Sunday, July 31, 2011

Maurice Sendak is Back at 83 With Bumble-Ardy, New Book Based on Sesame Street Cartoon

Remember Maurice Sendak, the writer and artist who gave us Where the Wild Things Are and In the Night Kitchen?  At the age of 83, he's back with a new children's book, Bumble-Ardy, which will be released on September 6.

Best known for his children's classics, Sendak is a multi-faceted artist whose work also includes stage sets and costume design for both opera and ballet. Born in Brooklyn in 1928 to Eastern European Jewish immigrants, Sendak grew up in the shadow of the Holocaust, during which many members of his family were lost. Three main themes pervade his work: the Old World of East European Jewry; Sendak's own experiences growing up Jewish in Brooklyn, influenced by American popular culture; and the artist's desire to process the horrors of the Holocaust while reconciling with Germanic culture by embracing its richness, bringing the artist back full circle to his own past. 

The August issue of Vanity Fair has a story about Sendak and his works, focusing on his latest book, whose main character, a nine-year-old boy, first appeared in a Jim Henson-produced cartoon on Sesame Street in the 1970s.

In this portrait of the author, Dave Eggers writes:
Bumble-Ardy has a characteristically grim beginning. The young protagonist, a pig, suffers through the first eight years of his life without his family recognizing, let alone celebrating, his birthday. Then his parents are eaten, leaving him alone in the world. Would it be fair to say that childhood neglect and parental disappearance are favorite Sendak themes? “That’s all I’ve ever written about. As a kid, all I thought about was death. But you can’t tell your parents that.”
Bumble-Ardy goes to live with his aunt Adeline, and when she fails to throw him a party on his ninth birthday, he throws one for himself. Like all Sendakian rumpuses, it gets out of hand, and for 10 pages we’re treated to the most bizarre tableau of celebrants, all in costume: pigs dressed as monsters, pigs dressed as cowboys and Indians, pigs dressed as old ladies painted garishly. As with any Sendak book, the pictures are full of references and echoes. One pig is reading a newspaper that says, WE READ BANNED BOOKS. A sheriff’s yellow badge calls back to the Warsaw Ghetto. Messages are written in Hebrew, Italian, Russian. One placard, held by a yellow pig in overalls, asks, WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
Here's the original cartoon from Sesame Street, followed by an interview with Maurice Sendak in his studio, in which he talks about the joy of work, upcoming projects, and his love of bad TV.  Enjoy!

(A tip of the kippah to Fay Grajower for bringing this story to our attention.)

Friday, July 29, 2011

Israeli Cyclist Completes 40,000 Mile Trek in Australia on His Bike Named "Emunah"

JTA reported yesterday that Israeli cyclist Roei “Jinji” Sadan, who has spent the past four years crossing 42 countries on six continents, reached his final destination Thursday, the Sydney Opera House in Australia. Sadan crossed the finish line on his custom-built, blue and white bicycle sporting the Israeli and Australian flags. He named the bicycle "Emunah" - "Faith" - in Hebrew.

Why Emunah? As Dan Goldberg wrote in another JTA report earlier this month,
In Melbourne recently on the eve of the last leg of his 39,000-mile trek, the 29-year-old Israeli recalled cycling through the Mexican desert on New Year’s Day 2008. Suddenly a car pulled up.
“I didn’t know Spanish; I thought they wanted to help me," Sadan recalls. "Then one of them showed me a gun and I started to understand what’s going on.”
The bandits stole clothes, money, credit cards and supplies, as well as a tent and sleeping bag -- but not his 27-gear, custom-built, blue-and-white Thorn Nomad bicycle.
“From then on I called it Emunah,” he says.
Within an hour his faith was rewarded. Two American surfers passed by and drove Sadan to San Diego, where he restocked with supplies. Another American, having heard a TV interview, drove him back to Mexico so he could continue his adventure.
The incident served as a microcosm for his arduous journey of self-discovery: nightmarish episodes and seeing humanity at its glorious best.
Sadan's arrival marked the official end of his globetrotting odyssey that spanned some 40,000 miles. Part of the trek was spent as a goodwill ambassador for Israel.

Yesterday's JTA report continues:

“I’m excited, but it’s also a weird feeling because this is the end,” Sadan said in Sydney.

He was greeted by representatives of the Zionist Council of New South Wales, which has organized an event Sunday to celebrate Sadan’s achievement.

In 2009, during a brief visit home, Minister of Diaspora Affairs Yuli Edelstein gave Sadan his blessing to be a roving ambassador for Israel. Since then he has spoken to more than 1,500 children as well as given interviews to scores of media outlets about the “real” Israel. Sadan is scheduled to speak to several school and community events while in Sydney.

During his adventure, which cost about $60,000 -- part of it covered by his sponsor, the Israeli water company Mei Eden -- he was held up at gunpoint in Mexico, bitten by a wild dog in Peru, contracted malaria in Mozambique and hit by a car in Bolivia.
Sadan said he intends to become a motivational speaker and wants to transform his diaries into a book that he hopes will inspire people to follow their dreams.

Next weekend he will fly to Thailand and then on to Jordan before cycling to Jerusalem, where he hopes to be the star attraction at a homecoming event at the Western Wall.
Last month, as Sadan was nearing the end of his long journey, he was interviewed on television by World News Australia. We hope you enjoy the video.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Voca People - From the Planet Voca (Actually Israel) to Broadway and Beyond

The Voca People have landed off-Broadway at the Westside Theater on 43rd Street in Manhattan.

What? You haven't heard of the Voca People? They're a group of eight singers dressed completely in white and have been compared to the Blue Man Group, a similar group that dresses all in blue paint.

The Voca People sing a cappella and beat box vocal to simulate the sounds of a full orchestra without any musical accompaniment. They claim to come from the planet Voca, but their actual home planet is Israel, specifically Tel Aviv. 

According to Wikipedia, they have performed in: Spain, New York, Italy, France, England, Israel and many other places. They incorporate the public into their songs and change or add bits depending on which country they are in.

The creators, Lior Kalfo and Shai Fishman, envisioned a group of performers dressed completely in white with red lips. 

In Italy they became famous through a clip on YouTube which won over 15 million hits in less than one year and a series of television appearances. 

Here's a video clip from a recent performance that showcases their many talents. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Streets of Krakow Come Alive With Jewish Music

For the last 21 years the streets of the city of Krakow, Poland, have been crowded with musicians and listeners as the Krakow Jewish Cultural Festival takes over each summer.  This year the festival events took place from June 24 through July 3.

The Jewish Culture Festival in Kraków is an annual cultural event organized since 1988 in the once Jewish district of Kazimierz (part of Kraków) by the Jewish Culture Festival Society headed by Janusz Makuch, a self-described meshugeneh, fascinated with all things Jewish.The main goal of the festival is to educate people about Jewish culture, history and faith (Judaism), which flourished in Poland before the Holocaust, as well as to familiarize them with modern Jewish culture developing mostly in the United States and Israel, and finally, to provide entertainment.

Each festival is held in late June or early July and takes nine days, from Saturday to Sunday. During that time concerts, exhibitions, plays, lectures, workshops, tours, etc. are organized. The two most important concerts are: the inaugural concert on the first Sunday, and the final concert on the last Saturday of the festival. The former usually takes place in one of seven synagogues of Kazimierz and features cantorial music; the latter is always held outdoors, in Ulica Szeroka, the main street of the Jewish part of Kazimierz, and features klezmer music. In between there are many more concerts, usually with some variations of klezmer music.

Here's a little taste of what went on for nine days in June and the beginning of July.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Stand-up (or Sit-down) Comedy: Some Old Jewish Jokes from Jeffry Mallow

Jeffry Mallow has been a university Physics professor and public lecturer on science, politics, and Jewish humor for more than thirty years. He was also a stand-up comic with the Maxwell Street Klezmer Band.

His book,"Our Pal God" and Other Presumptions: A Book of Jewish Humor was published a few years ago, but we just discovered it.  It's filled with lots of classic Jewish jokes on a wide variety of topics, many of which you've likely heard before. 

Field-tested by Mallow’s stand-up comedy audiences for decades, here are rib-ticklers about matchmakers, cantors, and circumcisers; the overly pious, freethinkers, and heretics; the illogic of Jewish logic; and even Jewish encounters with alien societies. In these pages, Jews poke fun at their own foibles and at the Gentiles who befuddle them, and Mallow offers witty and informative introductions, explanations, background, and cultural context. There’s also a handy glossary at the end.

Not only is this a laugh-out-loud compilation of the best Jewish jokes that date back to the Talmud and up to today, but it’s also a fascinating and entertaining look at Jewish life around the world and through the centuries.

Mallow has uploaded a few videos of himself telling some of these jokes, not standing up, but sitting on a couch. That doesn't make them any less funny and we're sharing a couple of them with you here. Enjoy!

Monday, July 25, 2011

FaceGlat Debuts as "Kosher" Facebook Alternative With Separate Entrances For Men and Women

It's new! It lets you connect and expand your network, view profiles, add new friends, share your photos and videos, and create your own group or join others.

Sounds like Facebook, right?  Wrong! It's FaceGlat, the new social networking website for men who want to limit their social circle to other men, and for women who want to limit their contacts to other women.

Is there an exception for a husband and wife to connect electronically? No, says 25-year-old Yaakov Swisa, who created the website from his home in Kfar Chabad, Israel. "They can meet at home, on the sofa in their living room."

Reporting in yesterday's edition of Ynetnews, Israel's most popular online news site, Kobi Nahshoni writes:
Yes, the Jewish mind doesn’t rest. Technology keeps presenting new wonders, and there's always someone ready to take the challenge. This time it's Kfar Chabad resident Yaakov Swisa, 25, who founded a "kosher" social network with complete segregation between men and women and free of any immodest pictures or ads.
The new website includes a "word filter" system for blocking comments or statuses users don't approve of, and a system blocking accounts opened by men in the women's section (and vice versa).
Plans for the future include different developments to prevent impersonations, a "mikveh room" with the sector's hottest news, and more.
Swisa said he learned to build websites on his own and has always been trying to come out with ways to meet the special needs of the religious and haredi public. He realized that an entire sector is in need of a social network which does not contradict its values, and decided to do something about it.
The FaceGlat manager says his motives are more ideological than economic, although he would be glad to get something in return for his great investment – time, efforts, energy and money.

Swisa says hundreds of accounts have been opened on the website since he began advertising it, and some 100 join every day.
"It's not an alternative for Facebook, but something intended for a particular public," he explains. "I believe that it would be much more convenient for a haredi man or woman to publish pictures and all kinds of other things to people of the same sex only.

"People who are God-fearing and care about their children's education – cannot tolerate the ads and pictures one sees on the regular Facebook. I personally know people who have deteriorated spiritually because of all kinds of things they were introduced to there."
Swisa stresses that there is no "religious coercion" in the website and that the only content supervised is that available to all users. Pictures and statuses that do not appear on a person's profile page will not be blocked, as those who don't want to be exposed to them can remove the person who published them from their list of friends.
The FaceGlat procedures are not final yet and may change if needed – for example, if the website in its current format leads to "negative activity," as defined by Swisa, or attracts people who don't even own a Facebook account at the moment.
 "We're not making it kosher, but reducing the prohibition," he explains. "We want to provide a different, cleaner option for those who are already there. If it encourages people to open accounts or waste their time instead of studying Torah – it's a failure. It's not worth a thing. I promised myself that if that happened I would close it down."
And why can't a husband connect with his wife on FaceGlat? "We thought of that option, allowing friendships between men and women who are members of the same family, but we feared that would lead to impersonations and people making up names.

"In the end we decided to leave it as it is, and let the couples meet at home, on the sofa in their living room."

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Camp Morasha Campers Join the Flash Mob Craze

Last week the oldest campers from Camp Morasha, an Orthodox camp in Lakewood, Pennsylvania, went on a field trip to Scranton and launched into a flash mob dance. The kids took over the Mall at Steamtown, joining the growing number of participants in flash mobs around the world as they performed an original dance to the song Magic.

Our favorite part of watching the flash mobs is seeing the surprised faces of shoppers who didn't see the performance coming, and the seemingly random way the dancers come together from different locations and the way they melt into the crowd when the music stops.
We've previously reported on flash mobs in the streets, malls, and beaches of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Rishon LeZion, and St. Petersburg, Russia. We hope you enjoy this one, too.

(A tip of the kippah to Eita Latkin for bringing this video to our attention.)

Friday, July 22, 2011

Funny Israeli Commercials: How to Say No and Stay Alive

Last year we shared a funny Israeli commercial by the Steimatzky book store chain that showed a man and a woman flirting by showing each other titles of books. Here's another one in the series that we think you'll like.

A mother and her son walk into a bookstore. The boy immediately pulls books and toys from the shelves and piles them up in his mother's hands. The sales clerk smiles knowingly and hands the mother a book titled How to Say No and Stay Alive.

It's all visual, except for the Hebrew tag line: "Even for children, books are Steimatzky."

Like other Steimatzky commercials, the background music may sound familiar. It's Carlos Gardel's Por Una Cabeza, the same song used to accompany the tango scene in Al Pacino's Oscar-winning performance in Scent of a Woman.  If you liked the movie or just the music in the commercial, here's a video clip from the movie with the whole song being played.  Enjoy!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Jerusalem: A 4000 Year Ride Through Time in 5 Minutes. Fasten Your Seat Belts!

The three weeks between the Seventeenth day of Tammuz and the Ninth day of Av (this year, from July 19 through August 9) is a period during which Jews worldwide lament the destruction of the Holy Temples in Jerusalem so many years ago.

With the passage of time, many of the details and dates have become fuzzy and murky to those of us who don't regularly immerse ourselves in the study of Jewish history.

So when we discovered a new video, Jerusalem: A Historical Journey Through Archaeology and Art, produced by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA), that brings the history of Jerusalem to life in an entertaining new way, we thought we'd take a day off from humor and share it with you.

What makes this presentation really special is the timeline at the bottom of the screen that moves rapidly from around 1700 BCE to the present day while the story of Jerusalem is being told. You'll feel like a time traveler through the centuries of Jerusalem's conquests by invaders and the persistence of the Jews in returning to their eternal capital.  Fasten your seat belts and enjoy!

(A tip of the kippah to Oded Strich for bringing this video to our attention.)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Meet Craig Cohen, the Jewish Cowboy From New Mexico

Jewish Humor Central is getting to be like Forrest Gump's box of never know what you're going to get.

Today it's not another joke or strange version of Hava Nagila or funny Israeli commercial. Today we're having a talk with Craig Cohen, who calls himself the Jewish Cowboy from Rio Rancho, New Mexico, and his horse Lulu. 

In the video below, Cohen says that Lulu was Horse Mitzvahed by Rabbi Arthur Flicker, a cowboy rabbi from El Paso via Columbus, Ohio, and shows us the Magen David she wears around her head.

He learned to speak horse in 2002 and shows how he communicates with Lulu by massaging her behind, and demonstrates a bit of horsemanship without actually riding Lulu, who is tethered to a tree.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Captain America, Another Jewish Superhero Creation, Opens in Theaters This Weekend

Superman is not the only super hero to be created by Jewish cartoonists.  Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster's man of steel appeared in comic book form in 1938. Three years later, in March 1941, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby created Captain America, the first superhero to enlist in World War II. 

Now, Captain America is coming to a theater near you this weekend, but like Superman before him, his all-American character has been diluted to de-emphasize American exceptionalism. 

In an article released yesterday by JTA, Simcha Weinstein writes:
The famous front cover of "Captain America #1" showed its titular hero punching Hitler straight in the face, sending the ridiculous looking Fuerher tumbling backward.
With that single unforgettable image, the Nazi ideal of the Aryan ubermensch was dealt a fatal blow, as was what remained of the once respectable American “isolationist” movement.
As the first comic book character to enlist in World War II, Captain America was an instant success, selling nearly 1 million copies per issue. In a way that’s not surprising, considering the character’s pedigree. Captain America was created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, second-generation Jews who made no secret of their source of inspiration.
The character of Captain America, Simon said, “was our way of lashing out at the Nazi menace.”
In that first issue of the Marvel comic, readers meet the superhero’s “everyman” alter ego, Steve Rogers. A sickly Depression-era child, Rogers loses his parents at a young age, then tries to enlist in the military. Too feeble to join the regular forces, Rogers volunteers for a top-secret military medical experiment known as “Operation Rebirth,” being overseen by one Dr. Reinstein. (Note the character’s Jewish name, one that sounds suspiciously like “Albert Einstein.” In 1941, Einstein was a wildly popular -- if little understood -- cultural icon in the real world.)
In need of a human “guinea pig” to test his formula, Dr. Reinstein injects Rogers with his Secret-Soldier Serum. Unfortunately, a Nazi spy infiltrates the experiment and kills Dr. Reinstein, leaving the newly empowered Rogers as the serum’s sole beneficiary.
Hailed by the U.S. military as a superhuman savior, Rogers dons a patriotic costume of red, white and blue, with a star on his chest and stripes on his waist. Captain America is quickly dispatched to his most important early assignment: destroy his evil “super soldier” counterpart, a Nazi agent called the Red Skull.
Fast forward to 2011: This summer, Captain America returns to the big screen. Unfortunately, the spirit of 1941 (let alone 1776) is a long way off. In an era of anti-Americanism -- at home and abroad -- the movie’s director and star have been playing down the character’s American identity.
Director Joe Johnston insists that “this is not about America so much as it is about the spirit of doing the right thing.” Chris Evans, who plays the title character, echoes the sentiment, saying that “I’m not trying to get too lost in the American side of it. This isn’t a flag-waving movie.”
To find out why, read the full article here. With a cast that includes Chris Evans, Tommy Lee Jones, Stanley Tucci, and Samuel L. Jackson, the movie is poised to be a big box office hit. Check out the trailer below. Enjoy!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Meet Steve Mittleman, the Made Over Wedding Comedian

Steve Mittleman has been doing clean, funny, standup Jewish comedy for more than 30 years, and has recently had a revival after undergoing an extreme makeover that totally changed his appearance. In 2008 he had a facelift, nose job, removal of his double chin, crossed-eye surgery, and dental work.

In less than nine weeks he was back on the comedy circuit, doing his shtick at weddings, Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, synagogue events, and on cruise ships.

Steve has really been around a long time, having appeared with Johnny Carson, Steve Martin, Jay Leno, David Letterman, Jerry Seinfeld and many other top entertainers in Atlantic City and Las Vegas. He did hundreds of comedy shows at clubs, casinos, colleges, and corporate and Jewish events.

Here's a video of a performance by Steve at a wedding in May. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

It's the Yiddish Cooking Ladies Again With Apple Kugel and Vegetarian Chopped Liver !

If you've been a regular reader of Jewish Humor Central, you're probably familiar with the Yiddish speaking kitchen wizards from the Jewish Forward (Forverts). Since May 2010 we've brought you episodes from their periodic web-based cooking show, Est Gezunterheit (Eat in Good Health).

So what are Rukhl Schaechter and Eve Jochnowitz up to this time? They're making recipes from the files of the late Yiddish actress Shifra Lerer, who has also appeared a few times on Jewish Humor Central.  This episode includes Lerer's Austrian Apple Kugel (or as they say, Kigel) and Vegetarian Chopped Liver (Gehakte Leber.)

Watch as the Forward's chefs banter in Yiddish as they chop onions and peel apples. OK, so it's not the Food Network, but it has a unique Yiddishe taam that you won't get from Rachael Ray or Paula Deen. If you watch carefully and read the English titles on the bottom of the screen, you can actually learn some Yiddish. In paying homage to Shifra Lerer, Jochnowitz launches into a bit of tango dancing, with her cell phone as a partner. Try looking for that on the Food Network!  Enjoy!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Mel Blanc, Voice of Bugs Bunny and Porky Pig, Featured at Oregon Jewish Museum

Mel Blanc, the man behind the voices of Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Tweety Bird and Sylvester the cat, Yosemite Sam, and countless other Warner Brothers cartoon characters, is the subject of a special exhibit this month at the Oregon Jewish Museum in Portland.

Called "That's All, Folks: The Mel Blanc Story", the exhibit chronicles the life of a man who has been called the first and best voice actor. He made it an art. His career spanned vaudeville, radio, movies and television starting in the late 1920s and continuing to this day, more than 20 years after his death. 

The exhibit follows the trajectory of Mel Blanc’s life from his youthful years in Portland to his remarkable Hollywood career as the voice behind more than 400 animated characters in over three thousand cartoons. Film, sound, photographs and memorabilia will entertain adults and children alike.

So where did Blanc develop his aptitude for funny voices? He didn't have to go any further than his own neighborhood.

Reporting on the exhibit in yesterday's edition of the online magazine Tablet, Katie Schneider wrote:
Born in San Francisco in 1909 as Melvin Jerome Blank, he moved north with his family at the age of 6. His father owned several apparel businesses, and young Melvin spent his days running around south Portland, observing its residents, many of them Jews. Among the first people he befriended were the elderly Jewish couple who ran the local grocery; they spoke Yiddish, and the boy became fascinated with the strange dialect and its intonations. He learned to imitate it. It was, by his own admission, the first voice he ever performed.
There were plenty of other patois for young Melvin to pick up. The neighborhood offered a lot to a kid with a good ear: Russian Jews lived alongside Italians, Germans, Mexicans, and Japanese. All of these dialects would one day come in handy.
We're sure that our readers in Portland will visit the museum before the exhibit closes on September 11. We recognize that most readers live in other cities and countries and will not be able to attend, but technology lets us share a preview of the exhibit.

In addition to the cartoon voices, Blanc was a regular on The Jack Benny Show, where he appeared in funny roles as a taxi driver, delivery man, and Mexican troubador. We've included a video clip of one of those appearances below.  Enjoy!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Sholom Aleichem's Granddaughter, at 100, Teaches College Course in Jewish Humor

Bel Kaufman, the granddaughter of Yiddish writer and humorist Sholom Aleichem, was recently invited to become an adjunct professor and teach a course in Jewish humor at Hunter College, her alma mater, in New York City. Kaufman, 100 years old, happily accepted, saying she will never retire.

Kaufman, who wrote the book Up the Down Staircase in 1964, grew up in Russia, learned English at age twelve, and went on to a distinguished literary, academic, and teaching career. She has won many awards for her writing and public speaking, addressing educators and students here and abroad.

In May, Kaufman was profiled by Joseph Berger in a feature article in The New York Times. Writing about the jokes she and her students dissected in class, including the "A Frenchman, a German, and a Jew walk into a bar" joke that we mentioned in yesterday's blog post about Old Jews Telling Jokes, Berger reported:
“We were not just telling jokes,” Ms. Kaufman said in her book-lined Park Avenue study, her eyes glinting mischievously. “We were investigating why so many comedians are Jewish and so many Jewish jokes are so self-accusing.”
“It goes back to immigration from the shtetl, from that poverty, and because the Jew was the object of so much opprobrium and hatred,” she said. “The jokes were a defense mechanism: ‘We’re going to talk about ourselves in a more damaging way than you could.’ ”
In the video that follows, Bel Kaufman reflects on humor and life for Guideposts' Generation Inspiration series.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

"Old Jews Telling Jokes" Going Strong as it Heads Into a Fifth Season

Sam Hoffman  (Photo: 92Y)
Here's a special bonus for our readers who responded to last Tuesday's post about the upcoming lecture  by Sam Hoffman, creator of "Old Jews Telling Jokes," the website, the book, and the CDs. Quite a few of you "liked" the post and asked for more like it and more jokes. So here we go.
Yesterday we spent over an hour at the 92Y Tribeca location in downtown Manhattan with a live audience that we'd like to call "Old and Young Jews Listening to Jokes" as told and played by Hoffman.

He delivered an interesting talk on Jewish humor with some insights into the process of joke delivery and the culture that provided the fertile soil for its creation. He started with a disclaimer that "many of you have heard or told these jokes before" but that didn't matter much since the joy of jokes is in the manner of telling and what they tell about the rich Jewish culture.

Hoffman observed: If you tell a joke to a gentile, you get three reactions:
1. When he hears it.
2. When you explain it to him.
3. When he gets it.

If you tell a joke to a Jew, you get two reactions:
1. I heard it before.
2. This is how you should tell it.

Here are four of the many jokes that Hoffman showed on the giant screen at 92Y Tribeca. We hope you enjoy them. For many more, vist

"The Plumber" joke has been told by four different old Jews in such a way that Hoffman was able to interweave pieces from each one so that the chopped up joke could stand on its own. It's funny whether you hear each one in the original or in this edited version.

The Plumber

New York Athletic Club

Long Island Duck

Herschel, the Magnificent Jew

So what's Hoffman's favorite joke?
A German, a Frenchman, and a Jew are wandering in the desert and complaining of thirst.
The German says: "I'm so thirsty and tired, I must have my beer."
The Frenchman says: "I'm so thirsty and tired, I must have my wine."
The Jew says: "I'm so thirsty and tired, I must have diabetes."

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Israel Dances to Indian Bollywood Music

In April 2010 we shared a video of Indian dancers performing a Bollywood style production of Hava Nagila in an Indian film.  This April and May it was Israel's turn to reciprocate.

As a kick start to the month-long cultural Festival "Celebrating India in Israel, a Bollywood Dance workshop was organized on April 29 at the Suzanne Dellal Center in Tel Aviv, the most important dance establishment in Israel. Several hundred Israelis enthusiastically participated in the workshop. The workshop was conducted by Gilles Chuyen.

Trained in France in Folk, Modern Jazz, Ballet and contemporary dance styles, Gilles Chuyen has been working in India since 1994 with various dance forms such as Chhau Mayurbhanj, Kathak and Bharata Natyam. His repertoire includes contemporary solo works such as Rasa - the dance of emotions with which he toured France and India, and many group pieces such as Colours and Prakriti with his dance company In Step.

He has been choreographing plays directed by the most prestigious Indian directors, which have taken him all over India and to the U.K., Singapore, Pakistan, Mexico and Colombia. His Bollywood career comprises of ad campaigns, stage shows in China, Hong Kong, the U.K., Australia, and South Africa. He is the choreographer and artistic director of Bollywood Love Story- A Musical directed by Sanjoy Roy which has been touring Switzerland, Austria, Germany, South Africa, Spain and Italy for the last few years. His association with Bollywood comprises also of work on feature films as a choreographer and actor -- dancer.

As can be seen in the video below, Israelis love to dance, and enjoy adapting to the different motions and steps in the Bollywood style.  Let's dance with them!

Monday, July 11, 2011

TOT-Tuches Oifen Tish (We're Not Kidding), Chassidic Detective Firm, Gathers Evidence on Brooklyn Streets

If we were writing a funny detective novel or screenplay about a Chassidic version of Columbo or Monk, in a moment of inspiration, we might think up a name for the agency like Tuches Oifen Tish. (Exact translation from Yiddish: Buttocks on the table; Loose translations: Let's be honest and get to the facts, let's talk tachlis, let's get to the bottom line.)

But if we did, we'd probably be in violation of a copyright, because a Chassidic professional investigation agency with that exact name does exist in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

In Friday's New York Times, Jed Lipinski reports on the clandestine activities of Joe Levin, a member of the Brooklyn Bobover Chassidic community who specializes in tracking down facts, whether it's criminals, sexual abusers, or rebellious Chassidic girls in miniskirts.
Not your usual private eye, Mr. Levin is a practicing Orthodox Jew, a member of the Bobov Hasidic sect and the founder of T.O.T. Private Investigation and Consulting, a New York-based company that specializes in Orthodox-related cases worldwide. The company, whose focus is uncommon — and perhaps unique in the United States — hires forensic experts, former homicide detectives, photographers and even pilots, mostly on a per-case basis. Its services range from investigations into international banks and Israeli investment companies to local background checks for prospective Shidduchim, or Orthodox marital arrangements.
Since Mr. Levin started the business 12 years ago, his life has often resembled the plot of a TV crime drama. He has trailed unwitting subjects into synagogues and strip clubs, sat beside them on international flights and tracked them down in remote areas of Puerto Rico and Brazil.
While he usually wears the black frock coat and fedora of the Hasidim, when undercover he has donned stocking caps and Yankees jerseys to conceal his brown knit skullcap and tzitzit, the ritual fringes worn by observant Jews.
His organization’s mission is encoded in the name T.O.T., an acronym for the Yiddish expression “Tuchis afn tish.”
“It means ‘Put your tuchis on the table,’ ” said Mr. Levin, a bearded, powerfully built man in his late 30s, who shaved off his side locks years ago out of personal preference. “In other words, ‘Show me the proof.’ And that’s what I do. I bring my proof to the people.”
 Mr. Levin’s wife of 13 years, Ruthie Levin, 33, said he often has trouble sleeping.“Last night he was up every hour,” she said recently, sitting beside him outside their home. She added that the pressure of a new case involving two powerful rabbis was causing him stress.
Asked whether Mr. Levin had ever used his investigative skills in their relationship, she raised her eyebrows.
“Are you kidding?” she said. “Before we met, he knew all the boys I’d ever dated. He knew everything about me.”
How did he come to know these things? “I’d been looking into it,” Mr. Levin said, cracking a smile. “Let’s put it like that.”
Is Levin unhappy about being outed by The New York Times?  Apparently not, because his website home page has a prominently placed link to the Times article (see website photo above.)

"Curb Your Enthusiasm" - A Scheduling Correction and Apology

We owe our readers an apology for announcing that the funniest, Jewiest episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm would be shown last night at 10pm. The episode that aired last night was a different one.

The episode that we highlighted in yesterday's blog post, now listed on the HBO website as Palestinian Chicken, is scheduled to be shown on Sunday, July 24, at 10 pm EDT on HBO. We assumed it would be shown last night because it was called a season preview when it was shown to a sellout crowd of about 1,500 at 92nd Street Y in Manhattan last Thursday.

We suspect that this episode was always scheduled as the third of the season, but was shown at the preview session because the producers felt that the strong Jewish nature of the story line would get the best reception from the 92Y audience.

So please try again in two weeks on July 24, and catch the funniest, Jewiest Curb episode ever.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

"Curb Your Enthusiasm" Returns Tonight, Jewier and Funnier Than Ever

(Photo: Joyce Culver for 92nd Street Y)
Season 8 of Larry David's hilarious, irreverent, and politically incorrect sitcom, Curb Your Enthusiasm, returns tonight at 10 pm EDT on HBO with one of the funniest and Jewiest episodes in the series.

Thursday night we saw a preview of this first episode together with 1,500 ticketholders and members of the press in the main auditorium of 92nd Street Y in Manhattan. It was followed by a 90 minute panel discussion featuring David and leading members of the show's cast, moderated by NBC news anchor Brian Williams.

Williams, bringing down the house with his opening comments, "Welcome to 'Let's find a Catholic to moderate. I'm the house goy,'" asked Larry David, Jeff Garlin, Susie Essman, and Cheryl Hines questions about how the show originated, what goes on behind the scenes, and how Jewish the Jewish cast members are in real life. The cast also fielded questions from the 92Y audience and from viewers who were participating through 92Y's satellite hookup with Jewish Community Centers across the country.

Williams asked David if he is frustrated that some people just don't get his comedy, to which he replied, "If everybody gets it, something is wrong. The object of comedy is to offend."

And this episode, like most others, tries its best to offend everybody. Garlin said the doesn't get blowback from Jews, adding "The orthodox are known for their great sense of humor." Essman characterized the series as providing "equal opportunity insults."

"On the subject of personal Jewish observance, Garlin started with "I wear tefilin every day," which got a big round of laughter. But he added, "I'm not religious, but I do Rosh Hashanah, Passover. I really love Purim. I love being a Jew. Let's leave it at that."

Asked to name his greatest comedic influences. David replied that Woody Allen and Mel Brooks influenced him the most, and that Don Rickles is "the funniest guy in the world."

It's one thing to laugh at a funny sitcom in your own living room, but it's quite another when you're watching with 1,500 fans in a theater, laughing so hard that it drowns out some of the punch lines.

We promised not to reveal details and punchlines from the episode that would make us spoilers. So all we'll say is that this one is not to be missed, unless you have a strong aversion to unprintable language, ethnic insults, and rolling on the floor laughing.

Here's the promotional trailer from HBO. Enjoy!