Spit Take Saturday: Rick Moranis

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09_rick-moranis-my-mothers-brisket-330x330Welcome to Spit Take Saturday, courtesy of Brown Paper Tickets’ Comedy Doer Julie Seabaugh and her professional comedy criticism site The Spit Take. Julie’s goal with the site is to “elevate the public perception of stand-up comedy to that of a legitimate art form, and to enable comedy criticism be taken as seriously as that of theater, film, music, food, even video games. No a**-kissing. No bias. No mercy. Just honest, unfiltered, long-form reviews written by professional, knowledgeable comedy critics.” 

Every week Julie will select an entry from the site to be included on our blog and hand-pick some related events happening that week that she feels all you comedy lovers out there will appreciate.

So, without further ado, let us introduce you to this week’s Spit Take Saturday!

Rick Moranis hasn’t been in the limelight much since he retired from acting with 1997’s Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves. And though he was nominated for a Grammy in 2006 for country music parody album The Agoraphobic Cowboy, few likely associate Moranis with musical comedy, The Great White North and Little Shop of Horrors aside. So My Mother’s Brisket & Other Love Songs, Moranis’s nod to Allan Sherman’s Yiddish-flavored parodies, will come as a surprise to those thinking they’d next see him in a long-rumored Ghostbusters sequel.

Sherman’s influence is heavy; a quick listen to his “The Ballad of Harry Lewis” and “Harvey and Sheila” reveals the blueprint Moranis used to construct these songs. The music is orchestral, the humor broad, many of the melodies are borrowed from jazzy klezmer music, and the references to Jewish culture come fast and furious. Play this album without telling listeners who it is, and they might think it came from Sherman’s vaults.

Except Moranis plays up the Jewish content even more than Sherman did. His accent is thick, and it’s obvious even in the song titles—“I’m Old Enough To Be Your Zaide,” “My Wednesday Balabusta,” “The Seven Days of Shiva,” “Belated Haftorah.” Gentiles may need to do some Googling or consult a glossary to understand concepts behind certain jokes. (A couple of Yiddish translations to get you started: “zaide” means grandfather, and “Haftorah” is a reading from the Prophets on the Sabbath.)

Moranis plays with Jewish stereotypes while adding a few modern updates. On “Live Blogging the Himel Family Bris,” he sings amongst swirling clarinets, “I’m live blogging Marky Himel’s Bris / I just gave Marky Himel’s Uncle Manny a kiss / I’m posting, I’m hosting, I’m filing, I’m sharing / But Marky’s Uncle Manny smells a lot like herring.” There are jabs at those who cheat on the Orthodoxy. On “Wiggle Room,” he sings about finding a place to “cyber-letch” and eat ribs. On one track he confesses, “I Can’t Help It, I Just Like Christmas,” and on “Asian Confusion,” admits to ordering Chinese food on Sunday nights (as far as not eating kosher, “once a week is understood”).

The project is an exercise in dam-busting for Moranis after having to reject some jokes and sketches he wrote when he was a younger comedian as “too Jewish.” As he admits in the liner notes, “Among Jews, the more observant may find some of these songs objectionable. And the more secular may not appreciate the references. But I’ve always found smaller audiences to be more intimate anyway.” It’s clear from the first song that the album will be filled with cultural inside jokes, and the shtick stays the same throughout. Those turned off by “I’m Old Enough To Be Your Zaide” will want to stop there. For those who venture on, Moranis has an appealing and resonant voice, and he’s written some clever material. Whether Allan Sherman needed updating is beside the point. Moranis has done it, and done a worthy job of it.

By Nick A. Zaino III

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For more of the best in Jewish comedy, check out:

Saturday, July 6 I The Laugh Tour with Jessica Kirson  Eldred, New York  Jessica’s unique style and powerful stage presence captures the attention of audiences everywhere she performs. She’s received the MAC Award for Best Female Comic in New York City. Once you have seen her amazing talent, it is easy to understand why she was selected to perform at the Hamptons, Toyota, Marshall’s Women in Comedy, and Las Vegas comedy festivals. She has been featured on Comedy Central’s Premium Blend, Nickelodeon’s Sixth in the Suburbs, Noggin’s LOL, VH1’s Awesomely Bad Hair, Awesomely Bad Love Songs, Oxygen’s Can You Tell?, Bravo’s The Great Things About Being, The Women’s Television Network’s She’s So Funny, NBC’s Last Comic Standing (Seasons 2 + 3), Last Call With Carson Daly, regular appearances on The Joy Behar Show, and two appearances on The Tonight Show. Jessica’s hilarious characters and amazing crowd work are nothing short of spectacular and she will be undoubtedly be wowing audiences across the country for years to come.

Monday, July 8 I Kung Pao Kosher Comedy with Lisa Geduldig  San Francisco, California  Now in its 5th year, this monthly (every 2nd Monday of the month) multicultural comedy show features the best of Bay Area comedians and beyond. It takes place at El Rio, where SF comedian/comedy producer, Lisa Geduldig (Kung Pao Kosher Comedy) began her stand up comedy career 24 years ago. The July 8th show features Sammy Obeid (on his way to his 1000th consecutive day of comedy shows), Eve Meyer (Executive Director of SF Suicide Prevention), Johan Miranda (Peruvian-born), Kate Willett (Comikaze Lounge), and Lisa Geduldig.

Saturday, July 27 I Dan Naturman at Brick 46   Rockaway, New Jersey  Dan was the favorite of celebrity judges Drew Carey and Brett Butler on Last Comic Standing Season 2 and has made several appearances on Late Show with David Letterman and Late Nite with Conan O’Brien. He is a regular at both The Comedy Cellar and Comix in New York. On a personal note, Dan has an intense fear of intimacy and has managed to avoid closeness with another human being his entire life. He lives alone on New York’s Upper East Side.