Tag Archives: Talk Shows

Jew of the Week: Larry King

King of Interviews

Lawrence Harvey Zeiger (1933-2021) was born in Brooklyn to Orthodox Jewish immigrants from Belarus. His father died when he was just a child, leaving the family impoverished. Young Larry was fascinated by radio and always wished to become a broadcaster. In Miami, he found a job cleaning at a radio station and, when the station’s broadcaster suddenly left the show, Larry was given a chance to take his place. The manager said “Zeiger” was not a good stage name, so Larry quickly chose “King” (based on an ad he had just seen for King’s Wholesale Liquor store). He got the job to radio DJ for three hours every morning, earning $50 a week. King soon started doing interviews, too, and would occasionally have a celebrity who was in town to do a show. He was then hired as a commentator for the NFL’s Miami Dolphins. It was in 1978 when The Larry King Show aired its first episode (on radio). It would be broadcast live every weekday at midnight, starting with a one-hour interview and followed by several hours of discussion. By 1985, King was a household name and was hired by CNN to star in a television version of his interview show. CNN’s Larry King Live went on to set a Guinness World Record as the “longest-running TV show hosted by the same person on the same network”. Many iconic moments took place in his studio, including the Perot-Gore debate of 1993 (which became CNN’s most-watched segment ever), and the joint interview of Rabin and Arafat in 1995. Famous people loved to come on his show because he asked simple questions and made his interviewees feel at ease. He famously avoided reading up on his guests, preferring not to know much about them. King retired in 2010 after 25 years and a whopping 6000 episodes. Over that same time period, he was a regular columnist for USA Today. King went on to do several more popular shows on other networks, including Larry King Now and Politicking with Larry King. Over the years, he made countless appearances in sit-coms, commercials, movies, cartoons, and even the WWE. All in all, King conducted some 60,000 interviews over his career. He won two Peabody Awards for excellence in broadcasting and was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame. After suffering a heart attack in 1987, King started the Larry King Cardiac Foundation which has donated millions to pay for life-saving heart surgeries for people who cannot afford them. He also helped raise millions for Israel and for Chabad. He generally identified as a “Jewish agnostic” and said several years ago: “I love being Jewish, am proud of my Jewishness, and I love Israel.” Sadly, Larry King passed away earlier this year.

Words of the Week

Everyone loves the truth, but not everyone tells the truth.
– Yiddish proverb

Jews of the Week: Jerry Seinfeld & Larry David

Jerry Seinfeld

Jerry Seinfeld

Voted one of the greatest comedians of all time, Jerome Allen “Jerry” Seinfeld started his career at an open-mic night after graduating from college. He found his way to a Rodney Dangerfield HBO special, then appearances on late night talk shows, and small roles in little-known sitcoms. Finally, in 1989 he created The Seinfeld Chronicles along with fellow New York Jew Larry David. By its fourth season (then known simply as Seinfeld) it had become the most successful sitcom ever, and made Seinfeld the highest-paid celebrity of the time (he earned $267 million in 1998 alone!) Seinfeld is also a bestselling author and winner of multiple Emmy and Golden Globe awards. Interestingly, his father was Austrian Jewish, and his mother’s family is Syrian Jewish, having immigrated to the US from Turkey. Seinfeld also worked in an Israeli Kibbutz when he was 16.

Larry David

Larry David

Meanwhile, Lawrence Gene “Larry” David co-created and wrote 62 episodes for Seinfeld, including “The Contest” which won the distinction of being the best TV show episode of all time. Previously, he was a writer for Saturday Night Live, and many other comedy shows. Larry David is most famous for starring in Curb Your Enthusiasm, a unique show where the script is improvised by the actors as they are being filmed. It has been both criticized and praised for its heavy emphasis on Judaism and Jewish themes, and the show is thought to be based on the Yiddish archetype of a “schlemiel”. Like Seinfeld, Larry David is an author and winner of multiple Emmy awards.

Words of the Week

“A bookstore is one of the only pieces of evidence we have that people are still thinking.”
– Jerry Seinfeld