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January 16, 2004 - Image 11

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2004-01-16

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

SAAB OF TROY

In The State of Independence,
pportunities are Around Every CORNER.

Groucho Brings Down An Elephant

their humor was, or seemed to be, uni-
ne of my
versally
applicable.
favorite
Epstein
and the curators at the
movie
Jewish
Museum
feel that these great
entrances of
comedians ended up with a double
all time is Groucho
consciousness. Their comedy was
Marx striding ... well,
informed
by their Jewishness but they
more like bounding ...
could
not
really state it.
onscreen to the strains
Maybe
so.
But I don't know how
of "Captain
GEORGE
they
then
can
account for Groucho's
Spaulding" in the
CANTOR
"schnorrer, " or for the fact that the
1930 film Animal
Reality Check Crackers:
leading role in the first sound picture
was
that of a conflicted chazzan in The
"Hooray for Captain
Jazz
Singer.
Spaulding, the African explorer.
In many ways, I think the American
`Did someone call me schnorrer?'
public
of that age was far more tolerant
"Hooray, Hooray, Hooray."
of overt ethnic humor than ours is.
The tune is familiar to later genera-
Look at Fanny Brice and Eddie
tions as the theme of Groucho's tele-
Cantor. Many of their routines fea-
vised quiz show "You Bet Your Life."
tured
heavy Jewish dialect material.
But it is a source of wonder to me
The
Goldbergs
was one of the top-
that a quintessential Yiddish
word like "schnorrer" could
have appeared in a movie made
for general release more than
70 years ago.
When my wife and I were in
New York last summer, we
went to an exhibit at the Jewish
Museum on the influence of
Jews on movies and broadcast-
ing.
I am impatient with academ-
ic analyses of humor or assign-
ing it certain ethnic characteris-
tics. This is an exercise that
usually involves lots of chin
stroking and throwing around
of words like "alienation" and
anxiety.
It seems to me that great
comedy in every age is always
=g4,1.414i1:w1,1„.
the work of outsiders telling
Groucho Marx
the self-important and pompous
rated shows of early radio and that was
that they are ridiculous. From the wise
as ethnic as you can get.
slaves in the satire of Juvenal, to the
A few moments after singing
fools and jesters of Shakespeare, to the
"Captain
Spaulding," Groucho launch-
clowns of Italian comedy.
es
into
a
monologue
about the joys of
The Jews just happened to hit their
big-game hunting in Africa. "One
stride as sound film and radio came in.
morning I shot an elephant in my
The Marx Brothers did not play the
pajamas. How it got in my pajamas I'll
roles of obviously Jewish characters.
never know. ),
Certainly not in the same way that
You can argue that this is the perpet-
Woody Allen or Mel Brooks do.
ually
excluded Jew ridiculing the privi-
In his book The Haunted Smile,
leged
class and its preoccupation with
Lawrence J. Epstein wrote that the
Marxes, George Burns, Jack Benny and killing things.
Or you can say it is inventive word
Milton Berle "offered an assimilationist
play based on the peculiarities of sen-
model based on a subtle contract
tence construction of the English lan-
offered by the culture: Jewish comedi-
guage.
I vote for that one.
ans. . . were fully accepted so long as
Because funny is universal, and I bet
Groucho knew that all along. ❑
George Cantor's e-mail address is
gcantor@thejewishnews.com

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SAAB OF TROY

1819

Welcome to the state
of independence

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79791-

Know a wonderful
Zaydie who's over 80?

Jewish Apartments and Services is
seeking nominees for the 2004 Eight
Over Eighty program. Each year we
honor eight senior adults over eighty
years of age who have made our com-
munity a better place to live through
their volunteerism. The event raises
money that provides food subsidies for
those JAS residents with low incomes.

Call Marketing Director Pete Wurdock
at 248.592.1101 or E-mail
Pwurylock@ jasmi.org for a nomination
form. They are due on January 31st.

J,N

TIME IS RUNNING OUT and don't
forget your Bubbe!

1/16
2004

7.91 thot
.

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