Sunday, June 19, 2016
Lou Jacobi (1913-2009) was born Louis Harold Jacobovitch in Toronto, Ontario. Jacobi began acting as a boy, making his stage debut in 1924 at a Toronto theater, playing a violin prodigy in The Rabbi and the Priest.
After working as the drama director of the Toronto Y.M.H.A., the social director at a summer resort, a stand-up comic in Canada’s equivalent of the Borscht Belt, and the entertainment at various weddings and bachelor parties, Jacobi moved to London to work on the stage, appearing in Guys and Dolls and Pal Joey.
Jacobi made his Broadway debut in 1955 in The Diary of Anne Frank playing Hans van Daan, the less-than-noble occupant of the Amsterdam attic where the Franks were hiding, and reprised the role in the 1959 film version.
Other Broadway performances included Paddy Chayefsky’s The Tenth Man (1959), Woody Allen’s Don’t Drink the Water (1966), and Neil Simon’s debut play Come Blow Your Horn (1961), in which he portrayed the playboy protagonist’s disappointed father. His reading of the film line "Aha!" stuck with the Times columnist William Safire so vividly that he cited it when writing about the meaning of the word 36 years later.
We encountered Lou Jacobi only through his records where he uses his expressive voice to maximum effect. His Jewish characters are hilarious in skits in You Don't Have to be Jewish, When You're in Love the Whole World is Jewish, and The Yiddish are Coming, The Yiddish are Coming. All of these records are worth having because the laughs they produce are infectious and just begging to be shared.
We've posted a few of his routines over the years from the first two albums. Here's an audio clip (too bad there's no video) from The Yiddish are Coming, The Yiddish are Coming. In it Jacobi plays the part of a professor teaching a crash course in Jewish 101 and 102.
It's rare to find a video of Jacobi as himself, but in October 1982, he appeared as a guest on David Letterman's Late Night Show. In the interview, which you can see below the Jewish 101 skit, Jacobi tells Letterman about his experiences working with Woody Allen.
(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.)