Tag Archives: Comedians

Jew of the Week: Garry Shandling

Shandling at the Emmy's (Credit: Alan Light)

Shandling at the Emmy’s (Credit: Alan Light)

Garry Shandling (1949-2016) was born in Chicago and grew up in Tucson. He studied electrical engineering, marketing, and creative writing at the University of Arizona. While working for an ad agency in Los Angeles, Shandling wrote a script for the TV show Sanford and Son, and sold it to NBC. This started a long and prosperous script-writing career. Several years later, Shandling got into a tragic car accident that almost killed him, yet ended up inspiring him to become a comedian. He performed his first stand-up act at LA’s famous comedy club, The Comedy Store. Soon, Shandling would make a guest appearance on The Tonight Show, and become its guest host, filling in when host Johnny Carson was away. In 1985, Shandling created a revolutionary sitcom, It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, where the characters on screen are aware that they are actors in a TV show, and even interact with the audience. The show won multiple awards, including a ‘Funniest Male Performance’ for Shandling. In 1992, Shandling created an even more popular program, a mock talk show called The Larry Sanders Show. This show earned 56 Emmy nominations, revived HBO, and is often credited with inspiring Entourage, 30 Rock and Curb Your Enthusiasm. Many comedians and writers (including Judd Apatow) started out working on this program, which has been ranked among the greatest shows of all time by the likes of TV Guide and TIME Magazine. Shandling helped countless younger comedians refine their art, Sacha Baron Cohen among them. Aside from television, Shandling appeared in 17 films, including voicing a character in the upcoming The Jungle Book. Sadly, Shandling passed away last week after suffering a heart attack. Fellow comedian Jeffrey Tambor said of him: “He redesigned the wheel of comedy and was the kindest and funniest of geniuses.”

Words of the Week

“I sold my house this week. I got a pretty good price for it, but it made my landlord mad as hell.”

“I remember learning to drive on my dad’s lap. Did you guys ever do that? He’d work the brakes. I’d work the wheel. Then I went to take the driver’s test and sat on the examiner’s lap. I failed the exam. But he still writes to me. That’s the really nice part.”

– Garry Shandling

Jew of the Week: Sid Caesar

Greatest Comedian of All Time

Sid Caesar

Sid Caesar

Isaac Sidney Caesar (1922-2014) was born in New York, the third and youngest son of a mother from Russia and a father from Poland (given the name ‘Caesar’ by an immigration official). His parents ran a 24-hour eatery where, as a child, he would mimic and entertain the restaurant patrons. After high school, he intended to pursue a career in music as a saxophone player. From a small sax gig, he moved onto a dance band, then a comedy show when his jokes got more applause then his music. At the end of World War II (when he played for a military band), Caesar made his way to Hollywood and began starring in film. He also performed stand-up at comedy clubs, and had a stint on Broadway before focusing on television. Perhaps his most famous skit was double-talk, where he mimicked virtually any language perfectly, without actually saying anything intelligible (he only spoke English and Yiddish fluently). In the 1950s, Caesar was behind the greatest show on television, ‘Your Show of Shows’, watched by over 60 million people weekly. For this, he won his first Emmy, and was voted America’s Best Comedian. He would go on to make several other successful TV programs, and is even credited with helping make TV the dominant medium at a time when radio was still king. Caesar’s comedy is said to have revolutionized the entire genre, and inspired the next generation of comedians, many of which consider him the greatest funnyman of all time.  Meanwhile, he did a great deal of charity work (click here to see Caesar’s double-talk at Chabad fundraisers) and was happily married for 67 years. Sadly, Caesar passed away last week.

Words of the Week

When God created the first man, He showed him all the trees of the Garden of Eden, and said to him: ‘See My works, how beautiful and praiseworthy they are. And everything that I created, I created for you. Be careful not to spoil or destroy My world—for if you do, there will be nobody after you to repair it.’
– Midrash Kohelet Rabbah 7:13

Jew of the Week: Jackie Mason

King of Comedy

Yacov Moshe Maza aka Jackie Mason

Renowned Comedian Yacov Moshe Maza aka Jackie Mason

World-famous comedian and actor Jackie Mason (b. 1931) was born Yacov Moshe Maza in Wisconsin, and grew up in Manhattan. His father and grandfather were rabbis, and so were his three brothers. At 25, Yacov was ordained as a rabbi, too, though he’d always dreamed of being a comedian. Three years later, he resigned to follow his passion (click here to see Jackie discuss his transformation from rabbi to comedian). He first performed at a New York hotel but was soon let go for ridiculing the audience – something that is central to comedy today but was unheard of at the time. He gained more fame after several acts on The Ed Sullivan Show (including the episode that debuted The Beatles). Mason went on to star in some of the most successful one-man comedy shows on Broadway, including The World According to Me and Politically Incorrect. He also acted in many films and TV shows, and even won an Emmy Award for voicing Rabbi Hyman Krustofski on The Simpsons. Off the stage, Mason has been a vocal supporter of Israel, a hard-liner who opposed the Oslo process, and is a founder of One Jerusalem, an organization that works to ensure the city remains Israel’s undivided capital. A proud Jew, describing himself “as Jewish as a matzah ball or kosher salami”, he filed (and won) a lawsuit against ‘Jews for Jesus’ for using his image, accusing the organization of fishing for converts to Christianity. Mason continues to entertain and enlighten audiences, and now has over 200 video blogs on YouTube, most of which are humorous commentaries on current events and politics.


Words of the Week

We have paralyzed ourselves by our sickening fear of World Opinion, which is why we find it impossible to face one simple fact: We will never win this war unless we immediately threaten to drive every Arab out of Israel if the killing doesn’t stop.
– Jackie Mason