‘The Bear’ star Ayo Edebiri’s introduction to comedy was in Boston’s church pews


Hulu series “The Bear,” which premiered at the end of June, has become a top hit of the summer. The show follows Carmy, a young star chef who returns home to Chicago to turn around his family’s sandwich shop after the sudden death of his brother. By his side is Sydney — played by Boston local Ayo Edebiri — a young chef with a binder full of ideas and a determination to push against the kitchen’s hyper-masculine culture.

“The Bear” is just the latest in Edebiri’s growing work as a comedian, writer, producer and actress, a resume that also includes “Dickinson,” “Big Mouth” and “What We Do In The Shadows.” But before all that, she was introduced to comedy in an unexpected place: Boston’s church pews.

“I didn’t watch a lot of standup growing up and I was very religious,” Edebiri said on Boston Public Radio Monday. “I grew up Pentecostal, went to church in Roxbury, and a lot of the pastors were very funny and I feel like those were my first experiences.”

Edebiri grew up in Dorchester. She attended Catholic school and later Boston Latin School before moving to New York to study writing at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.

“I think a lot of people can think of religion as very serious, because it can be, for sure, fire and brimstone and whatnot,” she said. “But the pastors I grew up with were really funny. I also went to Catholic school and [had] a lot of really hilarious, hilarious nuns as teachers.”

For “The Bear,” Edebiri spent time working in the culinary industry, and found parallels to the current state of work.

“I loved talking to the chefs, especially the female chefs, and we just kept being like, ‘This is the exact same, we’re having a lot of parallel experiences,’” she said. “Especially, I think, post-pandemic, a lot of people were having reckonings with what their work life meant to them and a lot of the stresses that we would allow ourselves to have in the workplace.”

The show takes viewers right into the heart of these stresses — overflowing takeout orders, power outages, a lack of money — and each episode is full of cuts, burns and f-bombs. Yet Edebiri said “The Bear” also strives for hope.

“I think so much of the show is about these people who, they’re trying to heal,” she said. “They’re trying to make something good and better and healthy, but when you’re trained in a way that doesn’t support that, you can’t help but sometimes perpetuate those behaviors.”

The show has already been approved for a second season. In the meantime, Edebiri recently wrapped on the movie “Bottoms” and is working on the show “Mulligan.” She said it’s been exciting to see “The Bear” find success.

“One thing that’s been really nice has been going out to restaurants because people who work in restaurants are watching it,” Edebiri said. “There’s been a few free appetizers that have been more than welcome.”

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