Love her or hate her, Joan Rivers, aleha shalom, was one of the most recognizable American Jews of the past half century and one of our most successful comics. By my count, she has been mentioned five times in Jewschool’s storied history, so today, for Throwback Thursday, here’s sarah‘s 2007 review of the San Francisco Jewish film festival, including a review of Making Trouble: Three Generations of Funny Jewish Women, produced by the Jewish Women’s Archive and focusing on Molly Picon, Fanny Brice, Sophie Tucker, Joan Rivers, Wendy Wasserstein and Gilda Radner. All six of these Mt. Rushmorians of Jewish comediennes have left us now. Rest in…oh, who are we kidding? Joan Rivers isn’t resting any kind of way; she’s working some crowd to find the laughter and absurdity in the awfulness of something in olam haba.
I came home from a busy day at the Fringe, handing out flyers all morning on the Royal Mile with hundreds of other actors and comics. I did my show—getting our largest audience and almost no laughs. But that is okay. I am a trained actor after all. I plop down on the couch in my empty 5 bedroom apt. When this trip was planned two families were going to be spending two of the three and a half weeks’ run here in Edinburgh. Then with the war in Gaza, my writing partner Gary’s family hadn’t come at all and in fact Gary had had to leave early. My wife Avital and our kids had only come in for four days. So instead of ten of us here, there is just me, in a five bedroom apt. Alone and doing the thing I love most —performing
I turned on the TV and not a minute later they broke in with news: “Robin Williams found dead in Northern California.” After Sky’s coverage of the war in Gaza I wasn’t sure they could be trusted. So I did what we do, I Googled it. Nothing, no one was reporting anything. So I did what we do when Google fails us. I tweeted it “Is this true? Is Robin Williams dead?” Sadly it is. Robin Williams is dead. Robin may your memory be for a blessing. It certainly has been in my case. The tweets and status updates are flowing strong. Finally, now, two hours later I find a tweet other than some form of Robin Williams is dead. And even as someone updates that she was chased out of a mall by police in Middle America while shopping for her daughter’s first day of kindergarten, and I realize that people won’t just write about Robin for the rest of our lives, and as the status updates move on, all I can think is Robin Williams is dead.
I met Robin twice. The first time was at a party for the premiere of the film Hook. It was at that party as I stood next to Robin holding a tray of pigs in a blanket that I heard Robin say the following words “When I graduated from Drama School (he had attended Julliard) there wasn’t enough work so I started doing standup.”
I’ve said that line a million times. It fit for me too. Each time I said it I thought of Robin. Each time I think: “Wow I’ve never had his career.” It isn’t just those two things we shared. We’ve both struggled with depression and addiction. He achieved more in his work. I seem to have achieved more in the arena of mental health. I’m not bragging—the game isn’t over for me. I could go down in the same shit storm he has, that’s the nature of the beast. But for today I won. I’m clean, I’m dealing with my stuff. Robin lost today and with that loss we all lost. With his death all of our lives will be sadder, have a little less laughter, a little less joy.
The second time we met was at the Comedy and Magic club in Hermosa Beach California. I was writing for a friend and he was middling behind Ray Romano. Evan called and said: “Come to the show tonight there’s going to be a surprise.” Well sure enough Robin showed up, and while Ray did his hour, six of us sat backstage. Robin was warm and generous he didn’t need to be the only funny one or the only one telling jokes. Then he went out on stage and got a standing ovation simply for walking out on stage. It doesn’t get any better than that. Expect to know that he was there to get his act tight for a fundraiser for Christopher Reeves’ charity for spinal cord injuries.
There is a story in the Talmud in Maseket Taanit that tells the story of Elijah walking in the market and he is asked “Does anyone here have a place in the world to come?” At first Elijah says no, but then he says, “Those two over there.” The narrator runs to them and asks what they do, and they answer “We make people laugh.” Surely the same is true for Robin. Surely he has a place in the world to come. If I weren’t living my dream, performing daily at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, seeing great comics and actors—many I’m sure inspired by Robin Williams— then there’s nowhere else I’d rather be than at the show tonight in heaven. Robin, Lenny, and Richard. It’s been so long since Robin was the opener.
Waaaay back in 2003, Mobius posted about Counting the Homer, a Simpsons Omer counter. To see the brief post in its original formal, click here. Good find Mobius… It was, and remains, a popular counter, but no matter which of those links you click, you may be disappointed. The original JVibe host has since gone belly up. And so if you’d like to keep up with the count, click here.
For those counting, last night was a Baker’s Dozen and two Donuts, 15 Donuts of the Homer (add one for tonight’s number). In addition to the proper Sefira bracha, you might also need to say a mezonos. Apparently you can also follow the Homer on twitter.
Eli Valley, comic artist and official satirist on behalf of progressive Jewry, explained his hilarious and irascible comics on MSNBC’s talk show “The Cycle” last week, airing for all America our dirty, smelly, intermarried laundry. Kol hakavod, Eli.
Jackie Hoffman, beloved in theatrical circles for her take-no-prisoners approach to musical comedy (sample lyric: “fuck you for asking me to do a show for free! / fuck you and your benefit for charity”), is at once an ideal and a challenging performer for such a series. Undeniably funny and with a deep understanding of Judaism (she’s the black sheep of an Orthodox family), she knows she can draw a typical Jewish audience in with songs criticizing Jewish Buddhists (“Inner peace and joy are overrated / come back to the fold of the most-hated”) and pushy mothers on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. But when her paean to Shavuot includes lines like “Ten Commandments God gave to us so that we won’t sin again / Ten Commandments I break every day by eating pork and Christian men,” you know this isn’t your typical JCC fare.
While the publicity around this series carefully avoided the word “feminism,” I couldn’t help but watch Hoffman’s show and wonder if there was a feminist message to be divined from the woman who counts among her achievements “convincing the Hispanic security guards and bus boys of this city to use condoms” and openly resents the successes of co-stars she deems less deserving.
Jackie Hoffman doesn’t care if you find a feminist message — or any message — in her performances. And that in itself may be the embodiment of a feminist victory.
Now that January is here, and the Israeli election is just a few weeks away, it’s time for… JANUARY MADNESS!!!! You may recall March Madness from 2006, or February Madness from 2009. Now, Jewschool and Mah Rabu are excited to announce our third Israeli elections prediction pool!
How to Enter: Go to the January Madness link and put in your predictions for how many seats each of the 34 parties will win. All predictions must be non-negative integers (0 is allowed), and your predictions must add up to 120. Entrance is free, but there is a suggested donation of $10 to the organization of your choice dedicated to making Israel the best it can be. Israeli citizens are encouraged to vote in the actual election as well.
Prizes: The winner gets a copy of The Comic Torah, which one Jewschool contributor has called “the perfect match for the zany lunacy and unbridled blood lust of today’s Israeli politics”. Second place gets a copy of Ghettoblaster by So Called, because the Yiddish Hip-Hop Accordion Party wouldn’t be out of place in the Knesset elections.
The Rules (for the real election): The 34 parties have submitted ordered lists of candidates. Here are the full lists in Hebrew, and partial lists in English. On election day (January 22), Israeli citizens will go to polling places in and near Israel, and vote for a party (not for individual candidates). All parties that win at least 2% of the vote will win seats in the Knesset, proportional to their share of the vote. For example, suppose the Pirate Party wins 1% of the vote, One Future wins 33%, and Kulanu Haverim wins 66%. Then the Pirate Party wins no seats in the Knesset (since it was below the 2% threshold), and the other parties will proportionally split the 120 Knesset seats: One Future gets 40 seats (so the top 40 candidates on its list are elected), and Kulanu Haverim gets 80 seats. If vacancies arise later in the term, there are no special elections – the next candidate on the party’s list (e.g. #81 on the Kulanu Haverim list) enters the Knesset. It is mathematically possible for all 34 parties to win seats in the Knesset, but experts say it is unlikely.
The Rules (for the January Madness pool): The deadline to enter is Monday, January 21, 2013, at 11:59 pm Israel Standard Time (4:59 pm EST). When the final election results are published, each entry will receive a score based on how many Knesset seats were predicted correctly. For example, suppose the results are as in the above example (Kulanu Haverim 80, One Future 40). I predicted 60 seats for One Future, 50 for Kulanu Haverim, and 10 for Da’am Workers Party. Then my score is 90, since I correctly predicted 40 seats for One Future and 50 seats for Kulanu Haverim.
Ties will be broken based on two tiebreaker questions:
1) Of the parties that do NOT win seats in the Knesset, which will come closest?
2) Which party will get the FEWEST votes?
The tiebreakers will be resolved in this order: exact match on question 1; exact match on question 2; closest on question 1 (if you picked a party that DOES win seats, you’re out of consideration for this one); closest on question 2.
In the coming weeks, we’ll put up a post with a handy guide to all the parties, and links to their websites.
If you have other questions, post them in the comments. Good luck!!!!
If one needs further proof about the “Beinartization” of the global Jewish community, then African asylum seekers are the issue to watch. The right-ward drift of the Jewish citizenry of Israel, which is deeply unsympathetic to 61,000 non-Jewish asylum seekers in their country, is presently in sharp relief to American Jewry’s sensibilities on the issue.
That said, it took the anti-refugee riots in Tel Aviv to sparkstatements by the major establishment mouthpieces, like the ADL, JCPA, Jewish federations. That progressive voices were the first out of the gate shouldn’t surprise us, like the Reform Movement’s Religious Action Center, Americans for Peace Now and New Israel Fund.
But the issue seems to have an enduring hold on the passions of some North Americans — notably young Jewish activists and culture creators. Some new faces, some familiar. At the time of my initial inquiries, each were unaware of the work each other was doing. But common between them is an entrepreneurial spirit, a depth of first-hand social awareness of Israeli shortcomings, and a frustration against what each of them see as Israeli politicians’ desecration of Jewish values.
Click through to meet Dan Sieradski, Maya Paley and Miriam Libicki.
Its 48 hours before Pesach, and having read ”The Year of Living Biblically”, I’m preparing a lamb to meet its end so that I can smear its blood on the lintel of my door… What’s that? I don’t have to do that? Okay, the neighbors will be so relieved…
I will still have to rid myself of my chametz, however, as I can not possess or own any during Pesach. Before I engage in Bedikas Chametz, the search for chametz, I simply open my pantry- BAM! Bits of cereal at the bottom of the box. Legumes of all shapes and sizes, pasta and so on and so forth. On to the fridge. I half-eaten kugel from last week. Some fruit salad. Cheese slices. Egg Beaters.
Anyone else find themselves snarfing down whatever odds and ends remain the week before Pesach? Some people hate Passover cuisine. After a week of leftover crumbs, I’m ready to tear into Matzah. Whatever is sealed, I sell through a duly appointed process involving a Rabbi, pretzel logic and a certain number of he-goats and zuzim.
Those who do not avail themselves of the Rabbinic end-around of selling it on contract for a week with an option to an agreeable gentile have three options. 1. Keep your chametz and incur the wrath of the almighty and the sneers of neighbors. 2. BURN IT!
WOO HOO! Let’s burn everything in sight! It’s like Black Rock but with Bread! Its PAN-demonium! After all, we wont have another huge bonfire for 40 days when its Lag B’omer so let’s have a Biscuit Inferno! Cue the Music!
But wait, isn’t burning things bad, like crossing streams in ghostbusters? And can’t we do something with that stuff? There may be some excellent items sitting around. A bag of flour. A whole cake. A loaf of bread. Peanut Butter. Perfectly good food. Option 3: Donate.
In the Hagaddah we’re instructed Kol Difcheen- let all who are hungry come and eat. So how about it then? Donate your Chametz. You wont miss it. Fine, keep that bottle of Blanton’s, but the rest? Drop it at your local food pantry. Many congregations have a system set up for this. And in Israel, Modi’in’s Biur Hametz Project is coordinating the distribution of hametz to needy African refugees and migrant workers. That sounds so much more sensible.
It could be given to other as well. In Morocco, it was apparently the custom to give Hametz to one’s Arab or Berber neighbors. The Muslim neighbors would then repay the favor by supplying the pastries for the Mimouna festival at the end of Pesach. Such a healthy symbiotic way to coexist. Maybe that’s fantasy and maybe there’s a broader lesson. But in the interim, donate your your Hametz. To paraphrase Monty Python, BRING OUT YOUR BREAD! (to which the matza replies, I’m not quite bread yet…)
Eli Valley’s latest comic is up! And below is the man himself explaining his choice of equating 1950s horror comics with Israeli hasbara and the scare tactics of establishment fundraising. (Bnai Brith, he’s looking at you…)
In the Forward today, Eli Valley gives you the only haggadah supplement you’ll need — one about freedom, peoplehood and the next generation. What with all the charity-motivated supplements filling up our inboxes, here’s one without a donation card attached! (Click to view full-size.)
Kudos to EV’slatest comfort zone-negating comic aimed at the ugly recesses of establishment Jewry’s view of Jews, Judaism, Israel and all those arrayed to wipe us out. Without the specter of Helen Thomases under the bed, would the previous generation of Jews have cared to be Jewish? Or would they, like our generation, opt-in and opt-out as merited by compelling relevance (or lack thereof) to our lives? And in searching for a way to make Jewish life compelling against a competitive array of interesting options, would Abe Foxman really mount an anti-Semite’s head as a beacon for all young Jews to see?
I’m constantly amazed at the sheer creativity that shows up, looking for a handout, on Kickstarter.com, the fundraising web site I used to finance the first printing of The Comic Torah. (In case you’re wondering, the book is at the printer’s, waiting to be bound.)
Three new projects with a Jewish angle. A Jewish cartoonist whose humor shaped two generations of Jews. A Palestinian art project with Israeli collaboration. And an iPhone app for one of New York’s most Jewish neighborhoods.
Like most of their Kickstarter peers, offer ample rewards and thanks for two-figure donors. So check them out.