
I came up with My Kreepy Teacher with Mike Sharman, who owns a digital agency in Joburg called Retroviral. He called me and asked if I’d seen this Octopus Teacher documentary. I said, ‘Yes, we need to do a spoof.’ We threw some ideas around and within 72 hours, I’d written a script and the next day we were shooting at my friend’s parents in Bishopscourt. We had no idea it was going to be huge – it was just a digital piece that fit quite nicely with the Kreepy brand. More importantly, it felt like it was really on point in terms of a spoof.
Mark sent a rough cut to Kreepy Krauly and they thought it was the finished product and sent it around. I went for a surf and when I got out of the water it had reached hundreds of thousands of views.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get to craft it as much as we’d have liked to, but it went around the world – it was mentioned in newspapers in Australia, and websites in Spain and the UK. It’s testament to how well the actual Octopus Teacher documentary did, although if you haven’t seen the original, the spoof is still funny.
Who are your comedy heroes?
I love Jerry Seinfeld – he’s a serious inspiration. I love that he ventured into different territories like TV shows. I’m a huge fan of Michael McIntyre as well. Locally, Barry Hilton is someone I grew up watching and I was lucky enough for him to take me under his wing when I started out. He’s someone I respect and admire. Alan Committie is one of the funniest people I know – it’s a privilege to call him my friend.
What are you streaming right now?
I’m streaming Billions, which is great. Mark Ruffalo’s show I Know This Much Is True is phenomenal. Mark Ruffalo is one of my acting heroes. I also inhaled Chasing the Sun – I honestly think it was one of the best documentaries I’ve ever seen. I couldn’t keep it together – within the first five minutes of every episode I was in tears.