Friday, January 31, 2014

Comedy Showcase: Meet Toronto's Jewish Comedian Simon Rakoff


Simon Rakoff, a Canadian Jewish comedian, has appeared on numerous Canadian television shows and festivals. He is also a frequent guest on CBC Radio.

A favorite at clubs across Canada since the late '70s, Simon is considered one of Canada's top comedy MCs and can frequently be seen hosting or headlining at the Laugh Resort comedy club in Toronto. He has also contributed material to many popular Canadian television and radio programs.

Simon’s act is carefully crafted and full of thought-provoking, hilarious routines. He covers religion, relationships, stupidity and man in the modern world. All this combined with ad-libbing abilities second to none.

We haven't seen him perform in the US, either in person or on TV. But his comedy is available on the Internet and that's where we found this video clip to share with you.

Enjoy!

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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Allan Sherman's Lost Song Parodies Surface After 50 Years


Last year, when Mark Cohen published a biography of folksinger-parodist Allan Sherman, we wrote about his book, Overweight Sensation: The Life and Comedy of Allan Sherman, and shared three of Sherman's lost songs that Cohen discovered while doing research for the book.

Cohen located the rare parodies with the cooperation of the Sherman estate and friends of Sherman.

Now, more than 50 years after they were recorded in concert and in the living rooms of friends, thirteen of these lost gems are being released in CD and MP3 formats on February 18. They are available now for pre-order on Amazon.com.

There Is Nothing Like A Lox: The Lost Song Parodies of Allan Sherman features the Jewish parodies of hits from Broadway musicals that Allan Sherman sang for Harpo Marx, Jack Benny and others at Harpo's home in Los Angeles in 1961 and that in 1962 landed him a contract with Warner Brothers Records. The album includes liner notes by Cohen.

The Amazon page for the album has 30 second snippets of all the songs. They're only a little taste, but you can get the general idea of most of the songs from the page.
Virtually all of the songs on the new CD comprise what Sherman called "The Goldeneh Moments From Broadway." Sherman explained, "It occurred to me, what if all of the great hit songs from all of the great Broadway shows had actually been written by Jewish people---which they were."

Sherman's insight led him to comically reclaim the American musical as a Jewish creation through parodies that judaized the material. "There Is Nothing Like A Dame" became "There Is Nothing Like A Lox," "Camelot" became "Ollawood" and "When You Walk Through A Storm" became "When You Walk Through the Bronx."

Here is a video (actually an audio with pictures) of Sherman's version of Cole Porter's You're the Top, from the 1934 Broadway musical Anything Goes, followed by a video-audio of the original sung by Porter himself.

Enjoy!

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Comedian Benji Lovitt on the Hebrew You Learned in Jewish Summer Camp


Texas native and Israeli resident, comedian Benji Lovitt has made a career out of turning his actual experiences in making aliyah to Israel seven years ago into a series of hilarious standup comic routines.

His standup comedy has been seen in person and online by viewers in Israel, the US, and around the world, and his improvised videos and hilarious blog entries have been featured in publications such as the Times of Israel, the Jerusalem Post, Ynet, PresenTense Magazine, the Jewish Daily Forward and Israel21c, among others.

In this video clip, Benji tells his audience of Masa Israel leaders about the Hebrew he learned in Jewish summer camp and how they taught him nouns and phrases but didn't quite manage to teach him how to construct sentences and engage in meaningful conversations with real Hebrew speakers.

Enjoy!

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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

"Sturgeon Queens" Film Celebrates 100 Years of Russ and Daughters Appetizing Store


100 years. Four generations. 1,800,000 pounds of pickled herring.

One hundred years ago an appetizing store called Russ and Daughters opened on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Since 1914, four generations of the Russ family have worked behind the counter to help transform the fish store "from pushcart to posh."

Filmmaker Julie Cohen will soon premiere Sturgeon Queens, a long-in-the-works documentary about the store. The film chronicles the history of the shop through interviews with several generations of the Russ family, plus a mix of loyal regulars and celebrity customers like Mario Batali, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. 

The release is well-timed to coincide with the shop's 100th birthday this year, but also catches it at a moment of significant expansion. In discussing those plans for a Russ & Daughters Cafe, fourth generation owner Niki Russ Federman says, "Most restaurants don't even last past the first year. That can't even be an option for us." 

The film will be screened a few times at Jewish Film Festivals in the coming months, including on May 20 at the JCC CineMatters festival on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Until then, you can check out a preview below or catch it on PBS when it airs in the fall. 

Enjoy!

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Monday, January 27, 2014

A Joke to Start the Week - "I Should Live to be a Hundred"


It's another cold Monday morning in New Jersey. We hope it's warmer where you are. We know it's warmer in Florida, and that's where we'll be doing six shows on February 6, 10, and 11 in Deerfield Beach. 

If you're in the area and want to see Jewish Humor Central in a live performance or book a show or lecture for your organization, drop us a line using the contact form in the left column and we'll let you know the time and place.

But now it's time for a joke to start the week. Here's another one from the archives of Old Jews Telling Jokes. Today's joke teller is Dennis Spiegelman, a 68-year-old antiques and collectibles dealer.

Here's the setup: Edith and Mel are celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary, and a reporter from the Buffalo Jewish Review comes over to interview them. He says to Edith, "Edith, how old are you?" And then...

Enjoy!

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Sunday, January 26, 2014

A Comedy Classic: Jerry Seinfeld's First Tonight Show Appearance


Once upon a time, comedian Jerry Seinfeld was a little boy. Well, maybe not such a little boy, but 33 years ago at the age of 27, he made his debut on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show

With all the old-timer stand-up comedy flashbacks we've shared, Seinfeld, now 59, is still one of the youngest professional comedians out there. 

Carson introduces him as a young comedian from New York who has worked a lot of small clubs in New York and Los Angeles. Although he started out doing stand-up comedy, today he is best known for playing a semi-fictional version of himself in the sitcom Seinfeld, which he co-created and co-wrote with Larry David.

Here's Seinfeld's first appearance on late-night TV. Enjoy! 

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Friday, January 24, 2014

Newly Orthodox Groom Sings "Just a Kosher Walk With Thee" at His Wedding


When Bud Coulson married Rebecca Gordon in New Jersey last week, he also embraced Jewish Orthodoxy. 

As a member of his family's jazz band, he wrote and performed Just a Kosher Walk With Thee, a song with original lyrics celebrating his new status as an Orthodox Jew, with his family band members accompanying him in front of the wedding guests.

We don't think he expected the video clip that he posted on YouTube to be seen by the thousands of Jewish Humor Central subscribers, but since he invited YouTube viewers to share it, we were only too glad to take him up on the offer and share in the simcha.

The video, which includes subtitles, touches on aspects of Orthodoxy, including kashrut and Shabbat observance. It's set to the melody of Just a Closer Walk With Thee, a song with roots in gospel, jazz, and country music.

Mazal tov, Bud and Rebecca, and Shabbat shalom to all!

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Thursday, January 23, 2014

A Rare Video: Josh Groban as Tevye in High School Production of "Fiddler on the Roof"


Fiddler on the Roof  made its Broadway debut 50 years ago, on September 22, 1964 at the Imperial Theatre. To mark this anniversary year, we will be posting videos from around the world during 2014 depicting different interpretations of this classic show, and later, film.

The lead role of Tevye the milkman has been played by many actors starting with Zero Mostel, the original Tevye. Although the role cries out for a Yiddishe interpretation, many of the actors portraying Tevye on the stage have not been "members of the Tribe."

In May 1999 Josh Groban was an 18-year-old student at the Los Angeles High School of the Arts. As a member of the Musical Theatre Ensemble he was given the leading role of Tevye. Within a few years of this performance he was producing multi-platinum albums and in 2007 he was charted as the number-one best selling artist in the United States with over 21 million records in the nation. To date, he has sold over 25 million records worldwide, including his hit songs You Raise Me Up, The Prayer, and For Always.

Here's Groban's debut as Tevye in the opening number, Tradition. Enjoy!


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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Meet Cory Kahaney and Her Politically Incorrect and Funny Stand-Up Comedy


Cory Kahaney is a major presence in the Jewish comedy scene. A stand-up comic in her own right, Kahaney has produced one-woman shows, tributes to the brilliant Jewish comediennes who paved the way for all women in stand-up, and HBO specials. She was featured at the Just For Laughs festivals in Montreal in 1998, 2001, and 2005. 

She is the recipient of the ‘BACKSTAGE’ Bistro Award for best Comedian in NYC and Manhattan Association of Cabaret Award for 'Outstanding Female Comedian'.

But stand-up comedy is her specialty, and so is political incorrectness. In this video clip, Kahaney tells how she explains the difference between Democrats and Republicans to her children, and relates an incident in which she turned a criticism of her joke using a Chinese accent into a teaching moment on what does and what doesn't merit taking offense at the use of dialect in comedy.

Enjoy!

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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Kutsher's Comedians Revisited: Sid Caesar Eats at a Health Food Restaurant


Last month we wrote about the sale of Kutsher's Country Club in the Catskills, and lamented its decline as a center of Jewish comedy. 
We promised to feature a series of nostalgic videos of the many comedians who either got their start there or visited repeatedly after achieving comedic fame on radio and television. 

Sid Caesar, who later became famous for his weekly Your Show of Shows, and who recently celebrated his 91st birthday, made his first Catskills appearance on the stage at Kutsher's.

Caesar is a master of comedy and together with his colleagues Carl Reiner, Imogene Coca, and Howard Morris, produced and acted in some of the funniest skits shown on TV.

Here's a gem from the old days, in which Caesar and his wife, played by Coca, enter a health food restaurant. Caesar, a meat eater, is perplexed by the vegetarian choices suggested by Reiner in the role of the waiter. This sketch was shown in the days when vegetarian restaurants were uncommon, and the encounter between carnivore and flower patch gets funnier every minute.

Enjoy!

(A SPECIAL NOTE FOR NEW EMAIL SUBSCRIBERS:  THE VIDEO IS NOT VIEWABLE DIRECTLY FROM THE EMAIL THAT YOU GET EACH DAY.  YOU MUST CLICK ON THE TITLE AT THE TOP OF THE EMAIL TO REACH THE JEWISH HUMOR CENTRAL WEBSITE, FROM WHICH YOU CLICK ON THE PLAY BUTTON IN THE VIDEO IMAGE TO START THE VIDEO.) 


 

Monday, January 20, 2014

A Joke to Start the Week - "Cardiologist, Architect, and Comedian"


Happy Monday! Time for another joke to start the week. Here's another one from the file of Old Jews Telling Jokes

Today's jokester is Aaron Schechter, an 88-year-old retired entertainment industry accountant.

Here's the setup: Three men appear at the gate. One is a world-renowned cardiologist. The second is a famous architect, and the third is a comedian. And then...

Enjoy!

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Sunday, January 19, 2014

Jewish Jokes from Second Avenue Embedded in Song by Bruce Adler


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.

Enjoy!


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Friday, January 17, 2014

Stand-up Comedy with Brad Zimmerman - "My Son the Waiter, A Jewish Tragedy"


Brad Zimmerman is a funny guy. He has performed all over the country doing his own stand-up comedy and has been the opening act for more famous performers including Joan Rivers, George Carlin, Billy Crystal, and Gary Shandling.

Brad combines years of acting training and standup, which is evident in Brad’s true pride and joy; his one man show, My Son the Waiter, a Jewish Tragedy, and he has been working on it since 2005. 

In this part stand-up/part theatrical piece Brad tells a story of one man’s lengthy struggle to make it as an actor in New York. His send-ups on his childhood, his family, his misbegotten love life, and his career are as warm and poignant as they are hysterical.

We came across a three minute clip of a stand-up routine by Zimmerman that he later included in his show. In it, he describes the deliberations of a picky customer that he is waiting on, and it gets funnier and funnier as he mimics the hesitation of the customer. 

Watch it -- you'll enjoy it!

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Thursday, January 16, 2014

On Tu B'Shvat, a Modern Retelling of the Story of Honi the Circle Maker (Honi HaM'agel)

 
Today is the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shvat, also known as Tu B'Shvat.  No, it's not another fast day.  It's a real holiday, but one without any restrictions.  
 
The holiday is known as Jewish Arbor Day and the New Year for trees.  It's a day to feel good about the bounty of nature, including trees, fruits and nuts, and to enjoy the bounty of Israel, including dates, figs, pomegranates, olives, and carob.
 
The creative educators at G-dcast.com have produced a short video telling the tale of Honi the Circle Maker (Honi HaM'agel) that appears in the Talmud (Tractate Taanit, page 19a).

Often called the Jewish Rip Van Winkle story, one element of the story is Honi falling asleep and awakening 70 years later to see the fruits of the tree that he planted.

Enjoy! Happy Tu B'Shvat!
 
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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Stand-Up Comedy in Israel: David Kilimnick Performs at His Off-the-Wall Comedy Basement


If you visit Jerusalem as a tourist, you'll probably see all the traditional sites -- the Kotel (Western Wall), the City of David, the shuk (Machane Yehuda market), the new light railway. 

But don't leave this ancient city without spending a couple of hours laughing in David Kilimnick's Off-the-Wall Comedy Basement at the intersection of Ben Yehuda and King George Streets.

We profiled David and his club back in January 2010. As we wrote then,
David Kilimnick, an American from Rochester, New York quickly became the biggest star of English-language Jerusalem stand-up with a series of family-friendly stand-up routines touching on immigration from the West to Israel, the struggle to find a wife, and, of course, religion.

The material presented by Off the Wall's stable of comics is pretty safe; comics working blue, or those mining bleaker comedic veins, are more of a Tel Aviv sort of thing.
In this new video clip, David talks about the ladies of Jerusalem, how Jerusalem is better than Tel Aviv and how to get on a bus in Jerusalem, while praising the Israelis' loyalty to their homeland.

David performs every Thursday Night at 8:30pm and Saturday at 10pm (9pm during the winter months), and does Hebrew shows every Wednesday, When comedians from around the world pass through Jerusalem, David gives them the stage on Open Mike nights.

When we were there last month, he gave us the stage for a ten minute introduction to Jewish Humor Central and our Jewish humor programs.

David is also available for performances on his comedy tours around the world and for your groups in Israel. 

Enjoy!

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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Tooshlights - Yiddish Slang Gives Name to Traffic Signals for Public Restroom Access


Every now and then we come across a story in the news that makes us want to say "You just can't make this stuff up." Today is such a day. 

Flipping through yesterday's Wall Street Journal, we read Ralph Gardner Jr.'s regular column titled Urban Gardner

In the column titled Getting the Go-Ahead to Go, Gardner writes about a new system called Tooshlights that displays red and green lights above public restroom stalls. It was invented by Allen Klevens, a Las Vegas entrepreneur, composer, and musician who partnered with Todd Bermann, a contractor who works on the Hollywood Bowl's audio-visual systems. 

As Gardner reports,
The problem I'm thinking of arises when you visit a public restroom, though I suppose it can also happen at home. You step into the comfort station at the airport, Yankee Stadium, or your local movie house and see dozens of stalls.
Some are occupied. Others aren't. Some merely appear busy because their doors are slammed shut. Others look free but are occupied because their residents neglected to lock the door.
So, how are you supposed to tell the difference? Enter Tooshlights, red-and-green traffic signals for the bathroom-goer.
The system, already installed 85 stalls at the Hollywood Bowl, is slated to appear in shopping malls, stadiums, and distribution centers.

So where did the name Tooshlights come from? Klevens says that it comes from his daughter's nickname - Toosh - because she had a cute little toosh when she was a baby. 

David Curwin, who writes the Balashon - Hebrew Language Detective blog, confirms that "even the most assimilated Jews in America know that tush (and the alternate spelling toosh) is Yiddish for buttocks." In Hebrew toosh also has other meanings -- marker and shower head.

The entrepreneurs are planning to release a smartphone app this year for use at large stadiums that will show you the nearest restroom to your seat and how many stalls are available.

Here is the company's video showing how the system works. Watch for it at a theater or stadium near you, and know where to go.

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Monday, January 13, 2014

A Joke to Start the Week - "Taking the Money"


It's another Monday morning and time for a joke to start the week. Once again we dip into the vast reservoir of jokes from the Old Jews Telling Jokes collection.

Today's joke teller is Sheldon Lustigman, a 72-year-old attorney with a joke that you've likely heard before, but the old jokes are often the funniest.

Here's the setup: A very wealthy man decides that he wants to take his money with him when he dies and he's in very poor health. So goes to a rabbi, a priest, and a minister and then...

Enjoy!

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Sunday, January 12, 2014

Unexpected Traces in Jewish Places: Gat Brothers Channel Eric Clapton in Jerusalem Mall


Ever since we discovered the YouTube posts by Igor Trubin of brothers Gil and Aryeh Gat singing in the streets of Jerusalem, we've been getting a lot of likes and requests for more. 

In the last few months the brothers became sensations on the Israeli TV show "Rising Star" and achieved a second place finish in the competition. On the TV show they played songs by Simon and Garfunkel and The Eagles to an appreciative audience.

Among the street performances that Trubin captured was the brothers in Jerusalem's Mamilla Mall singing a renditon of Eric Clapton's hit Tears From Heaven, a song that he composed about the pain and loss Clapton felt following the death of his four-year-old son, Conor.

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How does the Gat Brothers' rendition compare with the original? Below is a clip of Clapton performing the same song live in in Madison Square Garden in 1999.

 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Maccabeats Sing Matisyahu's "One Day" on Katie Couric's Talk Show


Yeshiva University's a cappella group, The Maccabeats, have come a long way since 2007, when they were just a bunch of yeshiva boys in a college vocal group. 

Their videos have scored millions of page views on Internet sites and they have performed their hit songs around the US and Canada, including a Chanukah appearance at the White House.

Just a few weeks ago they showed up on Katie Couric's weekday TV talk show. Couric welcomed them and got Julian Horowitz, their musical director, talking about how they started the group. Since Chanukah had already come and gone, their choice of a song for the show was Matisyahu's One Day, a reggae anthem for hope of peace.

Enjoy!

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Thursday, January 9, 2014

Seinfeld in Yiddish - "Jewish Singles Event"


Last year we posted two episodes of Seinfeld in Yiddish called The Bar Mitzvah and Dentist Jokes. Since we got a lot of requests for more, we're sharing another episode today.

As we wrote then, a YouTube uploader named A Mishel has done a big favor for Seinfeld fans who want to learn Yiddish. He or she collected excerpts from a few popular episodes of Jerry Seinfeld's long-running sitcom and posted them with the dialogue dubbed in Yiddish and with English subtitles.
 
We didn't want to have a problem with copyright violations, but the poster seems to have avoided these by stating that the clip is being used for education purposes and should fall under the fair use provisions of copyright law. If you listen carefully and read the translations, you are likely to pick up a fair amount of conversational Yiddish. 

In today's episode, Kramer is planning a Jewish Singles Night even though he is not Jewish. He invites Jerry and Elaine to join him there. Using three kitchens, Kramer does all the cooking and just about every Jewish food you heard of is served at the event. If you don't know Yiddish, there are English subtitles to follow the dialogue. If you do know Yiddish, read the subtitles anyway because some are hilarious. Lots of laughs from start to finish.

Enjoy! 

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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Jewish Traces in Unexpected Places: Balkan Bistro Street Band Plays Hava Nagila


In the four years that we've been posting videos, we included 39 versions of Hava Nagila, as performed all over the world, many in very unlikely places. Athough it's been awhile since the most recent post, we haven't stopped looking for new and ususual renditions.

Today we're posting our fortieth Hava Nagila, as played by the Balkan Bistro Street Band. The band is a project involving six young musicians and fans of Balkan music in general in Eastern Europe. With suitable training for playing in place and on the march, they try to raise awareness and infect their listeners with their passion for Balkan music and its sounds and rhythms.

They seem to play mainly in cities in Italy, marching through the streets in loose formation while they play. In this non-marching version of Hava Nagila, they start the melody about 30 seconds into the video, play the song for two minutes, launch into some improv for two minutes, and then return to Hava Nagila.

Enjoy!

(A SPECIAL NOTE FOR NEW EMAIL SUBSCRIBERS:  THE VIDEO MAY NOT BE VIEWABLE DIRECTLY FROM THE EMAIL THAT YOU GET EACH DAY ON SOME COMPUTERS AND TABLETS.  YOU MUST CLICK ON THE TITLE AT THE TOP OF THE EMAIL TO REACH THE JEWISH HUMOR CENTRAL WEBSITE, FROM WHICH YOU CLICK ON THE PLAY BUTTON IN THE VIDEO IMAGE TO START THE VIDEO.)



Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Kutsher's Comedians Revisited: More Buddy Hackett on the Johnny Carson Show


Last month we posted a video of Buddy Hackett being interviewed and telling jokes on the Johnny Carson show. We discovered that it was part one of a two part segment broadcast on a Thanksgiving Day long ago, and that part two was also available.

Whenever we post Buddy Hackett videos, we get an enthusiastic response, so having found part two of this  segment, we're not going to keep it from you.

On this show, Carson was reviewing a list of Hackett routines with the comedian, and whenever he came to one that made him laugh, Hackett obliged by launching into the routine.

In this segment, Hackett deals with divorce (including the Jewish Get), naked baths in Tokyo, and a story about the time he was talked into a match with a sumo wrestler in Japan.

Enjoy!

(A SPECIAL NOTE FOR NEW EMAIL SUBSCRIBERS:  THE VIDEO MAY NOT BE VIEWABLE DIRECTLY FROM THE EMAIL THAT YOU GET EACH DAY ON SOME COMPUTERS AND TABLETS.  YOU MUST CLICK ON THE TITLE AT THE TOP OF THE EMAIL TO REACH THE JEWISH HUMOR CENTRAL WEBSITE, FROM WHICH YOU CLICK ON THE PLAY BUTTON IN THE VIDEO IMAGE TO START THE VIDEO.)