Monday, March 29, 2010

...and the Children of Israel Came Through the Sea on Dry Land (2010 Version)

Wishing you and your families a Happy and Kosher Passover from all of us at Jewish Humor Central.  We're taking a two-day break from posting to celebrate the first two days of Pesach.  We'll be back with more Jewish humor on Thursday.  Chag Sameach!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Passover Greetings From Charlie, the Kosher Cocker Spaniel

The first seder is tomorrow night, and we're all tuckered out from weeks of planning, cleaning, shopping, and cooking.  So we enlisted Charlie, the Kosher Cocker Spaniel to send our best wishes to you for a happy, kosher, and fun-filled Passover. 

(A tip of the kippah to Sheila Zucker for bringing Charlie to our attention.)

Friday, March 26, 2010

How Would Robots Have a Seder? Greetings from Israel Robotics

Just suppose you were a robot and invited some of your robot friends over for a Passover seder.  How different would it be from a seder at your house?

The Research and Development Institute for Intelligent Robotic Studies at Israel's College of Management Academic Studies in Rishon LeZion created this video so you can be an observer of the scene as the robots sit down to light candles, pour the wine and break the matzah.  Chag Sameach!

(A tip of the kippah to the Mosenki for calling this to our attention.)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Jew-Z's Slammin' Seder: A Seder Like You've Never Seen Before

Michael Kelberg is an actor, writer, director, and producer who also assumes the persona of rapper Jew-Z.  Well-versed in Jewish culture and customs, he presents some interesting alternatives to traditional aspects of the seder as he walks you through his bayit (house) on the way to wishing you all a Chag Sameach.  Don't miss Baby Jew-Z joining in the greetings in the last scene of this new video for Passover 2010.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Comedy Showcase - Passover Edition: Meet Bitter Herb, Stand-up Comic

This week our Comedy Showcase star is a cartoon comedian -- Bitter Herb.  A distant cousin of Oscar the Grouch, the talking horseradish root voices his gripes about Pesach in this video clip from Taglit-Birthright Israel.

Bitter Herb was created by William Levin, aka The Jewish Robot.  He wishes everybody a bitter happy Passover.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

How to Break a Matzah Exactly in Half

In just six days you'll probably be sitting at a Passover seder where you or your host will attempt to break a matzah in half, putting the smaller piece aside for the afikoman.  At our seder, it's always a tense moment as all watch the matzah being broken exactly (but not quite) in half.

A couple of years ago, the minds at Mantis, an Israeli design company, came up with a foolproof way of using a Japanese tip to break a matzah exactly in half.  If you haven't seen it, it should give you some pre-Pesach laughs and good advice for Yachatz, the breaking of the matzah.  If you have seen it, it's a good refresher course.  But we don't usually put chocolate spread on the broken matzah.  Enjoy!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Yiddish Theater Competition May Lead to More Productions

Can you picture a performance of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance -- in Yiddish?  You may see it -- and many other musicals and plays, if negotiations now underway in the world of Yiddish theater are successful.

The Folksbiene troupe (formerly called the National Yiddish Theater-Folksbiene) has been a presence on the Jewish theater scene for 95 years.  It's the last survivor of the dozen or more theaters that thrived on the Lower East Side in the early 1900's, but two years ago it found that a new theater group, the New Yiddish Repertory Company had arrived and started a sort of competition for the same small audience.

Yiddish theater lovers, concerned about its future, are trying to bring the two groups together and collaborate, if not merge.  This rivalry and its possibilities for growth in this still-lively segment of Broadway and off-Broadway productions is the subject of an article in Friday's New York Times.

Writing in the Times, Joseph Berger reports:
So far, there has been one powwow between Zalmen Mlotek and David Mandelbaum, the artistic directors of Folksbiene and New Yiddish Rep, respectively. At that amicable meeting last month, the two traded ideas about promoting each other’s fare and Folksbiene was asked to consider financing New Yiddish Repertory as an offshoot.
Such amity is no small thing. The narrowing world of Yiddish theater has been bedeviled with one “broyges” — a cherished term for a falling out — after another.
“In a shrinking, small world, there is such hostility between people, and that has to change if anyone has any hope of doing something,” said Mr. Mandelbaum.
And that world is certainly shrinking. In 2006, the nation had 152,515 Yiddish speakers, a 15 percent decline from 2000. Although most live in the New York area, many are either over 65 or are Hasidim, who rarely attend theater.
Mr. Wiesenfeld, however, thinks that statistics about Yiddish speakers may be irrelevant. Folksbiene claims to be appealing more and more to non-Yiddish speakers, by staging free performances at colleges and by using English and Russian supertitles projected over the stage.
Mr. Mlotek added that 10 of the last 13 major productions have been original shows, not revivals, and include fare like a Yiddish adaptation of “The Pirates of Penzance” and an offbeat adaptation of a Yiddish story that features images projected onto prayer shawls.
Here is an interview with cast members of "Di Yam Gazlonim" which translates roughly to "The Sea Thieves" followed by a video of an actual performance of its most famous song, "I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major General", in Yiddish of course.  Enjoy!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Matzah Worth 7,500 Pounds on British TV Quiz Show

There's a TV quiz show in the UK called Are You Smarter Than a Ten-Year-Old?  Here's a clip from that show that should give you some pre-Pesach laughs.  For a prize of £7,500, the host asks the contestant, "What is the name of the flat, unleavened bread that Jewish people eat at Passover?"  Then the fun begins.  Enjoy!

Friday, March 19, 2010

More Pesach Parody: The Passover Seder Symbols Song

Thanks to some deft lyrics writing by Barry Levy, video editing by Iftach Shavit, and piano accompaniment by Brad Ross, we're happy to share some pre-seder fun, and also some contemplation of the significance of the symbolic foods that we'll put on the seder table next week.  We couldn't determine the identity of the singer, but his singing style reminds us of Tom Lehrer.

For any of our readers who may have not seen the 1935 film Top Hat, the parody is based on Cheek to Cheek, the classic song from that movie, starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, with music and lyrics by Irving Berlin.

(A tip of the kippah to the Mosenki for bringing this to our attention.)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Passover Time Again in Manischewitzville - A Parody You'll Like

A New Jersey satirist who calls himself Billy Ray Sheet has created a funny Pesach adaptation of Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville that we think you'll like.  It meets our high standards in all respects, so we're bringing it to you for your enjoyment as you go through all of the preparations for Passover.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

92 and 102-Year-Olds Win Top Prizes in First Golden Matzah Bowl Contest

A perfect matzah ball -- the roundest, the fluffiest, the tastiest -- has been the elusive dream of home cooks and professional chefs ever since that dark night in Egypt  when the children of Israel embarked on their exodus.  Well, maybe not that long, but long enough to bring out the best in cooks determined to make it.

On Monday, At Forest Trace, an independent retirement community in Lauderhill, Florida, where Jennie Grossinger's daughter, Elaine Grossinger-Etess is the Hospitality Director, the First Annual Matzah Bowl brought together home cooks, professional caterers, and a panel of judges.

Writing in The Miami Herald, Diana Moskovitz reported:
The unmistakable aroma of matzah ball soup -- part chicken broth, part steamed vegetable, part matzah meal -- wafted throughout.

More than 200 people attended, mostly female and mostly retired. The lobby bustled and buzzed with the commotion of cooking. Ladles clanged. Steam rose. Chefs schmoozed patrons.

Like Phil Goodman with Embassy Kosher Caterers who, no matter their age, referred to all his female patrons as "young lady.''

The event came from Forest Trace adding a kosher kitchen option and looking for a good matzah ball soup recipe, said Stanley Rosenthal, head of SRR Management, which oversees Forest Trace.

The competition had two parts: one for best homemade matzah ball recipe, the other for best professional entry in the Matzah Bowl.

The pros featured six kosher caterers from Broward and Miami-Dade counties. They set up tables with matzah balls cut up and served in plastic cups with plastic spoons.

A few threw in extras, like sides of potato kugel or gefilte fish. But visitors could only judge the matzah balls.

And, because this was a serious food contest, between each table stood a platform with small water cups for palate cleansing.

The entrance "fee'' was a request that everyone bring a box of matzah, which will be donated to the WECARE food pantry.

Six judges sat at a separate table, seriously sampling each entry. Made up of local civic leaders and professional chefs, they chose winners for a range of categories, including Best Out of the Box and Most Like Mom's. The Best of Broward award went to a sundried pesto matzah ball.

Lottie Rossman, 91, of Hollywood was surprised when her recipe won the ``best homemade'' category -- she didn't even know she was a contestant. Her daughter, Diane Magid entered her mother's recipe, calling them "pure and airy, like pillows."
The runner-up prize for best homemade Matzah Ball went to 102-year-old Rae Zwerling, who used her mother's recipe.
They got about a dozen entries. Forest Trace chef Greg Bainbridge made most of the recipes and tested them before picking a winner.

Rossman gave this advice to first-time matzah ball cooks:
"The first time, it never comes out good. You've got to try a few times,'' she said.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Comedy Showcase: Meet Jeff Applebaum, Classic Stand-Up Comic

Jeff Applebaum is a New York stand-up comic who transplanted himself to California.
Jeff’s clean comedy examines his particular life experiences, which include being the only white kid on his Little League team in Queens, having a Chinese wife who orders from take-out menus in fluent Mandarin, and raising a pre-teen son who calls himself “Jewnese,” because he says it sounds better than “Chine-ish.”

Jeff made his national TV debut on CBS as a comedian on the "Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson."

Jeff was cast by Sandy Hackett, the late Buddy Hackett's son, to play the principal role of Joey Bishop in the long-running musical tribute "The Rat Pack Is Back," in San Francisco, Chicago, and Las Vegas.  Jeff is also credited and appears in the blockbuster film "The Pursuit of Happyness," starring Will Smith.

Jeff has been entertaining people all around North America for over 14 years, including audiences of more than 10,000 people at the ARCO Arena (in Sacramento) and the Anaheim Convention Center. His down-to-earth style and resemblance to popular TV characters has led to great shows at clubs, colleges, and corporate functions.

Here's Jeff performing on the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.

Jeff is cultivating another generation of comedy.  His 12-year-old son, Josh, has performed on the same bill with Jeff.  Here he is on stage at the 142 Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley, California.

And here's Jeff impersonating the legendary Joey Bishop (Joseph Abraham Gottlieb)  who was perhaps best known for being a member of the Rat Pack with Frank Sinatra, Peter Lawford, Sammy Davis Jr., and Dean Martin. Bishop appeared on television as early as 1948 and eventually starred in his own weekly comedy series as well as hosting a talk show.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Mea Shearim Discovers Ice Cream; Thousands Line Up For Free Taste

Stories have been appearing in the Israeli business press over the past month about the imminent opening of a new ice cream chain in charedi neighborhoods.  The chain, called Zisalek (from the Yiddish, "sweet lick,") finally opened last Friday in the ultra-orthodox Mea Shearim neighborhood in Jerusalem, and the hysteria that it caused was beyond belief.

More than 6,000 yeshiva students, rabbis, women, and children waited in line for a free sample for six hours as the main street of Mea Shearim was closed to traffic.  The lines formed at 6 am and didn't end until it was almost Shabbat.  As late as 2 pm, when store management asked customers to leave because they wanted to prepare for Shabbat, they continued to bang on the windows in their desire to get a sample.

What we have taken for granted for all these years turns out to be a wonder in the charedi world.  To a consumer base that has never seen an ice cream parlor, the appeal of strictly kosher dairy and pareve ice cream in 37 flavors, plus frozen yogurt and waffles was just too great to resist.

As Ofer Petersburg reported in
A secular man who happened to walk by felt as if he had just stepped out of a time machine: "Such a long queue? For ice cream?" 

"What is this white, fluffy, sweet thing that looks like a cotton ball?" asked an elderly rabbi holding an ice cream cone for the first time in his life. "Whipped cream," the salesman explained, and the rabbi rushed to a nearby stairwell to lick the delicacy in private, so as not to be seen – God forbid – enjoying one of the pleasures of life.

Like what happened just the day before in Tel Aviv's Azrieli during the H&M opening the day before, in Mea Shearim too babies were crushed by the masses of people, children lost their parents, women blended with men, and all for one small ice cream cone. The police were forced to close the street to traffic in order to prevent a disaster.
The public quickly got attached to the new product. "Don’t destroy the shape, it will be a shame," one woman told the salesman as she watched him approaching a large chunk of Oreo ice cream covered with real chocolate balls in order to move part of it to the cone.
A commotion broke out when Neturei Karta members arrived with loudspeakers and called out to the crowd: "Modesty, gentlemen, modesty. We don't want any mix up here. Women must not be with men."
The ice cream chain's owner, Yaakov Halperin, immediately organized two queues, one for men and one for women. Iron barriers were dispatched to the area and the men and women were separated. Each time, eight men were allowed to enter the store, followed by eight women.
(Photos by Tzvika Tishler)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Infidel: Muslim Discovers He Was Born Jewish In New Comedy by David Baddiel

The Infidel, a new British movie by David Baddiel, and starring Iranian Baha'i stand-up comic Omid Djalili and Richard Schiff (remember him as Toby Ziegler in The West Wing?) sets up the improbable scenario of a Muslim taxi driver who discovers he was adopted and is actually Jewish.  As you can imagine, many funny situations develop as the film explores cultural differences and similarities between Jews and Muslims.  The message is that mutual tolerance can be achieved, but the road is sometimes confrontational, hazardous, unpredictable, and in this case, also funny.

As BBC News reported while the film was in production,
"It's a funny old comedy about Muslims and Jews", says writer David Baddiel, clearly used to summing up his film in a soundbite.
Director Josh Appignanesi (Song of Songs) is a little less succinct.
"It's about a sort of everyman chap, second generation Pakistani, a lovable guy who's a Muslim in an everyday way. But he finds out he's adopted, and his real name is it's Solly Shimshillewitz and he was born a Jew. That throws him into comic situations".
"With hilarious consequences!" adds Baddiel with a laugh.
Essentially, the message is that we are all the same. One scene shows Mahmud's shock as he enters a synagogue and realises that everyone looks like him. 
The film opens in the UK on April 9.  We assume that it will appear in the US soon.  In the meantime, enjoy the trailer.

Friday, March 12, 2010

New Gadget Makes It Easier to Have a "Leaner" Passover Seder

Everyone knows that it's customary to lean to the left at the seder table while drinking the wine and eating the matzah because it is symbolic of freedom.  But anyone who's tried it knows that it can be very uncomfortable, if not dangerous.  Spilling wine into your neighbor's lap, getting crumbs all over him or her, over the table, or over the floor, or even falling off the chair!

This year, thanks to Israeli ingenuity, there's a solution to this problem.  It's the Lateral Recliner, released just in time for this year's Passover holiday.

We haven't seen it in our local Judaica stores, so we suspect it's only available in Israel.  But next year...who knows?

Here's a demonstration of the Lateral Recliner in action, and a phone number for ordering it, if you're in Israel.
(A tip of the kippah to Jameel Rashid at The Muqata for bringing this invention to our attention.)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Passover Countdown: Experience the Exodus in 7 Minutes

(Although most of our posts are intended to be funny or show an aspect of humor in Jewish happenings in the news, occasionally we like to post something that's not necessarily funny but gives us a warm feeling and some Yiddishe nachas, as we say on our masthead.  As we approach the first seder -- less than three weeks from today, let's imagine that we are personally experiencing the Exodus from Egypt.)

In each and every generation, a person is obligated to regard himself as though he actually left Egypt. As it says: "You shall tell your son on that day, 'It is because of this that God took me out of Egypt.' " (Exodus 13:8)

The Haggadah is the narrative of the Exodus, and we use it each year to recount the miracles that happened when our ancestors were liberated from Egyptian bondage.  But it's hard to put ourselves into the picture and keep that picture vivid in our minds as we settle into our pillowed chairs around the table with our loved ones, exhausted from all the preparations, cleaning, shopping, and cooking that have become as emblematic of the holiday as its origins and rationale.

To get in the mood and appreciate just why we are going through all this effort, it's worthwhile spending seven minutes immersing ourselves in the video below.  It's a reminder of what this month of preparing for the sedarim is all about.  The montage is taken from a TV series a few years ago and the background music is by Vangelis, who wrote the music for Chariots of Fire.  We hope you enjoy this interlude, and tomorrow it's back to funny stuff.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Jamaica Highlights Jewish Pirates and Jewish Reggae in Bid For Jewish Tourists

When you think of Jamaica (the Caribbean island, not the Queens neighborhood) you probably don't think of Jewish pirates or Jewish reggae artists, but after reading the front page article in yesterday's Wall Street Journal, we found enough connections to make these associations come to life.

In January, 200 academics, genealogists, and history buffs attended a conference on Jewish-Caribbean history in Kingston, Jamaica's capital.  Also present were editors of Jewish newspapers, including The Jewish Standard, who reported on their experiences at the conference.

Tourism officials on the island are eager to play up the Jewish connections in the hope that they will attract many Jewish visitors.  While signs of Jewish presence are visible in the form of  a synagogue, school, and a cemetery, it's still difficult to find kosher food.  Kingston's Hillel school, which runs on a Jewish calendar has 750 students, but only about 20 are Jewish.  The synagogue has no rabbi, and the Jewish community numbers only 200 people.  But then again, there are the pirates and the reggae, which makes them unique among Jewish communities.

As Tamara Audi reports in the Wall Street Journal,
Jamaica may have claim to one unusual historical chapter: Jewish pirates. Among them: Moses Cohen Henriques, who attacked Spanish ships loaded with silver, according to Edward Kritzler's Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean.

Mr. Kritzler, who attended the conference, is an American who has been in Jamaica on and off since the late 1960s. He's fond of wearing a Star of David pendant over shirts studded with skull and crossbones.

Many Jewish pirates, he writes, were "secret Jews" who converted to Catholicism in name only to survive the Inquisition, then fled to the Caribbean.
In the video below, Kritzler stands among the gravestones in a Jamaica cemetery with a group of tourists and relates the history of how some of the Jewish traders became pirates when they escaped from the Inquisition in Spain.

Today, finding a kosher kitchen can be tough. But the island is used to preparing vegetarian meals for its religious Rastafarian population—some of whom consider themselves a lost tribe of Israel and follow Jewish dietary restrictions forbidding shellfish and pork. One Kingston hotel recently purchased new cooking tools dedicated to kosher meals for guests.
Behn Goldis, a New York reggae artist and orthodox Jew whose stage name is BennyBwoy, calls himself "the original Jewmaican." A former Wall Street analyst, he was invited to the conference to perform. He did so wearing a yarmulke knitted in the colors of the Jamaican flag, braided hair and sunglasses decorated with gold snakes. "I'm not Jamaican. I just love the music and the people," Mr. Goldis said. "But I really am Jewish."
Here is a video of BennyBwoy, "The Original Jewmaican," performing his hit single, Rise Up.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

My Footprint: Comedian Jeff Garlin's New Book About His Battle to Curb His Weight

Comedian Jeff Garlin, the big guy who plays Jeff Greene, Larry David's Manager on HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm, has just come out with a new book chronicling his battle to overcome his life-long weight problem by curbing his food addiction.

Garlin, who is also Curb Your Enthusiasm's executive producer, suffered a stroke as a result of his diabetes when he was 37.  He decided to write a diary of his progress toward his goal of losing 50 to 100 pounds, and My Footprint:  Carrying the Weight of the World is the result.

In addition to his work on Curb Your Enthusiasm, Garlin also spent three seasons on NBC's Mad About You in the role of Marvin, and has a variety of television and film appearances to his credit including Dr. Katz, Arrested Development, Everybody Loves Raymond, The Late Show with David Letterman, Tom Goes to the Mayor, The Daily Show, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, Daddy Day Care, and WALL-E. He has also had his own HBO half-hour comedy special.

Garlin has been making the rounds of TV talk shows, where he has been saying that he is about half-way toward his weight reduction goal.

Here's a clip of Garlin on the Fox News talk show Huckabee with host Mike Huckabee discussing his book and his motivation in writing it.

Monday, March 8, 2010

After the Oscars: Our All-time Favorite Jewish Moments in Film

Because last night was Oscar night, we couldn't help thinking about our favorite Jewish moments in film.  The idea was triggered by an article in Heeb magazine online called The 100 Greatest Jewish Movie Moments.  We checked it out and found that we were in agreement with many of their selections, but had a few others of our own.  So we're sharing with you Jewish Humor Central's picks for 10 of the Best Jewish Moments in Cinema.  

We decided to limit our selections to those with clips available online.  So we had to pass on two of our favorites, the "He must be Jewish" line that the old lady speaks in Superman II when the superhero rescues the little boy from Niagara Falls, and the "Sunday?  That's Simchas Torah" line spoken by Val Kilmer in Top Secret.

We love them all, so it's hard to rank them.  Here they are.

Blazing Saddles (1974)
"Shvartzes?  Loz em gein!"

The Frisco Kid (1979)
Watch for the reaction when the rabbi realizes that all bearded black hatters are not necessarily landsmen.
Witness (1985)
This scene is the flip of the Frisco Kid scene as the little Amish boy reacts when he realizes the same truth.

Airplane (1980)
Ever see a plane with a beard and a tallit?  Air Israel comes through in this one.

Spaceballs (1987)
"May the Schwartz be with you!"

Fiddler on the Roof (1971)
What more can we say?  The opening number says it all.

The Lost Weekend (1947)
Don't try to hock your typewriter in New York on Yom Kippur.

For Your Consideration (Home for Purim) (2006)
We love everything about Purim, no matter how wacky things get.

When Do We Eat? (2005)
Pesach!  It's coming in only three weeks!

The Big Lebowski (1998)
How many times do I have to tell you?  "I'm a Shomer f------ Shabbos, and I don't roll on Shabbos."

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Tovah Feldshuh Goes Beyond Acting to Humor, Song, and Dance

If you're like us, you probably know Tovah Feldshuh as the Broadway star of Golda's Balcony, or more recently, Irena's Vow.  You may have seen her Emmy-nominated performances as defense attorney Danielle Melnick on Law & Order or her many other Broadway and TV roles.  But her comedy and singing talents haven't been as widely seen unless you've experienced one of her one-woman concerts.

Several years ago she began custom-tailoring her programs for individual clients and special events. She interviews prospective clients for the details of their community and/or event and weaves those facts into her concert, as well as selecting material of her own that is particularly appropriate for "that special evening".  In a show called Tovah: Out of Her Mind, Feldshuh sings songs from Gershwin to Judy Collins and inhabits a gallery of hilarious characters, ages 8 to 80, ranging from socialite Muffy Brooke Asthma Alsop on Park Avenue to Grandma Ada in the Bronx.

She has been hired by a variety of clients from the United Jewish Israel Appeal in the United Kingdom to St. Vincent's Hospital in New York City. In 1999, The Boston Globe chose her and her show as the best cabaret/concert of the year.
Here's a sampling from that show. 

After embodying Golda Meir in Golda's Balcony, Feldshuh created a show, Mining Golda:  The Journey to Golda Meir, telling the story of how she researched everything about Golda Meir before appearing on stage as the Israeli prime minister.  The show is an evening of theater recounting her creative journey in writing, staging, and performing that show, including her travels to Israel and into the very soul of Golda Meir, weaving song, story, and humor into an unforgettable experience.  Enjoy!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Comedy Showcase: Meet Mendy Pellin, Chasidic Comic and Funny News Reporter

"Every day for me is Purim.  I like to joke around, not take life too seriously."  That's a quote that Jewish Humor Central's Blogger-in-Chief would expect to be attributed to him or to many of his readers, but one very unlikely to be heard from a black-bearded Chasid in a black hat and black suit. 

Anyone who has seen and heard Mendy Pellin, the 27-year-old Chasidic comic and creator of The Mendy Report on, knows otherwise.

Pellin made those comments in an interview with talk show host Brian Lehrer on his Brian Lehrer Live TV show, and his mock TV news programs, man-in-the-street interviews, and general funny shtick show that his true colors are not only black.

Pellin was born to a Chasidic family in Denver, Colorado. He spent most of his childhood growing up in Crown Heights, New York, home of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement. At age 7, he was already learning the tricks of the trade at a local puppet theater, but quickly moved on to baffle crowds all around the globe.

With nothing like his show in the Jewish world and over 50,000 viewers per broadcast, Mendy blends Chasidic spirituality with out-of-the-box humor. He aims to overcome stereotypes commonly attributed to ultra-Orthodox Jews.

As Gregory Beyer reported in The New York Times in January 2008,
Standing 6 feet 2 inches and wearing a long, dark beard, Mr. Pellin is aware that his appearance may suggest, to those outside the Hasidic community, an intense humorlessness. “The Mendy Report” is his lighthearted attempt to prove otherwise by parodying local, national and international news, in a style that sometimes recalls Comedy Central staples like “The Daily Show” or “The Colbert Report.” 
Here's a typical Mendy Report.  Because it's a Purim edition, it's even funnier than usual.

Pellin's shtick caught the attention of the Tonight Show and he was invited to be the rabbi in a segment introduced by Jay Leno involving a rabbi, a priest, and a minister -- one of the classic joke situations.  Here is a video of Pellin preparing for the show and delivering his joke on nationwide TV.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Funny YouTube Matzah Video Leads Michelle Citrin to Broadway

In yesterday's New York Times ArtsBeat blog, Patrick Healy reported that the creator of a musical adaptation of the 1993 Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan film, Sleepless in Seattle, was so enamored with a YouTube video featuring singer/songwriter Michelle Citrin, that he tapped her to write the music and lyrics for the show, which has a planned Broadway opening in February 2011.

The video, 20 Things to Do With Matzah, performed by Citrin and William Levin, first appeared on YouTube two years ago.  It has been viewed over one million times, many of them by David Shor, an entertainment executive who holds the rights to make a musical based on the film.  Shor sent the clip to his friends as a holiday greeting, and started a Facebook correspondence with Citrin which eventually led to bringing her on the team for the Broadway musical.  Josh Nelson and Michael Garin are also joining the team of songwriters and musicians.

Reporting the story in Theatre News, Andy Propst writes:
Singer/songwriter Citrin's work has earned her recognition as one of Billboard Music's "Top Songwriters," as well as a Great American Songwriting Honor and a place as finalist in Sony Music's future Rock Competition. Her work is also a fixture on YouTube, where she has released such songs as "Rosh Hashanah Girl," "20 Things to do with Matzah," and "Pass the Candle." Her latest CD, Left Brained Right Hearted will be released in the near future.
Reporting in Playbill, Andrew Gans quotes Shor:
"We are thrilled to have Michelle, Michael, and Josh on board to make this timeless musical sing in a contemporary, exciting way," said producer Shor in a statement. "The process that we went through to find our writing team is unique to say the least. We are glad we found them and are thrilled with the results of their collaboration. Who knew that Facebook and YouTube would break the mold to discover new voices for the theater?"
If you're not among the 1.2 million who have seen the "Matzah" video, here it is for your enjoyment.  Remember, Pesach is less than a month away!
(A tip of the kippah to Esther Kustanowitz for bringing this news to our attention.)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

More New Inventions For Jewish Life By Marvin Silbermintz

Way back in October 2009, when Jewish Humor Central was just getting started, we posted a video clip of Marvin Silbermintz, lead comedy writer for Jay Leno on the Tonight Show, showing his funny inventions for Jewish Life on a Chabad telethon.  As we said then, we knew Marvin when he lived in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, before he followed Jay to Los Angeles.

Well, we found another appearance by Marvin at another Chabad telethon a year later where he introduces a whole new set of funny inventions.  This new set includes:

- Dinnerware for the Jewish Home
- Bluetooth for Zayde
- The groom shoe
- Jewish tool kit
- Jewish mother quiz game
- Full feature prayer book
- Mezuzah kisser

We hope you enjoy this set, and if you missed the first set, we're repeating it at the bottom of this post. 

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A Joke To Start Your Day: The Conversion

 After many years in the banking industry in New York, Milton gets a job offer he can't refuse -- vice-president and board member at the Salt Flats National Bank in Utah at a salary of $500,000.  So he tells his wife Rachel and she agrees to sell their house and move to Utah.  What Milton doesn't know is that the president of the bank has had a hard time with his board of directors in getting them to approve his choice of Milton as vice-president.

Even after Milton is on the job, the board members argue with the president that they are all Mormons and that they are having a problem with the idea of a Jew on the board.  But they know that he is a genius in the world of finance and don't want to lose him.

So the president comes up with a solution that he thinks will work and calls Milton into this office.  "Some of the other board members," He tells Milton, "are used to working only with Mormons, and are threatening to quit if you remain on the board."  I don't want to have to decide between you and them, so I worked out a solution that I hope you will accept.
If you want to keep your position, you’ll have to convert to our church.  Please let me know by tomorrow what you decide."   Milton feels he has no choice.  As hard as it might be to convert, it will be easier than losing  this great new job. So he goes home and tells Rachel, "Starting this Sunday we’ll be going to church with our children."

The months go by, and Rachel gets more and more upset.  She didn't want to convert, and now she misses Shabbat, candle lighting, kiddush, the holidays.  She confronts Milton and tells him that money isn't everything and she can't take it any more.

Milton's conscience starts to bother him, and finally he too is fed up.  He goes back to his boss, the bank president, and tells him:  " I made a big mistake in converting, and I can't sleep at night.  My wife is very upset and she is anxious and depressed.  I thought that money would compensate for all of this but I found that money isn't everything.  We can't be Mormons any more.  We have to go back to our Jewish roots.  If that means I have to quit my job, I'll just have to quit."

The president listens to Milton's impassioned words and says to him:  "OK, Milton, I didn't realize that the conversion was causing so much stress.  I thought that you didn't mind switching religions.  You're performing so well here that I'd do anything to keep you.  If you agree to stay with us, I'll talk to the directors and tell them that you're going back to your Judaism and they'll just have to accept it.

Milton is overwhelmed with joy and rushes home to tell Rachel the wonderful news.  "Rachel, dear," he says to her, " You were right and I was so short-sighted.  I talked to the president and he was very understanding.  He's letting me keep the job and he said we can go back to being Jewish immediately.

Rachel looks at him angrily, and says:  "Tell me, what kind of idiot are you?"

Milton is shocked by Rachel's reaction. "But didn't you complain for all these months that it was wrong to convert and that we should go back to being Jewish?"

Rachel, still very upset, says: "Of course I do, but NOW, just 2 weeks before Pesach?"

(Clip art from and

Monday, March 1, 2010

It's Shushan Purim! One More Day of Purim Shtick

OK, you may say Purim is over.  Let's get back to more general topics, or jokes about Pesach.  Don't worry, we'll get there soon, but today is Shushan Purim, an extra day of Purim celebrated in walled cities.  We consider the internet to be surrounded by a firewall, so we'll take an extra day to laugh at some of the best Purim shtick that we have found.

First, a parody of Supercallifragilisticexpialidocious (did we spell that correctly?) by Nicholas Kett, a remarkable tale of one Yeshiva bochur, recounting the tale of his Chassidic family.

Next, a Purim Shpiel video produced a few years ago in the Israeli town of Hashmonaim, advertising a very special gemach.

A gemach (abbreviation for gemilat chasadim -- acts of kindness) started out as a Jewish free loan fund, extending loans on a short- or long-term basis for any need, including emergency loans, medical expenses, wedding expenses, etc. However, many people have expanded the concept of gemachs to include free loans of household items, clothing, books, equipment, services and advice.  In this Purim parody, the video is an ad for a husband gemach.