Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Great Jewish Comedians: Morty Gunty, Nightclub and TV Stand-Up Comic


Nightclub comic Morty Gunty (1929-1984) began his stand-up routine in the Catskills in the early 60's, appearing on various television programs such as The Ed Sullivan Show, The Jack Paar Show, he made the talk/variety show rounds like most up and coming comics did. 

He debuted on Broadway in 1967 in "Love in E Flat" and hosted his own local television show for children called "The Funny Company". His only venture into films would be What's So Bad About Feeling Good? and Woody Allen's film Broadway Danny Rose.

Here's a video clip of Gunty doing his stand-up comedy on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1965. 

Enjoy!

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Friday, May 27, 2016

Second Annual International Festival of Jewish Performing Arts Starts June 15


Last year the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene (NYTF) presented KulturfestNYC, the international festival of Jewish performing arts that attracted more than 50,000 attendees in one week.

This year the festival returns for three months, from June 6 to August 29. With over three-dozen separate events in venues across the city, the summer-long festival welcomes artists and groups from France, Romania, Japan, Israel, Russia and the U.S.

The Festival's eclectic programming includes concerts at SummerStage in Central Park; City Winery; Joe's Pub at The Public; the Robert F. Wagner Park in Lower Manhattan, and The Paper Box in Brooklyn. The theatre events take place at the Baruch Performing Arts Center, and the Museum of Jewish Heritage, 36 Battery Park Place, which is the Festival's headquarters.

A number of outdoor and family cultural events -- including a street fair, music brunches, singalongs and barbecues -- are also scheduled throughout the Festival, emphasizing cross-cultural and cross-generational audience engagement.


The festival kicks off on Wednesday evening, June15 at 7pm at SummerStage in Central Park. The free program will be the return of "Yiddish Soul" -- this year featuring the internationally acclaimed Dudu Fisher. A remarkable concert blending Eastern European and American music, "Yiddish Soul" will bring together an eye-popping minion of cantorial and Chassidic superstars, including Netanel Hershtik, Yanky Lemmer, The Maccabeats, Joseph Malovany, Lipa Schmeltzer and Zusha. 

Here's a sample of the 2015 Yiddish Soul program.

Enjoy and Shabbat shalom!
 
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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Lag B'Omer in Israel: Bonfires, Singing, and Dancing to Celebrate 33rd Day of the Omer


Today is Lag B'Omer, the thirty-third day of the countdown of 49 days from Pesach to Shavuot, a day that is celebrated in Israel as it is nowhere else. And in Israel, the celebrations in the northern town of Meron are the most elaborate of all.

It's traditional to light bonfires at the start of this holiday that, in Israel, means one or two days off from school and a welcome break from the joy-restricted days of counting the omer starting on Passover.

Why bonfires? These commemorate the immense light that Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai introduced into the world via his mystical teachings. This was especially true on the day of his passing, Lag B'Omer, when he revealed to his disciples secrets of the Torah whose profundity and intensity the world had yet to experience.

The Zohar relates that the house was filled with fire and intense light, to the point that the assembled could not approach or even look at Rabbi Shimon. The biggest bonfires and celebrations take place in and around Rabbi Shimon’s tomb, located in Meron. Hundreds of thousands attend the festivities every year, and the round-the-clock celebration, singing and dancing are unparalleled.

In previous years we posted video clips from the great celebrations in Meron. Today we're sharing a video that was taken just last night during the bonfire lighting, singing, and dancing at the Western Wall (Kotel) plaza in Jerusalem.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Jewish Traces in Unexpected Places: Hevenu Shalom Aleichem as a Chanting Mantra in India


Over the years we've come across renditions of the Hebrew song Hevenu Shalom Aleichem in unexpected locations around the world. But none has been as unique as our discovery of this version in a chanting mantra in a part of India that you probably never heard of.

The video below was made in Auroville, an experimental township in Viluppuram district in the state of Tamil Nadu, India, near Puducherry in South India. It was founded in 1968 by Mirra Alfassa (known as "The Mother") and designed by architect Roger Anger. As stated in Alfassa's first public message about the township, "Auroville is meant to be a universal town where men and women of all countries are able to live in peace and progressive harmony, above all creeds, all politics and all nationalities. The purpose of Auroville is to realize human unity."

Although originally intended to house 50,000, as of May 2014 the actual population was 2,345 (1,804 adults and 541 minors), coming from 50 nationalities including 86 Americans and 31 Israelis. The community is divided up into neighborhoods with Tamil, English, French and Sanskrit names like Aspiration, Arati, La Ferme, Auromodel and Isaiambalam.

So if Hevenu Shalom Aleichem were to appear as a chanting mantra anywhere in the world, it shouldn't come as a surprise that it would happen in Auroville, India. The chant is led by Israeli singer Niva Harel.

Enjoy!

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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Great Jewish Comedians: Larry Storch on The Hollywood Palace in 1965


Larry Storch is one of the oldest living Jewish comedians. He was born in New York City in 1923. He attended DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx with Don Adams, who remained his lifelong friend. 

He is best known for his comic television roles, including voice-over work for cartoon shows, such as Mr. Whoopee on Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales, and his live-action role of the bumbling Corporal Randolph Agarn on F Troop.

Storch never graduated from high school because of hard times in the Great Depression, instead finding work as a stand-up comic for $12 a week opening for bandleader Al Donahue at the band shell in Sheepshead Bay. He served in the United States Navy during World War II on the submarine tender USS Proteus with Tony Curtis.

An impressionist, Storch does hundreds of voices and dialects ranging from Muhammad Ali to Claude Rains. This has proved useful for cartoons. He has voiced characters in numerous TV and film animations including The Batman/Superman Hour, The Pink Panther Show, Groovie Goolies, The Inspector, The Brady Kids, Cool Cat, Koko the Clown, Treasure Island, Return from Oz, Scooby-Doo, Tennessee Tuxedo, Aesop's Fables, Oliver Twist and many more. Larry had worked with Mel Blanc and June Foray at Warner Bros.-Seven Arts. 

He was the first actor to voice Batman's arch enemy, "The Joker", in The Adventures of Batman segments produced by Filmation animation in the late 1960s. Larry continued his association with Filmation as a voiceover actor in other series the company produced including Journey Back to Oz where he voiced Aunt Em and Uncle Henry's farmhand Amos. This Kansas character did not have an alter ego in Oz. Storch also provided the Tin Man's speaking voice while Danny Thomas provided the character's singing voice.

Storch appeared on many variety shows, including Sonny and Cher, Laugh-In, Hollywood Squares, Playboy After Dark, and The Hollywood Palace, with several appearances on the The Ed Sullivan Show, The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, and The Steve Allen Show. Jackie Gleason personally asked Storch to fill in for him in the summer of 1953 while Gleason was on hiatus. This led to the 10-episode The Larry Storch Show with guest stars including Janet Blair, Risë Stevens, Dick Haymes, and Cab Calloway.

At the age of 93, Storch is now "semi-retired". He likes to play his saxophone in the park and does occasional memorabilia shows to greet his many fans. He signs autographs at film festivals, including Chiller Theater and the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention. He is currently working on his autobiography.

Here's a funny video clip of Storch in a standup comedy bit on The Hollywood Palace in 1965. He is introduced by Janet Leigh.

Enjoy!

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Monday, May 23, 2016

A Joke to Start the Week: "Building a Tunnel"


So it's Monday again, and we just can't start a new week without an old joke. We've been fortunate to find joke tellers to join in this weekly jokefest. Once again we bring you a joke from Bob Hertzendorf, our favorite certified hypnosis counselor.

Last week we met Bob at a show we did at  at the Four Seasons Country Club and Spa in Lakewood, New Jersey, where he is the president of the Jewish Cultural Club. After exchanging a few jokes, Bob assured us that the jokes will keep on coming.

Here's the setup for today's joke: The powers that be at City Hall in New York have come to the realization that the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel is overloaded. Too much traffic. So the decision is to build another tunnel. And then...

Enjoy!

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Sunday, May 22, 2016

Comedy Showcase: Monica Piper Shows How to Relieve Stress


When Emmy award-winning comedy writer and comedian Monica Piper brings her laugh-out-loud advice to corporate America, something happens.  Audiences leave laughed-out, less stressed and armed with skill-building tips on how to FIND the FUNNY in their jobs and lives. 

Through hilarious insights and stress-busting techniques, Monica compels her audiences to laugh at themselves and find a NEW OUTLOOK on their productivity in both their professional and personal relationships.

Monica was the head writer of the #1 children’s animated series, Rugrats, for which she won an Emmy Award. She has headlined across the country, most recently at fundraisers for City of Hope, and The National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Last year she wrote and performed a one-woman show called Not That Jewish for the Jewish Women's Theatre in Santa Monica, California.

Here's Monica doing a stand-up comedy routine about stressful situations. Enjoy!

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Friday, May 20, 2016

Unexpected Traces in Jewish Places: Cuban-American Rabbi Leads Young Congregant in Adon Olam


El Centro de Estudios Judíos  “Torat Emet” is a Spanish-language Jewish education and spirituality center for Jews from all over Latin America who live in the New York area of the United States. 

The weekly classes and events are held at its synagogue at the Lincoln Park Jewish Center in Yonkers, New York, an inclusive Modern Orthodox Jewish congregation that seeks to foster spiritual growth through prayer, acceptance, community, and fellowship.

The congregation is led by Rabbi Rigoberto Emmanuel (“Manny”) Viñas who grew up in the traditional Sephardic home of Cuban Jewish parents who came to America after the Cuban Revolution in 1960.

Born and raised in Miami, Florida, he prepared for a rabbinic career at local Yeshivot and attended local Sephardic synagogues that were predominantly Spanish-speaking and of Cuban origin. 

In 1989, Rabbi Viñas moved to New York to continue his studies at Touro College. He completed his training as a scribe with ordination (kabala in sofrut) at Yeshiva University under the tutelage of Rabbi Shmuel Schneid, a master scribe from Monsey, New York. He also has “Yoreh Yoreh” ordination from Kollel Agudath Achim under the leadership of Rabbi Aharon Zeigler of Boro Park, Brooklyn, New York and a second “Yoreh Yoreh” ordination from Yeshivah VeKollel Zichron Hizkiahu Yoel, also of Boro Park. 

At present he is continuing his studies at Kollel Agudath Achim for semicha as a dayan (judge) “Yadin Yadin” from his Rebbe, Rabbi Aharon Ziegler. Rabbi Viñas has dedicated his career to serving diverse Jewish communities by bringing Klal Yisrael (all Jews) together regardless of denomination, form of practice, race, ethnicity, or any other differences. He is also the Chaplain for the Yonkers Police Department.

As we welcome another Shabbat, let's enjoy a traditional rendition of Adon Olam by a young student of Rabbi Viñas.

Enjoy and Shabbat shalom.

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Thursday, May 19, 2016

Throwback Thursday Comedy Special: Rare Standup by Woody Allen in 1964


Throwback Thursday has become a weekly social media posting trend to let readers and viewers look back fondly on some of their favorite memories -- hence the "throwback" theme. 

At Jewish Humor Central, last month we started posting a nostalgic video clip from a very old TV show or movie that brings back happy memories. Now that Passover is behind us, we're returning to this weekly feature with an old clip of Woody Allen early in his career when he spent a lot of time doing standup comedy.

In the early 1960s, before he started down the road of producing, directing, and acting in 65 films, Allen began performing as a stand-up comic, emphasizing monologues rather than traditional jokes. As a comic, he developed the persona of an insecure, intellectual, fretful nebbish, which he maintains is quite different from his real-life personality. In 2004, Comedy Central ranked Allen in fourth place on a list of the 100 greatest stand-up comics, while a UK survey ranked Allen as the third greatest comedian.

For this Throwback Thursday, let's turn the calendar back to 1964 and see Woody in a standup routine talking about his experiences surviving on Manhattan's Upper East Side.

Enjoy!

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#Throwback Thursday #TBT

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Israeli Classic Song Showcase - "Nolad'ti LaShalom"


Today we're starting a series of classic songs that came out of Israel during its formative years and in the years that followed. Some of them were prize winners at song festivals and others are just beautiful products of Israeli musical talent. 

The songs will be posted here periodically along with our usual mix of humor, jokes, funny happenings, and Jewish traces in unexpected places.

It's fitting that we're posting our first selection in this series, Nolad'ti LaShalom, on the 5th Yahrzeit of Shulamit Kustanowitz.

Shuly, the inspiration for Jewish Humor Central, was not only a wonderful wife, mother, savta, author and journalist, but also served as a gentle censor of some of our posts that otherwise might have entered the blogosphere with questionable content.

She was born as World War II was ending, and wrote:

I was born on May 1, 1945, so my stone should read, in Hebrew, “I was born for the peace (noladti lashalom).” We, of this generation, will remember it as part of a song of modern Israel, that I have been born for a peace that’s just starting to come but is meant for the ages. For the historically aware, however, the association will be the peace the world felt on its first day without Hitler, and it was for that date that I was named.
Here is the classic Israeli song Nolad'ti LaShalom, sung by the group called Sexta. The Hebrew lyrics appear as subtitles and the English translation is below the video.

Enjoy!

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I WAS BORN TO PEACE 
I was born to the melodies
and to the songs of all countries
I was born to the language and the place too
to the few and many who will give peace a hand.
Ah - ah - ah - ah - ah ah ah.......

Chorus (X2)
I was born to peace - let it arrive
I was born to peace - let it come
I was born to peace - let it appear
I want, I want to be in it already.

I was born to the dream
and in it I see that peace will come
I was born to the desire and the belief
that it will come after thirty years.

Chorus...

I was born to a people two thousand years old.
that have a land and it has a piece of heaven
and it sees, watches the day unfold
and it's a beautiful moment, moment of peace.
Ah - ah - ah - ah - ah ah ah.......

Chorus...