Oy vey. So, I finally got and viewed my screener copy of VH1’s new talking heads amalgam show, called“All Access: So Jewtastic.” (The show officially airs Monday at 9pm EST.) And, with the involvement of What I Like About Jew’s Rob Tanenbaum and my brother, actor/comedian Simmy Kay (yes, that guy from the Microsoft commercial), I was so hoping it would be.
The show is sadly unimpressive, although not quite offensive, so there’s something. Amidst announcer’s encouraging viewers to “get their Jew on,” and the occasional gem from “Handsome” Rob (who really lands most of the few thought-out, funny, astute zingers that the show provides), there exists an amalgam of pop culture that illustrates how “cool” it is to be Jewish these days.
I wish that the show was more compelling than it is: there are the occasional tidbits of “did you know” information (at wrestler Goldberg’s matches, with people chanting “Gold…Berg…Gold…Berg…” it “sounds like a Jewish Defense League rally,” says Rob; or referring to the Beastie Boys as the kind of “kids who sat next to me in Chumash class” says Simmy) or interesting turns of phrase (“what’s the point in being a member of God’s Chosen People if you’re not going to end up running the media?” or “Am I a dork because I’m Jewish, or am I Jewish because I’m a dork?”–both of which I think were Elon Gold), but for the most part, the show is a surface treatment of the issue of Jewish prominence in popular culture. Cursory mentions of the fact that many of Hollywood’s elite changed their names and Yiddish segments provided by Jackie Mason are old news and not even remotely cute. (Although I was unaware that the word “shtup” literally means “to push.” Great.)
When the segment on how “Jews are obsessed with sex” begins, complete with the declaration that this explains why we created bagels (“bread with a hole in it”), and featuring porn star turned generally creepy older gentleman Ron Jeremy to dispel the “diminutive equipment” myth, and CERTAINLY by the time they get to a segment comparing the “bling” factors of an old-school Jewish bubbe vs. rap guy Cash Money, I’m more than ready to declare the show over.
When I found out about this show, yes, I felt a perverse kind of pride. If we, the Jewish people, were big enough to assume our place in the All Access pantheon–amid most outrageous red carpet moments and celebrity breakups–then maybe we were finally due, and the world was finally ready for Jews to not just be “Jewy,” but actually be “Jewish,” in a substantial, traditional manner. But while Hollywood is not necessarily hostile to the Jews who live and work there, it’s also not sufficiently accepting of Jews who commit themselves to a Jewish life outside of work in addition to an onstage persona that helps them land roles.
Should you watch “So Jewtastic”? I think you should, so you can tell me what you really think in the comments section. But know what you’re getting yourselves into: this is not nearly as relatable or funny as “I Love the 80s” or “Best Week Ever,” which would be fine if it were a more serious or interesting program. Which it’s not. And that it’s not a more serious or interesting program would also be fine if it were a funnier program. Which it also isn’t.
So, my Jewtastic review: Not quite a “you shouldn’t know from it…” But certainly not a “better than meat cholent or a wedding smorgasbord with a sushi bar and a meat carving station.” (Or to use another grading system popular with the denizens of this Jewspace, it’s not “A Tribe of Two Sheiks” but it certainly isn’t homemade hummus either.)
So, make your own decision. Do what you think is best. But whatever you choose, take a sweater with you. It’s cold outside. And don’t forget to call or write once in a while…like it would kill you to stay in touch…
(NYC Insider Tip: What I Like About Jew is playing Christmas weekend in NYC at the Knitting Factory with special guests like Todd Barry, Jackie Hoffmann and Tammy Faye Starlite. Details here…)