We hear a lot about how even before the Catskills, Jewish humor was born on Second Avenue in New York City. The era of Jewish theatre on Second Avenue came to an end before most of us were born and we missed out on a vibrant and funny entertainment form.
Sometimes a search for Jewish humor on the internet yields an unexpected surprise, and we have a Second Avenue experience to share with you today.
Bruce Adler (1944-2008) was an American Broadway actor. He made his stage debut at an early age, appearing with his parents, Henrietta Jacobson and Julius Adler. The three Adlers played the London Palladium with Sophie Tucker in the 1950s. He continued to appear in Yiddish theatre throughout his teens, also appearing in mainstream American theatre as his parents made a similar "crossover," most notably appearing in productions of Neil Simon's Come Blow Your Horn.
After debuting on the Broadway stage as Ali Hakim, the peddler, in the 1979 revival of Oklahoma!, he went on to a career that saw him nominated for Tony Awards as Best Featured Actor in a Musical for Those Were the Days (1991) and Crazy For You (1992). His film work was limited to voice work in animated films, notably providing the singing voice for the narrator of the 1992 Disney film Aladdin and 1996 film Aladdin and the King of Thieves.
In this video gem, Adler bursts onto the stage with Hootsasa, a classic song from Second Avenue. Back in the day, he sang it in Yiddish, but this version is in English, "for the Yiddish-impaired." There's not much to the song itself, but it serves as a vehicle for a barrage of old Jewish jokes, most of which you've probably heard, but he tells them nonstop, and you can't help laughing out loud.