Tag Archives: Humor

Auslander in the Attic

by Sala Levin

The Holocaust, as Michael Scott so wisely taught us, is one thing we just can’t joke about. (Scott’s other taboos? JFK and AIDS, though the Lincoln assassination was only recently crossed off that list.) But Shalom Auslander, well, bless him, he’s trying. The angry writer behind Foreskin’s Lament recently released a series of book trailers (entitled “The Attic Calls”) for his forthcoming novel, Hope: A Tragedy. In the trailers, Auslander pleads with fellow Semite Ira Glass and friends-of-the-Jews Sarah Vowell and John Hodgman to shelter him and his family if–let’s be real, in Auslander’s mind  it’s when–there’s another Holocaust.

Auslander isn’t the first Jewish writer to wade into the world of book trailers: Last year, Gary Shteyngart released a hilarious trailer featuring everyone’s favorite post-graduate-degree-collecting Jewish dreamboat James Franco and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Jeffrey Eugenides. But Shteyngart only mocked himself; Auslander goes a step further, probing the perceived Jewish proclivity for pathos and pessimism. Another Holocaust is on its way, Auslander says–so make plans now.

So can the Holocaust be funny? Well, the trailers are. (In one notably absurd moment, Glass suggests that, should the need arise, his family and Auslander’s can buy a house boat and “moor somewhere off of the Florida Keys for a few years.”) Jews, after all, have a long tradition of turning tragedy into comedy, of finding levity in a seemingly endless line of sorrows. And the target of Auslander’s biting humor in these trailers isn’t really the Holocaust. In one scene that perhaps perfectly encapsulates much of the Jewish experience, Auslander and his family play in the woods during a rainstorm; he pushes his children on a tire swing and his dogs frolic as drops of water pound down on them. This is the point: It rains, and we play. What alternative is there?

Editor’s Note: Want a chance for Shalom Auslander to read your writing? Send in your submissions for Moment’s 2011 Memoir Contest, to be judged by, well, you guessed it, Shalom Auslander. Deadline is December 31st; find out more here.

Maccabeats Suffer “Wardrobe Malfunction”

By Doni Kandel

The Yeshiva University Maccabeats, the university’s a capella group that has taken the United States by storm, received one of their first ugly lessons in stardom Monday morning. While taping a performance on the CBS Early Show, Maccabeats vocalist Nachum Joel suffered a wardrobe malfunction after one of his beat-mates bumped into him, knocking his yarmulke to the ground, exposing the top of his head. Joel frantically picked up the fallen skull cap and slammed it back on his head but the CBS cameras had already caught every second of his nude scalp on tape.

This, of course, was not the first time CBS has been victimized by unfortunate garment error. CBS was the station that covered Super Bowl XXXVIII when Janet Jackson was briefly exposed by co-performer Justin Timberlake during their half-time performance. CBS-Daytime Senior Vice President Barbara Bloom told reporters Monday that “Kipa-gate”, as it has come to be known, has been far worse. “I have had phone calls from just about every single high school rabbi in the country. They are upset with our handling of the situation and for some strange reason many of them have tried to convince me that talking to boys is bad for my spiritual growth as well as trying to convince me to go to a seminary in Israel for a year. My insistence that I am almost forty did very little to deter them.”

The FCC has joined up with the JCC to discuss an appropriate fine for the television station as well as the appropriate actions to be taken with the young singers.

A number of Rabbis who teach at Yeshiva University claim to have warned the fledgling stars of the potential pitfalls of achieving fame and fortune. Rabbi David Hersh, a rabbi in the YU Yeshiva Program lamented that, “I told them up and down something like this would happen! What’s next? A gig at a treif [non-kosher] restaurants? An office Christmas party? Hashem yerachem!”

Although he is newly engaged (mazal tov!) Joel has admitted his skull cap mishap has earned him some extra female attention. “I’m not gonna lie to you,” he told reporters outside the YU campus in scenic Washington Heights, “The shidduch proposals have been flowing in by the hundreds. It’s pretty flattering once you weed out all those strange top-of-the-head enthusiasts.”

While Joel has managed to find the lighthearted side of the mishap, other Maccabeats members have been unable to share his calm. A number of the group’s members who plan on visiting Israel over winter break are now fearful of being met at Ben-Gurion Airport by a sea of Ultra-Orthodox garbage burning protests. Maccabeats member Immanuel Shalev issued a plea to the Haredi community to “please just let my family get from the Airport to Big Apple Pizza, the Kipa Man on Ben Yehuda Street  and then to the David Citadel Hotel, in peace.”

Similar to the Janet Jackson fiasco, a number of conspiracy theories have materialized as to the real nature of the yarmulke gaffe. There have been whispers amongst the Jewish a capella community that while the Maccabeats knew that the inappropriate exposure would be frowned upon at their own university, they may have orchestrated the bare-all in order to find favor in the notoriously more raucous University of Maryland Jewish Community. Another popular theory places the blame on famous Jewish Reggae artist Matisyahu.  Matisyahu is alleged to have replaced Joel’s yarmulke clips with far weaker ones before the live on-air appearance, insuring that the whipping New York early morning wind would launch his head covering sky high. Proponents of this conspiracy claim that the motive for the Reggae sensation is apparent bitterness over the Maccabeats receiving almost two million more hits on YouTube for their hit song “Candle Light” (2,251,391 at press time) than Matisyahu’s own new Chanukah song “Miracle” (367,552), despite the a capella group’s performance as the opening act for Matisyahu at YU’s Chanukah Party a week ago.

When asked if they would ever consider performing with Timberlake now that they are forever linked in pop culture, Joel told reporters he certainly would, “as long as he promises to keep his hands away from my tzitzit.”

 

Israel Mulls Settler Freeze

By Doni Kandel

With Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu scrambling to gain approval for a three month construction freeze on settlements, Americans, Palestinians and Israelis have formulated an alternative plan. It is now believed that the Knesset is considering freezing settlers in lieu of freezing settlements as a unilateral symbol of good faith. Both the American and Israeli governments have expressed hope that freezing of those dwelling beyond the green line will be a concession far too impressive for the Palestinians to ignore.

Naturally, the controversial proposal has proven to be far more complicated than first thought.  A debate has broken out among the concerned parties over the details of the actual freezing. The Israelis, ahead of the technology curve as always, have suggested cryogenics as the preferred method. The Palestinians have planted their flag in the “hose them down and toss them in a walk-in freezer” camp. A middle ground between these two positions may be difficult to reach.  Knesset members from multiple parties have expressed concerns about garnering public support for cryogenics, let alone the freezer method. MK Areyeh Eldad explained to reporters, “Sure Austin Powers made cryogenics look like fun and games, but there is no forgetting the utter look of anguish embalmed on Han Solo’s face when Darth Vader has him cryogenically frozen in Cloud City.  The Israeli public is far too intelligent to be led to believe their experience will be otherwise.”

The “hose and freezer” method has not only caused strife between Israel and the Palestinians, but between Israel and America. Israel has demanded that America provide the water, a sparse commodity in the region, if this method is ultimately selected. America has agreed but will only commit to providing the Israelis with Poland Springs brand water. Israel is reportedly seeking Evian or Dasani. “It’s not like we’re asking for Fiji Water here!” exclaimed Defense Minister Ehud Barak in frustration.

Shas MK Eli Yishai, notorious for offering his vote to the highest bidder, has offered to vote in favor of freezing only if Bibi will guarantee that once the freezing passes and the settlers have been thawed, the left over ice chips go to the ultra-orthodox community for chilling soda at their traditional Friday night Tish.  Conversely, Yishai has told settlers he will vote against the proposal in exchange for them supplying every ultra-orthodox child with a (non-human) popsicle.  Yishai cautioned the settlers however that, “those weird Israeli popsicles with gummies inside will not suffice.”

Several Left Wing and Arab factions have opposed this new plan because it does not include freezing Jewish residents of East Jerusalem. However, it does not appear that the Knesset will seek to impose the freezing on the Jerusalemites. President Shimon Peres explained, “With all those wind tunnels and cold Jerusalem stone facades the people of Jerusalem are cold enough.”

Peace Now chairman Yariv Oppenheimer has expressed enthusiastic support for the plan. “I hope we can freeze the settlers as soon as possible,” Oppenheimer told reporters.  “They have been stealing warmth from the Arabs for far too long.”  When asked about the potential violation of the Israeli’s rights if they are forced to be frozen against their will, Oppenheimer responded, “What Israeli rights?”

Ehud Olmert, the disgraced former Prime Minister, will once again be brought up on new corruption charges after using inside sources in the Knesset for financial gain. Upon hearing the freezing plans, Olmert allegedly bought up a large number of stocks in both Israeli and American freezer making companies such as SubZero and Bekko.  A petition to freeze both him and his financial accounts has begun making its round in the Knesset.