Humongous Jewmongous - shout out to Sean Altman
Okay, I'm exhausted and I have to be up at 6:30 to look at database schema for work. I should not be sitting here writing about weird holiday shows, but I so enjoyed Sean Altman's "Jewmongous" review that I have to put in my short "shout out."
I don't know who Altman is. I don't know from popular culture. The guy in the line behind me was into blues and jazz. I'm into blues, too, but this show owed much more to the Beatles and Irving Berlin. From Altman's e-mail, I was reminded that he co-wrote a song with Rob Tannenbaum that I have never liked called "Hanukah with Monica."
From the people sitting on both sides of me (both of whom have connections to Boston's big Jewish chorus, Hazamir), Alman is an a capella God, formerly of something called Rockapella. "There's lots of us a capella fans here!" From seeing him perform, all I can tell you is that he probably is taller than Jesus, that he's very funny, has very funny friends, and his wife not only has an operatic voice, but she's very good at harmonizing it in to folky humorous songs.
This time of year has changed radically in the last few years. Last week I was thoroughly enjoying JDUB's "Jewltide" show (about which I promise to write more—Shtreiml rocked out, and Golem played with their usual punk intensity. Not a show to be missed). Last weekend I read in the paper that Christmas eve isn't just for Chinese food any more. It's a big Jewish singles night—including an Orthodox Jewish singles night with parties sponsored by Chabad. And this week I have "Jewmongous," a funny, occasionally adult funny show with songs ranging from "They tried to kill us. We survived. Let's eat" to the Mohel song, "just take a little bit off the top." It's this generation's Catskills humor. The subjects have changed—there are more songs about not knowing tradition—the aforementioned "They tried to kill us" or "Does anyone know what simchas Torah is about"? Almost no Yiddish. I heard the word "wholesale" mentioned once, and the one joke about "363 selling days until Christmas" by one of the guests fell flat. No Jewish mother jokes. No Jewish American Princess jokes. It's funny—often very funny—humor by Jews, for Jews, mostly about being Jewish in America today (which is generally seen as a good thing, despite the lack of presents at Hanukah—last year's show with Rob Tannenbaum was much less positive), with a bit of "Nittel" thrown in. ("Nittel" refers to some of the raunchy, anti-Christian things that our ancestors did during the Middle Ages on Christmas Eve to avoid studying or doing anything praiseworthy that might be misconstrued as praising that former Jew who brought so much trouble down on us. The customs still remain in some Orthodox communities. In non-Orthodox communities we have "Jewmongous.")
From the moment he came on stage and donned his kippah (some interesting semiotics about donning signifying Jewish religious clothing to start a show poking fun about not knowing much about being Jewish) I really enjoyed the evening. There was a song about "Murray the Shofar Blower" (Blow Murray Blow) that was inspired by Yom Kippur at the shul I attend, (on the rare occasions when I attend shul) but from back in the '60s, when it was a very different shul, altogether. At another extreme, was "Today I am a Man" (I may be a Bar Mitzvah boy, but can I drink or drive?) or the rather violent diatribe against "Jews for Jesus."
And for all that, the person who blew me away was one of three guest artists, another person of whom I have never heard, Cindy Kaplan? Whoever this Kaplan person is, she has an acid, sharp wit and I thoroughly enjoyed every second of her song about being the Bride of Jesus (he may have been a carpenter then, but can he put up a simple set of shelves now?), and every second of her song about (oops. this is one of the songs that I probably shouldn't talk about on a website that wants any credibility with parents of younger children). Apparently she wrote a book called Why I'm Like This that has been very popular. It's currently #48,863 on amazon.com. I intend to get a copy of the library tomorrow.
Can't wait for it to be that goyishe holiday season again. Where once we Jews tried to pretend that Hanukah was a major holiday like Christmas and blend in, nowadays it's Jewish fun central. It's Good to be a Jew at Christmas.