Monday, April 14, 2008

Long Island ≠ Jewish

Last night, after a long day of playing pickup ball with octogenarians and avoiding In-Laws' questions about my professional intentions as to their fair city, I settled down to enjoy Night of Too Many Stars, a Comedy Central special to raise money for Autism. No, I don't know what the connection is, and no, I'm not going to make a joke about it. If you want that sort of humor, read Kissing Suzy Kolber. Seriously. Stop reading this crap. Go there.

I give the whole phonathon a B+, for the effort. They had a ton of stars, you got to see Tina Fey groped by some corporate flack, and Sara Silverman did that version of Amazing Grace where she harmonizes with her vagina. So that's something, I guess.

There were really only two parts of the show that grabbed my attention and shook it like a colicky baby.

The first was Chris Rock and Steven Wright, doing each other's material. Steven Wright did surprisingly ok - it was funny hearing him say "cracker" in ebonics, and it turns out that you don't have to scream Chris Rock's jokes in a grating whine to make them work.

No, the weird thing was hearing Rock do Steven Wright's jokes. I'd heard them all, and to see Chris Rock attempt a deadpan was unnerving. His persona is all inflection and emoting, whereas Wright may as well be a paralyzed wino, mumbling and drooling at passersby. Steven Wright's jokes, or bits, or missives, or whatever, are truly unfunny when told by someone else. I don't think Chris Rock got more than a sympathy chuckle for any of the jokes he told, while Wright got plenty of laughs doing Rock's material. So the question that kept me up the rest of the night is this: Is it that Chris Rock's stuff is just universally hilarious, or that Steven Wright's material is so wrapped up in Wright's persona that, unless you try and impersonate him, you'll never get a laugh trying his set?

The last thing that got to me was Rosie O'Donnell's set. Evidently, now that she's been booted from the View, and Donald Trump has moved on to perfecting a new combover look, she's bored. And lonely. And the lesbian jokes just aren't hitting their marks anymore. So what does Rosie decide to do? She checks out Kabbalah. And wouldn't you know it, but Long Island + Kabbalah = Jewish! So she can do a whole host of jokes about schmoozing with Pearl and Gitty, and say words like mishpucha, and now she's Ethel Merman.

Listen, and listen good, Rosie. Drop the Jewish jokes, and back slowly away. Just because you're large, have brown hair, and sound like Portnoy's mother doesn't mean you get to mock the Tribe. If you watched the thing, it was like a bad homage to the Seinfeld "Anti-Dentite" episode. She puts on a red string, and then gets to pretend she also knows how to make matza balls? Absolutely not.

Rosie O'Donnell is not only a lesbian, she's also Irish Catholic. She's been on the View. If she can't make comedy gold out of that wealth of material, then she should stay off the stage. Which, I think, would work for everyone involved.

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