Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Great Jewish Comedians: Larry David in a Stand-up Routine


We don't usually think of Larry David as a stand-up comedian. He's mostly known as the co-creator of the Seinfeld show and creator and performer in his Curb Your Enthusiasm HBO comedy series. But before these successes he made the rounds of stand-up comedy clubs. 

In 1989 David teamed up with comedian Jerry Seinfeld to create a pilot for NBC called The Seinfeld Chronicles, which became the basis for Seinfeld, one of the most successful shows in history, reaching the top of TV Guide's list of the 50 greatest TV shows of all time. Entertainment Weekly ranked it the third-best TV show of all time. 

David made occasional uncredited appearances on the show, playing such roles as Frank Costanza's cape-wearing lawyer and the voice of George Steinbrenner. He was also the primary inspiration for the show's character George Costanza. David left Seinfeld on friendly terms after the seventh season but returned to write the series finale in 1998, two years later. He also continued to provide the voice for the Steinbrenner character.

From time to time he returned to do a stand-up routine. In this clip from Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas in 2005 he sets out to explain his conversion to environmentalism, but brings down the house with his hilarious observations and his description of his lifelong love affair with tuna fish sandwiches.

(ADULT HUMOR WARNING: Larry uses some pejorative anatomical language that some of our readers may find mildly offensive, but we judge it to be acceptable for Jewish Humor Central. The audience at this show found it highly entertaining.)

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Monday, August 21, 2017

A Joke to Start the Week - "Ours is Prettier"


Our suntan from spending a week at the Eisenberg Berkshire Hills Adult Vacation Center hasn't worn off yet, and neither have the jokes that we recorded while we were there earlier this month. 

Bob Epstein, a retired Assistant Principal in the New York City School System, entertained guests with his wide collection of stories and jokes, and we still have a few more to share with you.

Here's the setup for this week's joke: Harry and Sadie have been married for quite a long time. Sadie goes into a restaurant one day and she sees her husband at a table with a young woman. And then...

Enjoy!

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Sunday, August 20, 2017

Menashe: A Poignant Funny New Film in Yiddish with English Subtitles and Non-Actors


Last week we saw Menashe, an unusual film directed by Joshua Weinstein and starring Hasidic comedian Menashe Lustig in the title role. Filmed in New York's Hasidic community using non-actors who speak entirely in Yiddish (with English subtitles). It's getting great reviews and we urge you to see it before it disappears from the theaters.

As Nick Allen wrote in his review on RogerEbert.com,
Weinstein captures Menashe’s turmoil with utmost sincerity and stunning control. Adding to its neorealist flavor, intimate cinematography places us in Menashe's cramped apartment, (where he can only feed his son soda and cake for breakfast) or in the middle of his tense meetings with The Ruv. And every now and then, a moment of meditation is offered by a gorgeous melodic motif (from a score credited to Aaron Martin and Daq Rosenqvist), inhaling and exhaling with just a few notes. Rarely has ordinary clumsiness been treated with such heart or beauty.
“Menashe” is tenderly paced and expressed, though it is also tense in its own way. And yet while the movie is full of a characters’ stress, it is not dominated by that feeling like so many other movies that show people squirming through the worst days of their lives. Instead, “Menashe” transcends its anxieties and becomes wholly comforting, like the closest that art can come to offering a big hug. What an extraordinary feeling to watch a movie that essentially wraps its arms around you and says, It’s okay, buddy. We’ve all been there.
Menashe is now playing in theaters in many cities. Check your local listings for showtimes, and enjoy! 

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Friday, August 18, 2017

Welcoming Shabbat with V'Shamru by Cantor Azi Schwartz of the Park Avenue Synagogue


Every Friday we try to post a song from the Shabbat liturgy to greet the weekly day of rest. These songs generally include Shalom Aleichem, Lecha Dodi, and Adon Olam

Today's Shabbat song is V'Shamru, part of the Friday night and Shabbat morning services. It is taken from Exodus 31:16-17. Shabbat is created to give us rest and to restore the soul. “Vayinafash” is from the Hebrew word “nefesh” (soul). Shabbat is the promise that there will be a time of peace for all people. As God guards us, we guard Shabbat.

וְשָׁמְרוּ בְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶת הַשַּׁבָּת, לַעֲשׂוֹת אֶת הַשַּׁבָּת לְדֹרֹתָם בְּרִית עוֹלָם. בֵּינִי וּבֵן בְּנֵי יִשׂרָאֵל אוֹת הִיא לְעֹלָם. כִּי שֵֽׁשֶׁת יָמִים עָשָׂה יהוה אֶת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֶת הָאֳרֶץ, וּבַיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי שָׁבַת וַיִּנָּפַשׁ.

The children of Israel shall observe the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations as a covenant for all time. It is a sign forever between Me and people of Israel. For in six days the Eternal One made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day God ceased from work and rested.

In this video, Azi Schwartz, cantor of the Conservative Park Avenue Synagogue in New York, leads the congregation in singing V'Shamru.

Shabbat shalom.  

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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Throwback Thursday Comedy Special: Harpo Marx and Lucille Ball in the Mirror Scene


The Marx Brothers were a great team in all of their movies, but each brother was a comedian in his own right. Harpo got a chance to show off his comedic talents in this sketch that he did with Lucille Ball in an episode of I Love Lucy.

This episode, originally in black and white, was colorized. It's a takeoff on the famous scene with Groucho Marx in the 1933 film Duck Soup, one of the Marx Brothers' funniest. It comes from an old vaudeville routine used by other mimes.

The premise of the episode is that Lucy promises nearsighted Carolyn Appleby she’ll meet some Hollywood celebrities. To fulfill the boast she dresses up as a few such as Clark Gable, Gary Cooper as well as Harpo Marx. The real Harpo shows up for this great mirror scene.

Harpo, born Adolph Marx in 1888, got his stage name during a card game at the Orpheum Theatre in Galesburg, Illinois. The dealer called him "Harpo" because he played the harp. He learned how to hold it properly from a picture of an angel playing a harp that he saw in a five-and-dime store.

Enjoy!

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 #Throwback Thursday   #TBT

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Documentary on Curious George's Jewish Creators is Now Available on Home Media


A year ago, we wrote about plans to make a documentary about Hans and Margret Rey, the husband-and-wife team behind the multimillion-selling Curious George children's books.

The 75 minute documentary, produced and directed by Ema Ryan Yamazaki and narrated by Sam Waterston is now complete. 

It had its first screening at the Manhattan JCC last week, and yesterday it was released for home viewing on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Vudu, Kaleidescape, FandangoNow, Xbox, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox, Verizon, Charter, Suddenlink, Mediacom, WOW!, Midcontinent, Metrocast, Clearleap, RCN, Telus (CA), Virgin Media (UK), Globosat (LATAM), Dish, and DirecTV.

Curious George is the most popular monkey in the world. Since his introduction in the first publication in 1941, the beloved series has sold over 75 million books in more than 25 languages. 

The MONKEY BUSINESS documentary explores the lesser-known tale of George’s creators, Hans and Margret Rey. Originally from Hamburg, Germany, the Reys first met when Hans was dating Margret’s older sister. Years later, having heard that Hans was wasting his artistic talents as a bookkeeper in Rio, Margret traveled to Brazil to persuade him to marry her and do something creative together. After their four-week honeymoon to Paris turned into a four-year residency, they accidentally became children’s book authors when a publisher suggested they create a book out of a cartoon Hans had drawn. 

Being German Jews, however, their life in Paris abruptly came to an end in June 1940 when the Reys were forced to escape from the Nazis by riding makeshift bicycles—a manuscript of the first Curious George book was one of the few possessions they could smuggle out with them. Arriving in New York as refugees, they started their life anew and over the next three decades they created a classic that continues to touch the hearts and minds of children around the world.

Here is the official trailer for the documentary. Enjoy!

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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Concord and Grossinger's Are On Their Way to Reopening in the Catskills


Resorts World Catskills
Artist's Rendering of the New Resorts World in Kiamesha Lake
The glory days of' the Borscht Belt and the Catskill Hotels in New York came to a sad end in the 1980s. Now, 30 years later, signs of hope are beginning to appear.

Current plans don't envision the return of the Concord and Grossinger's Hotels as the kosher getaways that flourished from the 1940s to the 1980s, but activity is picking up on the site of both hotels.

Construction of a new Resorts World casino hotel on the site of The Concord in Kiamesha Lake is well underway with a planned opening in March 2018. Meanwhile, 13 miles away in Liberty, the sleeping giant of Grossinger's is stirring, crumbling buildings and all.

As Sarah Maslin Nir reported in The New York Times last week,
In the spring, Louis R. Cappelli, a Westchester-based real estate developer who has owned the complex for two decades, applied to the State Department of Environmental Conservation requesting that a portion of the property be designated a brownfield, or contaminated site. The former resort is now a hodgepodge of scores of crumbling buildings on hundreds of acres, land he says is laden with chemicals spilled by dry-cleaning and machine repair shops. Such a designation would make the property eligible for state funds to help with remediation of the soil and groundwater, a necessary first step, Mr. Cappelli says, to bring back the world-class resort.
Mr. Cappelli, who bought the place in 1999, more than a decade after the Grossinger family had ceased operations, envisions a grand future: a conference center, housing, spa and chalet-style lodging. It is a bet that piggybacks on the crowds that he hopes will come to the Resorts World Casino, a $750 million complex opening next year in another former borscht belt destination, the Concord Resort Hotel in nearby Kiamesha Lake.
Here are two videos, one depicting the high hopes of area residents when the casino license was awarded to the hotel being built on the Concord property, and another report from a local TV station on the current state of the Grossinger's property.

Here's hoping!

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Monday, August 14, 2017

A Joke to Start the Week - "Mozart on the Bus"


Last Monday we posted a joke by Bob Epstein that we recorded at the Eisenberg Berkshire Hills Adult Vacation Center, where we returned for our third year of Jewish humor lectures for the seniors who come to the mountains for a summer vacation. We discovered that it's a great place to find new joke telling talent.

And we found some good jokes, well delivered by Naomi Goldstein, a senior citizen coordinator from New York who is now retired and living in Florida. We have a few more jokes from Naomi that we'll keep in reserve like fine wine, and we'll bring them out to share in a few weeks.

Here's the setup for today's joke: Abie and Becky move up from the Bronx. They come to this classy neighborhood, and all they want to do is try to make friends. And then...

Enjoy!

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Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Great Jewish Comedians: Al Shaw and Sam Lee


Do you remember going to a vaudeville show? Neither do we. But it was especially popular in the United States and Canada from the early 1880s until the early 1930s, when radio, and later television made vaudeville obsolete.

But during the 50 years of its existence, people flocked to the more than 5,000 vaudeville theaters all over the USA.What they saw was a series of separate, unrelated acts grouped together on a common bill. Typical shows included popular and classical musicians, singers, dancers, comedians, trained animals, magicians, strongmen, female and male impersonators, acrobats, and jugglers. Vaudeville served as the model for TV variety shows, like The Ed Sullivan Show.

Comedians were central to vaudeville and TV variety shows. And many, if not most of them, were Jewish. In our series on the great Jewish comedians, we previously profiled Al Shean of the team of Gallagher and Shean, and Smith and Dale as popular comedy duos in the 1920s. 

Another example of this genre were Al Shaw and Sam Lee (born Albert Schultzman and Samuel Levy). Here's a video of Shaw and Lee doing their vaudeville shtick in the fading days of vaudeville as TV variety shows were just getting started. The singer introducing them is Robert Alda, father of Alan Alda.

Enjoy!

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Friday, August 11, 2017

Welcoming Shabbat with Adon Olam by the Toronto Varsity Jews Choir



The Varsity Jews, University of Toronto Hillel’s a cappella choir, is now in its thirteenth season.

Their repertoire includes a wide variety of music, from traditional Hebrew folk to classic rock and pop with an added Jewish flavor.

They are bound by their love of music and their desire to incorporate Judaism into campus life.

In this video, The Varsity Jews give us a rendition of Adon Olam, one of the most popular Shabbat songs, set to the melody of Carry On My Wayward Son, popularized in 1977 by the rock band Kansas.

Enjoy and Shabbat shalom!

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Thursday, August 10, 2017

Throwback Thursday Comedy Special: The Three Haircuts (Caesar, Reiner, Morris) Spoof Rock 'n Roll


In 1955, Rock 'n Roll was coming into its heyday, making it the perfect target for spoofing by Sid Caesar, Carl Reiner, and Howard Morris on Caesar's Hour.

And spoof it they did. The funny threesome went at it with great enthusiasm as they parodied The Crew Cuts, the Chords, The Four Lads, and many other groups that were popular before the Beatles invasion.

In this video, the boys sing You Are So Rare and Flippin' Over You and perform a frenzied dance number to the delight of their studio audience.

Enjoy!

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#Throwback Thursday #TBT


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Rabbi Bob Alper Speaks and Jokes About Jewish Humor at Chautauqua Institution


Last week at the Chautauqua Institution's week devoted to the spiritual power of humor, Rabbi Bob Alper took the stage to offer his views on the benefits of putting laughter into your life. Bob feels that making people laugh is a holy calling and that laughter can change the world.

Bob’s unique background – he’s an ordained rabbi who served congregations for fourteen years and holds a doctorate from Princeton Theological Seminary – all of which has prepared him well for a twenty-eight year comedy career with wonderfully unique material presented in a way that’s intelligent, sophisticated, and 100% clean.  

Bob’s stand-up act is fast-paced, with impeccable timing and material that’s definitely sharp yet gentle and unhurtful.  In addition, he offers an informative, hilarious event called “The Spirituality of Laughter,” which is particularly appropriate for religious organizations, civic groups, school and hospital in-services.


The rabbi-comedian draws tremendous media attention, and he was recently named “Honorary Comedic Advisor to the Pope,” winning an international contest launched on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.”

Yesterday we posted Rabbi Joseph Telushkin's talk on Jewish humor at Chautauqua's week of humor, and many of you asked for more like it. So here is another rabbi (who is also a comedian) giving his take on the healing power of humor, with a special Jewish emphasis.

Enjoy!

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Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Rabbi Joseph Telushkin Tells the Fifty Best Jewish Jokes at Chautauqua


Last Thursday Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, author of Jewish Humor: What the Best Jewish Jokes Say About the Jews, delivered a 45 minute speech at the Chautauqua Institution in upstate New York on The Fifty Best Jewish Jokes and What They Say about the Human Condition.  

As part of Chautauqua's Week Six, “The Spirituality of Humor,” Telushkin connected humor in Judaism to society at large.

The Chautauqua Institution is a non-profit education center and summer resort for adults & youth located on 750 acres in Chautauqua, New York, about an hour from Buffalo. It offers programs in the arts, education, religion and music. 

We don't usually post such long videos, but we think this one is worth your time. If you don't have 45 minutes to spend on it now, we suggest that you take it in 10 minute bites over the course of a few days. At the end of the lecture, Telushkin takes questions from the audience, whose members used the opportunity to tell some of their favorite jokes.

We watched the whole lecture and enjoyed it thoroughly. We didn't count the jokes, but Telushkin easily wove many old favorites into his talk.

Enjoy! 

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Monday, August 7, 2017

A Joke to Start the Week - "How to Spend Retirement"


It's the first Monday in August, and we're just back from doing five shows in the Berkshires.

Presenting a series of five Jewish humor programs for the third year in a row at the Eisenberg Berkshire Hills Adult Vacation Center, we once again encountered Bob Epstein, a retired Assistant Principal in the New York City School System.

At Berkshire Hills Bob serves as recreation specialist, and that includes joke telling sessions with the seniors who come to the mountains for a summer vacation. We asked Bob to share a few jokes with us and we'll be sharing them with you today and in the coming weeks.

Here's the setup: Two old friends meet, and they talk about their retirement and how they spend their time. And then...

Enjoy!

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Sunday, August 6, 2017

YidLife Crisis Presents Hollywood's Greatest Film Moments -- in Yiddish!


Take some of the most famous lines from legendary Hollywood movies and imagine them being uttered in Yiddish? That's exactly what Eli Batalion and Jamie Elman, the creators of YidLife Crisis have done. Not only imagined but actually dubbed for our enjoyment.

So take a break and see what Lord of the Rings, The Big Lebowski,Braveheart, When Harry Met Sally, and many others would have sounded like with a Yiddish soundtrack.

Enjoy!

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Friday, August 4, 2017

Welcoming Shabbat with Adon Olam by the Moscow Male Jewish Cappella


The Male Choir of Cantorial Art Academy was established in 1989 with personal support from Mikhail Gorbachev, then president of the USSR, and assistance from the Russian Jewish Community and JOINT, an American Jewish charity. 

In 1998 the choir was renamed the Hassidic Cappella and based at the Moscow Maryina Roshcha Jewish Community. 

Since 2012 until 2014 The Moscow Male Jewish Cappella worked under the support of The Russian Jewish Congress and The State Classical Maimonides Academy. The choir's singers are all professional musicians - students and teachers at Moscow Tchaikovsky State Conservatory and other leading musical institutes in the capital who have performed in the city's most acclaimed choral groups. 

They are united by their commitment to introducing listeners to the beauty of Jewish liturgical and cantorial music -- music that has been forgotten and remains unknown to even the most educated lovers of music. The choir's extensive repertory includes Jewish liturgical music, songs in Yiddish and Hebrew, Russian folk songs, and classics of world music. The choir is one of the few recognized professional Jewish academic musical groups in the world and the only one in Russia. 

Let's join the Moscow Male Jewish Capella in welcoming Shabbat with their rendition of Adon Olam.

Shabbat shalom.

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