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July 04, 2003 - Image 64

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-07-04

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Arts Entertain ent

REBELS OF COMEDY from page 58

Leonard Berman), pioneer of self-confes-
sional humor; Nichols (ne Peschkowsky)
and May (nee Berlin), who developed
comic self-analysis and a study in male-
female relationships; Bruce (born
Leonard Schneider), who conducted his
own sexual, drug and language revolu-
tion; Brooks (ne Kaminsky), who
invented the Yiddishization of American
comedy; Frye (ne Shapiro), who helped
stretch the boundaries of mimicry; Allen
(born Allan Konigsberg), comedy writer,
standup star and movie director; and
Rivers (nee Molinsky), who won acclaim
by mocking celebrities and delivering
bitchy, comic gossip, then becoming a
fashion maven.
Jordan, who became famous imitating
newspaper columnist and TV show host
Ed Sullivan, wouldn't divulge his real
name to Nachman, who believes Jordan
may be Jewish. Nachman said a number
of celebrities prefer to keep their Jewish
identities secret.
"Phyllis Diller isn't Jewish, though a lot
of people think she is — and she just lets
them do so," he added. "There was a
misconception that the late Stan Freberg,
who mainly did parodies of hit records
and commercials, was Jewish because of
his last name, but he wasn't."
Among the other comedians men-
tioned by the author are such "members
of the comic Jewish Mafia" as Milton
Berle, Jack Benny, George Jessel, Henny
Youngman, Joe E. Lewis, Jack Carter,
Buddy Hackett, Jack E. Leonard, Sam
Levenson, Myron Cohen, Alan King,
Joey Adams, Shecky Greene, Phil Foster,
Selma Diamond, Jan Murray, Freddie
Roman, Mal Z. Lawrence, Jackie Mason,
Jerry Lester, Rodney Dangerfield (born
Jacob Cohen) and Gary Morton (Lucille
Ball's husband after Desi Arnaz).
Also cited are some of the more mod-
em comics —Jerry Seinfeld, Robert
Klein, Paul Reiser and Rita Rudner.
"I made the latter group part of the
book because I wanted to get their slants
on their rebel counterparts of the mid-
20th century," said Nachman.
Some comedy buffs might quibble
that Caesar, who descended into a life
of alcohol and pills when TV's Your
Show of Shows was canceled, and
Brooks, the "2000-Year-Old Man,"
shouldn't be in the book because their
material was more in line with the
comics who preceded them.
In extolling the virtues of the rebels,
Nachman says it's not his intention to
" put down" the veteran comics. But
"they just did machine-gun-type jokes,
some impressions and some singing,"
he says. "The great comedians [in the
book] changed comedy forever.

7/ 4
2003

64

"They caused a revolt, if not a
takeover, and they left behind a satirical
legacy distinguished by its social and
political awareness, literacy, ingenuity
and theatrical flair. Even now, as comic
elder statesmen and women, they remain
revered names in comedy."
Nachman gives 46 pages to Lenny
Bruce, whom he labels "the Elvis of
Stand-up" and a "legendary folk hero."
He was a "complicated person, and it
takes a lot of room just to describe his
arrests and trials on obscenity and drug
charges," said the author.
Ironically, Bruce's pioneering act of
vulgarities pales in comparison to what
is heard in some of the movies and
cable TV programs of today. Bruce
died at age 40 in 1966.
"It's a marvelous book, very interesting
and extremely accurate," commented
Shelley Berman from his home in Bell
Canyon, Calif, near Los Angeles.
"Nachman was sort of tough on Mort
Sahl, but he was very kind to me —
although I came off sounding a bit like a
kvetch. He doesn't really demean the old
comedy era. He just tells why he thinks
the later era was better."
Berman's career was almost ruined
by a 1963 TV documentary that
showed him blowing his top backstage
when a phone rang to interrupt his
most famous routine.
Now in his mid-70s and married for
56 years, he still plays Las Vegas and
other clubs around the country and has a
recurring role in Curb Your Enthusiasm,
the hit comedy series on HBO featuring
new "rebel comedy writer" Larry David.
Nachman, 65, a California native,
whose father was a Sunday school
teacher and a local actor, wanted to be
a cartoonist but got a journalism
degree instead at Santa Fe (Calif.)
State College. "My family wasn't too
religious, but we observed all of the
traditions and holidays," he said.
For more than 40 years, Nachman has
covered theater, movies, cabaret and TV
for magazines and such newspapers as the
Los Angeles Times, the New York Times
and the San Francisco Chronicle. He also
is the author of the book Raised on Radio.
"Ultimately, there is a kind of perform-
ing heroism in the personalities profiled
[in Seriously Funny]," Nachman asserted.
"Many of these comedians led lives of
noisy desperation, often full of drama,
damaged dreams, even tragedy. Their sto-
ries were packed with the rich, raw mate-
rial of comedians who refused to be
denied and demanded to be heard.
"The laughter they left behind in all of
those little underground clubs is long
gone, but their legacy still smiles brightly,
warmly and merrily." ❑

Kristin Davis as
Charlotte York:
Converting?

FINDING NACHAS from page 62

KOSHER 'SEX' from page 63

But he has to start getting ready for
his bar mitzvah — even if four years
away seems an eternity.
Is the most popular fish in this sum-
mer's watershed movie Jewish?
"Yes, I guess Nemo is," says Alexander.
In its saga of a father searching for his
son, what Disney and Pixar have cast is
a timeless tale that tugs at the heart.
"Nemo taught me that if you put
your mind to something, you can do
it,"' says the well-schooled son of Tom
and Valerie Gould.
"I have special feelings for them," he
says of his aquatic buddies, but he
"loves animals," and his household
holds quite a menagerie: a dog, a cat,
three frogs and a thousand worms in a
bin in the garage.
"They're for compost," says Alexander.
While he'd like a bar mitzvah project
involving marine biology, this is one
kid who can see the forest for the trees.
"I'm working on Bambi II," he says
of the video for which he is supplying
the title character's voice.
"It has a whole different feel to it,"
says Alexander of going from the
water to the woods.

Cindy Chupack, the show's co-execu-
tive producer and one of its writers.
Chupack, who is Jewish, said that
Charlotte (the only member of the
quartet to have walked down the
aisle) was more likely for this storyline
than her friends: Carrie (Sarah Jessica
Parker), Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) or
Samantha (Kim Catrall).
"Charlotte always had the most
fairy-tale vision of love, and, when she
married Trey, it was a 'be careful what
you wish for' situation," Chupack
said. "Last season, we loved the idea
of putting someone in Charlotte's
path who was the opposite of what
she thought she wanted. The problem
was not that Harry was Jewish, it was
that he was loud, crass and hairy —
every place but on his head."
Chupack is mum on if there is a
chuppah in Charlotte's future (producers
have said there will be two weddings at
the end of the season). All she will say is
that "this is not a season to pass over."
The first 12 of 20 new episodes
debuted June 22 and are currently air-
ing 9 p.m. Sundays on HBO; the rest
will air beginning in January 2004. ❑



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