“You Guys are Hilarious. Will You Sign My Forehead?”
The forehead can't rank higher than seventh on the list of most popular body parts for rock bands to autograph (assuming that breasts count as two separate parts). But for Jews, the keppe is sacred, the font only of education … Read More
The forehead can't rank higher than seventh on the list of most popular body parts for rock bands to autograph (assuming that breasts count as two separate parts). But for Jews, the keppe is sacred, the font only of education and wisdom, but also the sexuality that never quite emanates from the hips. So we were honored when Andy, a 15 year old at the first of our two D.C. concerts, asked us to sign his forehead. "Good luck with the tumor," I wrote with a black Sharpie, as his boho parents happily stood nearby. Andy will be 18 by the time that note wears off.
The Birchmere in D.C. was the penultimate stop on the Good For The Jews thirteen city "Putting The Ha! In Hanukkah" tour of major metropolises with substantial Jewish populations. The tour ends Sunday night, December 23, at the HighLine Ballroom in New York, with a hometown bash that also includes sets by Dave Attell, the LeeVees, Todd Barry, and Rachel Feinstein. Not since the Sickle Cell Anemia Telethon of 1975 have this many funny Jews gathered on one stage.
We sold 675 tickets at the Birchmere for our two weekend shows. Yes, we perform on Shabbos. Which means it isn't only Nazis who criticize us:
"Just curious," someone named Rochelle wrote to us this week. "How do you guys rationalize/explain performing/working on Friday nights?" A classic Jewish question— feigned innocence, stuffed with judgment and condescension. I explained that we are Jews who choose not to keep Shabbos, and that we offer other Jews the choice of whether or not to see our show on a Friday night. We are pro-choice. That's an explanation, Rochelle; the notion of rationalization presupposes that there are unacceptable ways to practice religion, and that is a description of fundamentalism. Sit on a dreidel and rotate.
The Jews' biggest critics are other Jews. It's a syndrome I call "Jew-on-Jew violence." Orthodox Jews look down on Conservative Jews, for not being observant enough. Conservative Jews look down on Reform Jews, for not being pious enough. And Reform Jews look down on Orthodox Jews, for not showering enough. I think that's unique to our tribe. Does one Presbyterian feel superior to another Presbyterian? Is there infighting among Methodists? Probably not.
Here's another recent email, from Stan Meyer, who makes a point of quickly establishing his religion: "Of all the bigoted hate-filled songs coming out of a fellow Jew's mouth." Stan is objecting to our song "Jews For Jesus," a small piece of mockery conceived around this couplet: "Jews For Jesus, the phrase is pure deceit/It's like being a vegetarian for meat." Although David Fagin and I are not observant Jews, at least we don't worship Jesus. So there are Jews even we can look down on. And Stan Meyer objects to the way we mock Jews For Jesus. "This religiously inspired hate-filled language is as bad as the rhetoric of Al Queda," he tells us.
Admittedly, I don't spend a lot of time on the Al-Jazeera site. But I'm guessing that whatever propaganda they compose about Jews and the decadent west is a lot less satirical than what we say about Jews For Jesus: "You offer me a pamphlet, I decline/I'd rather jam a broom up your behind." Likening a cheap song to Al Queda solicitations of martyrdom is pretty facile hyperbole. If Stan Meyer isn't a Jew For Jesus, then he's a synagogue hall monitor writing detention citations for Jews whose blue Stars of David aren't affixed straight.
Look, Good For The Jews gets plenty of adoration, too. The word hilarious comes up a lot in newspaper articles as we go from town to town. You can read about the show we played in Portland, Oregon, by going to the fantastic chick-on-chick blog Girl Gone Child, and I hope I'm not linking from this blog to that one only because the writer kvells about my wit and charm, and one commenter declares "OMG Rob is hawt and Good For The Jews' little ditty 'It's Good To Be A Jew At Christmas' made my panties explode."
Even better than the rave reviews, even better than being called hawt, better even than signing Andy's forehead was an email we got the morning after our first concert in D.C. It came from Camille, whose last name I'll omit for obvious reasons: "I saw your show at the Birchmere last night and it was HILARIOUS. It was an amazing show. [Additional compliments deleted for the sake of brevity.] Unfortunately, my friend's mom made us leave. I am a twelve year old Christian, and if you can make me laugh when your main target is Jews in their twenties and thirties, you're hitting a pretty wide audience."
Teaching twelve year old Christians how to say shvantz and fehrkakt and Shabbos goy, and how to think differently from parents, seems like a pretty worthy use of a Friday night. Spin that dreidel, Rochelle.