Arts & Culture

The Art of Shpiel-Writing

Maybe you can write novels or Broadway hits, but can you write a true Purim shpiel? Read More

By / March 16, 2011
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Trying to write a last minute Purim shpiel*? Struggling with where to start? Here are a few steps that may help you write a hilarious shpiel catered to your community.

Step One: Look Around

Ditch the Purim story reenactment. It is a well-known fact that the best shpiels are ones that pick on people in the shul, the rabbi, and/or the Jewish community as a whole. So, good news, shpiel-writer: you have probably been preparing for your shpiel all year and didn’t even know it! The first step to shpiel writing is to look around your community and make a blunt, judgmental assessment. Whereas during the rest of the year you might be afraid to tell people that you’ve labeled them “Insane Palin-Loving Right-Wing Nut Job”, “Spaced-Out Hippie”, “Way Too Religious”, or even “Quiet One Who Never Talks”, Purim is your time to let it all out. So, step one is just, take a look around. Take note of the judgments you’ve already made about these people and the Jewish community. What bothers you? What do you think is outright absurd? Take note.

It’s Purim: anything goes. Well, most things. Definitely avoid making fun of people’s physical attributes/appearances, as well as race and sexual orientation. If you can leave those out, you’re all set to write an awesome shpiel.

Step Two: Mix it Up

Once you’ve made a list of all the people/things you wish to pick on during your shpiel, use your imagination to put one or more of those characters in a completely foreign context. For instance, maybe you want to put “Insane Palin-Loving Right-Wing Nut Job” on a date with “Spaced-Out Hippie”. Maybe you want to have “Way Too Religious”, “Spaced-Out Hippie” and “Insane Palin-Loving Right-Wing Nut Job” in Richard Simmons’ aerobics class, or shopping at the mall (which could possibly include an argument about Shatnes, Fair Trade, and Organic materials). Get creative. What is the most absurd place you can imagine these people together? A cruise? A safari? As characters in the Wizard of Oz? In a rock band? Put them there, and the words will come easily.

Step Three: Getting Actors

Getting actors for your shpiel maybe the most difficult part, as this requires you to have at least a few people who are not being made fun of. Keep this in mind before starting Step One. If you can’t find any actors, a one-man-show with props (McCain-Palin t-shirt, black hat, feathers in hair) is totally doable and hilarious.

Step Four: Practice!

Nothing helps you build confidence in your shpiel like practicing. Practice until you are sick of your own shpiel; then you are ready.

Good luck, shpiel-writers.  Purim Sameach!

*Shpiel: Yiddish for ‘skit’ or ‘play’, it is traditional to do a shpiel on Purim night