Tag Archives: parody

Andy Samberg’s Semitic Appeal

by Amanda Walgrove

Andy Samberg is one of three geeky brains behind the comedy troupe, The Lonely Island, whose sophomore album, Turtleneck and Chain, was released last month. Along with Akiva Shaffer and Jorma Taccone, the trio is responsible for the hilarious Digital Shorts that interrupt the live performances of SNL. Some have even argued that the videos are the only remaining aspect of the thirty-six year old sketch comedy show still worthy of watching.

Since Samberg emerged on the scene in 2005, his curly hair and prominent nose have made him a Semitic sex symbol for tweens, twentysomethings, and possibly Cougars (Cameron Diaz’s SNL skit said it, not me.) Born David Andrew Samberg, the 32-year-old grew up in a Jewish household and his maternal grandfather, Alfred J. Marrow, served as the executive chair of the American Jewish Congress. Add to that his most charming quality, the one by which he makes a living—his sense of humor—and he’s quite the kugel-eating catch.

In an interview with MSNBC, Samberg noted that he was inspired by funny Jewish forerunners such as Adam Sandler, with his 1993 debut album They’re All Gonna Laugh At You!, along with Mel Brooks and the Marx Brothers. Back in 2008, Samberg told schmooze that he was saturated with Jewish comedy growing up and now, since he considers it family comedy, he tries not to let it inform his own routines: “I’m never laughing when the punch line is something like, ‘Oh, just a couple of Jews!’ To clarify, there’s Jewish comedy and there’s Jewish comedy. If it’s done the right way—it’s funny not just because it’s Jewish, but because it’s really funny—that’s great.”

Executive Producer, Lorne Michaels’ ability to see something valuable in Samberg’s talents prompted him to hire the young stand-up comedian as a cast member, while bringing Shaffer and Taccone onto the writing team. The digital shorts, which the boys produced as side projects without expecting a profit, quickly went viral, and SNL began to reach its young, digitally savvy audience in new ways.

Beginning with their 2009 debut, “Incredibad,” The Lonely Island churned out faux music videos, glorifying the awkwardness of sexual inadequacies and inabilities to impress females. Chock full of parody and self-deprecation, the comedic styling of Samberg and team tug strongly at the Jewish roots of comedy. Their ability to take something conventional, question it and stand it on its head through a satirical filter is the basis of aggadic midrash. Bring musical interludes into the mix and you’ve got yourself a full service.

Boosting their commercial value, the off-beat videos have developed a reputation of being star-studded, boasting surprise guests such as Justin Timberlake, Nicki Minaj, Lady Gaga, Michael Bolton, Rihanna, Susan Sarandon, and T-Pain, who are equally willing to make fools of themselves. Natalie Portman famously satirized her own goody two shoes, Jewish girl image in her video, “Natalie’s Rap,” where her SNL alter-ego dropped a few beats about engaging in criminal activities while at Harvard.

The Lonely Island has parodied rappers, hip-hop songs, Rastafarians, 80’s R&B, “Creeps” (aka John Waters), and E.T. on their debut album cover. While the structure of their creations pays homage to Samberg’s comedic ancestry, the young pop culture sensation has yet to take a direct comedic crack at the Jews—not even a klezmer parody. He’s not looking to overdo the stereotypical Jewish punch line.   Then again, Sandler debuted his acclaimed Hanukkah song on SNL; we trust that Samberg can find his own clever spin, too.

The Jewish Side of “The Book of Mormon.”

by Amanda Walgrove

Joseph Smith first published The Book of Mormon in March 1830. About 180 years later, The Book of Mormon made its Broadway debut at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre. Tag-lined as “God’s Favorite Musical,” the hysterical satire is unsurprisingly offensive and appalling, but wrapped around a heartfelt and sympathetic tale. Written by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, along with Robert Lopez of the Tony award-winning and equally groundbreaking Avenue Q, this original musical tells the story of two young men sent to Africa on their Mormon mission. Thrown into a God-loathing culture plagued by AIDS, murder and maggots, Elder Price and Elder Cunningham easily demand sympathy as they naively travel through their own religiously fueled bildungsroman.

Lopez, who studied religion at Yale with Harold Bloom, said that he quickly developed an interest in the Bible as literature. In an interview with the New York Times, Lopez said, “I had thought about doing the Bible Part III, but then I realized, that’s the Book of Mormon. That’s the Bible fan fiction.” Controversial material aside, the plot unfolds traditionally, even parodying certain musical forms, presenting the uncomfortable context in an agreeably recognizable structure. In an interview with USA Today, Parker crooned over the optimism of Rodgers and Hammerstein productions he saw as a child, while Stone says his exposure was limited to the Fiddler On the Roof soundtrack, adding, “My mom’s Jewish, so she wanted me to be Jewish.” Despite the satirical undermining of organized religion, Parker proudly described the show as a pro-faith musical.

While Mormonism and Christianity are dominantly exploited, Judaism plays an inevitable role in the story as well. In one powerful number, “I Believe,” Price belts out a string of peculiarly Mormon teachings, including the idea that ancient Jews sailed to America and that the Garden of Eden was located in Jackson County, Missouri. Opening the second act, Hitler shows up in Elder Price’s guilt-induced “spooky Mormon hell dream” along with Genghis Kahn and serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. Faced with the responsibility of converting the Ugandans, Elder Cunningham admits that he hasn’t actually read The Book of Mormon. The awkward, stocky teenager manages to weave an embellished tapestry of Star Wars and Lord of the Rings stories, which famously have their own cult following, into his preaching. The product of this is the song, Joseph Smith American Moses performed by the Ugandans for the mission leaders. Arguably the most shocking religious faux-pa occurs when the Africans perform, Has a Diga Eeboawi, which, in English, is a profanity directed towards God.

While the musical introduces its own mini cultural Mormon revolution, Mormonism is garnering media attention through Mitt Romney, a possible GOP presidential candidate. This Passover, on a smaller scale, Jews and Mormons have been exploring ties as well. Over Passover, Brigham Young University — a school where 99% of 33,000 students identify as Mormon and only three as Jewish—held widely popular Seders with more than 160 students, faculty, alumni, and “townies” in attendance. Many of them identify with the Exodus narrative, given their ancestors’ flight from the Midwest to their own “Promised Land,” in Utah. Victor Ludlow, the BYU religion professor who runs the Seders, says Mormons and Jews increasingly inhabit the same communities as more Mormons move east and Jews move west.

David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister, once said to Latter-Day Saints President Ezra Taft Benson, “There are no people in the world who understand Jews like the Mormons.” Earlier this year Mark Paredes and Christa Woodall blogged about Jews and Mormons in Jewish Journal and J.online, two California-based Jewish news websites. Paredes, a former diplomat at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, spoke at the Salt Lake City JCC about the ways in which Mormons can develop relationships with Jews and show support for Israel, highlighting connections between Jewish and Mormon history. Paredes said, “We believe, as a people, we are modern-day Israelites who build temples, have the priesthood, are led by prophets, believe in Elijah’s second coming, claim the blessings of the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants, and support the establishment of the state of Israel.”

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has issued a statement regarding The Book of Mormon musical, positing that “the production may attempt to entertain audiences for an evening,” but that Mormon scripture “will change people’s lives forever.” Widely lauded by critics and even members of the Mormon community, the show should have a successful run, provided attendees are willing to follow the story but not take it too seriously. Stone, recalling friendly Mormon neighbors as a child, pondered, “Do goofy stories make people nice? What if, in their goofiness, these stories somehow inspire that in the right way? Is that a social good?” While the basis of the coming-of-age story is relatable, the humor lies in the hyperbolic absurdity of events that can easily be construed as disrespectful. Only a month into its Broadway run, viewers can decide for themselves whether the creators have succeeded in producing a blasphemous tale, a social good, or just another goofy story.

Now THAT’S Offensive! Politically Incorrect Suggestions for Religious Blogs

Religion isn’t hip.  It’s not cool, it’s not fun, it’s not trendy.  That, at least, was the opinion of one intern at the Moment office.  An editor replied that there were no exciting outlets for religious discussion.  So, as they are wont to do, members of the Moment office started brainstorming ideas on what the edgiest title for an engaging bible blog would be, pushing the limits of good taste in the process.  Would you read a blog with one of these names?  Or protest it?  Share your thoughts!

  • Sh*t my Torah Says (aka Drek My Torah Says)
  • The Torah Sutra: 1,000 Different Parsha Positions
  • Stuff Torah People Like
  • F*ck Yeah Torah Portion!
  • Bible Goggles
  • Torah Unplugged
  • This Is Your Brain on Torah
  • More Torah, Less Filling!
  • My Super Sweet Parsha
  • Torah-licious
  • The Politically Incorrect Torah
  • Torah the Explor-ah
  • Torah-Vision 3-D!
  • En-Torah-ge
  • Mystery Science Torah 5771
  • Peyos Fetish
  • No Shirt, No Sandals, No Torah
  • Parshas for Dummies
  • Shake your Jew-ty
  • The Torah Zone
  • Torah: Undressed
  • Strangers with Torah
  • The Torah: Bigger, Better, and Uncut
  • STFU, D’var Torah
  • Pimp My Torah
  • Torah-gasm
  • Delerium Torah: your weekly fix

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.