(New York Jewish Week) — “You never know how people are going to respond,” says Jewish comedian Ari Shaffir, referring to his new standup special, “Jew,” which has more than 3 million views (and counting) on YouTube.
The self-released, 90-minute showcase of stories and jokes goes deep into his life story, including his studies at a Jerusalem yeshiva. Shaffir, who eventually left Orthodoxy behind, balances Talmud lessons with the neuroticism of Jewish culture.
The show gives the entire backstory of Judaism, starting with Adam and Eve, interweaving tales about Hanukkah and Passover, going through customs and traditions. It’s an oral history of Judaism, told through a brutally honest comedic lens.
After it was released two weeks ago, the special has been praised by numerous comics in the podcast world, including Tim Dillon, Shane Gillis, Chris Destafano and Joe Rogan, whom Shaffir calls a longtime friend.
There are also over 25,000 comments on the special, most of them positive. One goes as far to say that it is “the best special of the century so far.”
Shaffir, who lives in the East Village, said he has not received much negative feedback for the special, which is rare for a comedian who once received death threats and had to cancel shows for joking about NBA player Kobe Bryant’s death in 2020.
“Jew,” which was shot and performed in Brooklyn, was released Nov. 2. The date, Shaffir told the New York Jewish Week, was set far in advance — but it arrived at a moment when antisemitism became a national conversation topic, thanks to recent tweets from rapper Kanye West and Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving.
“I was worried for a minute — I thought for a second it was going to derail it,” he said of the timing, adding that he “wasn’t looking for this kind of press” in regards to his special.
The conversation only grew more intense last week, after Dave Chapelle delivered a monologue on “Saturday Night Live” abut the West and Irving controversies that critics, including the Anti-Defamation League and Simon Wiesenthal Center, called antisemitic.
“They’re ready to say that, regardless,” Shaffir said. “The complaints were already written. Most people think it’s funny.” Jewish organizations, he said, are “not known as great comedy critiquers.”
“People don’t understand that we enjoy that,” Shaffir added, referring to the criticism. “I can speak for Chapelle on this. We’re only here to make people laugh, but we also enjoy when dorks get mad.”
Shaffir, 48, has made a career off of making dorks mad, weaving tales about drugs, sex and Judaism into world tours, a podcast, spots at the Comedy Cellar in New York and the Comedy Store in Los Angeles.
While he’s known for his edgy humor, Shaffir appears more introspective and personal in “Jew” when compared to his previous work. On his Comedy Central show “This Is Not Happening,” which ran for four seasons between 2015 and 2019, he talks about planting weed for strangers and fans at sports arenas and shopping malls (the police weren’t amused). He also appeared in a sketch called “The Amazing Racist,” where he spoofs “The Amazing Race” by playing a character who constantly brings up offensive stereotypes.
With “Jew,” by contrast, Shaffir has channeled his persona into a hyper-focused, cohesive take on all aspects of Judaism, including mikvahs, Yom Kippur chicken rituals and the minutiae of when certain foods can be considered kosher. At the same time, he keeps the material palatable for a non-Jewish audience.
“You can make anything accessible,” Shaffir said. “It’s the same thing as saying, ‘My dad does this weird thing, or my country does this weird thing.’ You just explain it and you’re fine.”
Ari Shaffir holds the crown as my favorite j-w. He’s Moshiach in my eyes. pic.twitter.com/8kLFSaqgqp
— Adam Green – Know More News (@Know_More_News) November 14, 2022
While Shaffir may have turned away from religion as a young man, he said he has since found “a love for how interesting and cool it was.”
“I now see that Judaism leaves your kids with intelligence, where they value education and family,” Shaffir said. “It’s great stuff and I wanted to show that.”
When the special was released, Shaffir left a note on his web site saying that it is his “love letter to the culture and religion that raised me.”
He tells a story in the special about meeting with his rabbi from the Jerusalem yeshiva and telling him he was a standup comedian. “All he wanted to know was, ‘do you still use the teaching?’” Shaffir says in the special.
Shaffir then talks about how the rabbi gave him a lesson about Noah’s Ark, which he then turns into a bit about anal sex — all while leaving the audience with a positive spin on Judaism.
“Not all religion is stupid,” Shaffir says in the special. “It’s a good lesson, especially in this day and age.”
Shaffir was born in New York and spent most of his childhood in North Carolina and Maryland. He was “a Modern Orthodox Jewish kid” who attended the Hebrew Academy of Greater Washington (now the Berman Hebrew Academy). After high school, Shaffir went to Bris Medrash L’Torah, an Orthodox yeshiva in Jerusalem, which he said was the “standard track” for a Jewish kid at his age, but eventually he had “a crisis of faith.”
“I just came home and really thought about it and I was like, ‘I’m out,’” Shaffir said. “I don’t want to do this anymore.”
Since then, Shaffir said he does not believe in God, but believes in the “shared history” of Judaism.
And while he’s had moments of Jewish jokes and stories in his previous specials, this is his full show on the topic, going deep within himself to find the humor within the religion, even in the darkest of places.
Shaffir’s father is a Holocaust survivor from Romania, who moved to Israel following the war. Shaffir said his story of survival was “a major part of our upbringing.”
“Their village got taken later in the war,” Shaffir said of his father’s family. “Most of the family was wiped out. I don’t know all the details exactly.”
He now has a good relationship with his parents and said they saw him perform the special live. “They liked it,” Shaffir said. “They probably liked it more than my other specials, where I was talking about [having sex with] chicks with herpes.”
While working on the special, Shaffir workshopped his material at the Fat Black Pussycat, the “sister showroom” of the Comedy Cellar in New York’s Greenwich Village. There, an audience member once asked him a question about “the pillow” that Jews carry.
“I was like, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about,’” Shaffir said. “But then it hit me: It’s tallis and tefillin,” the velvet bags containing prayer shawls and phylacteries that Jews carry to synagogue. “It looks like a pillowcase. You can look at it from an outside perspective, their point of view: It looks like a pillow. Their questions would get me to riff.”
He later took his special abroad, including Israel, where “it did not work,” he said. “They knew too much about it. All the exposition, they were like, ‘We know.’”
In contrast, he performed the material in places where there were few or possibly no Jews, such as Perth, Australia and Reykjavik, Iceland, where it went well. “Places where they are like, ‘I’ve never heard of [Jews],” Shaffir said. “I had to make sure it went well there because it’s gotta be accessible.”
He also performed a version of the show as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland, which he said greatly inspired the special.
Another aspect of the Shaffir’s special is countering the narrative of Orthodox Jews as outsiders. “They work regular jobs,” Shaffir said. “There are ambulance drivers with yarmulkes. There’s just some weird stuff that they do. We would play basketball and we would have tzitzit [ritual fringes] and a yarmulke on, but we were on the courts with everybody.”
Shaffir has a joke in the special about using a yarmulke as a move to distract a defender during a basketball game.
“I love it,” Shaffir said. “Hopefully it goes well for him and he loses his religion. That would be cool.”
The post In ‘Jew,’ comic Ari Shaffir delivers a raunchy love letter to the religion he says he left behind appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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