09 December 2010

50 Cents (cheap!)

 Hanukah Special!
8th Day Interview with comedy writer and filmmaker 
Jonathan Kesselman.

Today is the 8th day of Hanukah and since Tablet didn’t commission any Mormon US Senators to write another Hanukah song, I thought I’d go back to the source of the New Jewish Culture Movement, comedy writer and director Jonathan Kesselman, the inimitable creator of the Hebrew Hammer.  What a lot of people don’t realize is that the short version of the Hebrew Hammer came out in 1999 when Jon was at film school at USC.  That’s before Heeb, Matisyahu, Reboot, and the New Jewish Lawn Care Association began to transform Jewish culture as we know it.

To celebrate the 8th day of Hanukah, I called Jonathan, who’s in Brooklyn this month making a film. We are sitting across from one another in my kitchen in Prospect Heights, using Google Docs. Jonathan is eating half our pantry and drinking all our coffee.  One word of caution.  Due to the remarkable size of Jonathan’s remarkable maturity and remarkable potty-mouth, Jonathan insisted that I not censor anything he wrote.  If you offend easily, you may want to click away--NOW!

Happy Hanukah, Jonathan!

JK: Happy Hanukkah (it’s with two K’s, “Rabbi.”) By the way, I pre-date Google Docs as well. I’d like that to be on the record. While we’re discussing history, I also would like to point out that The Hebrew Hammer was personally responsible for rescuing Sergey Brin and his entire family from behind the Iron Curtain.    

AB:  Wow, I never knew that.  Fascinating. As a Jewish hero, what kind of special plans do you have for the 8th day of Hanukah, Jonathan?

JK: You know, that term “Jewish” gets bandied around a lot in reference to me. I’m going to say this one last time, I AM NOT Jewish. I just think you people are really, really funny. However, I do like that term, ‘Hero.’ Let’s talk more about that. Did I ever tell you about the heroic time I used my genitalia to bring a woman to orgasm? It was a very, very  long time ago … sort of like that Hanukkah miracle you speak about from days of yore.  

AB:  You do realize you used the plural of the word “genitals.”

JK: Yes, it’s true. I’m like that ... creature (?) in the book ‘Middlesex.’ I have a vagina with a little nubbin that sticks out of it.  

AB:  Well, this is off to an interesting start.  I have met several young men like you in Hebrew School.  I have a blanket policy of *not* kicking out kids like you.  You can’t break me.  “Hello, I Must Be Going” comes to mind.  So you don’t have plans?  And by the way, hermaphrodites are actually mentioned by the Sages in the Mishnah.

JK:  Yes, that’s correct.

AB:  Oh, so Jonathan--you’ve read the Mishnah?

JK: I didn’t get the chance to read it, but I did see the movie. That’s the one were Robert DeNiro carries the cross up the hill, right? Wasn’t Jeremy Irons in it too? I LOVE Jeremy Irons! What ever happened to him? He’s a remarkable actor! I loved him in Pink Panther 2. Some of his best work, you really should rent it if you haven’t ...

AB:  … Um, you know what?  Let’s move on.  Try this:  What does the Hebrew Hammer think about the Tea Party and Glenn Beck?

JK: First, The Hebrew Hammer spits angrily in disgust. (Spits angrily in disgust)

Sorry, I know you just got your kitchen re-floored, I promise I’ll clean it up in a second … Speaking of tea, can you make me another coffee?  

As the interview goes down into the Valley of Shadow of Death faster than hits to Julian Assange’s eHarmony profile, Jonathan’s phone rings and it’s Adam Dorn, an innovative recording artist, famed cultural critic, ethnomusicologist, and humorist--a kind of Jewish Hal Holbrooke--but who looks like Gabe Kaplan.  I’m listening in to their conversation and I can say with confidence that under their leadership, the Jewish people should disappear within half a generation.

AB:  Jonathan, this week the Obama Administration said it was curtailing its diplomatic efforts to convince the Israeli government to suspend its settlement policy.  Some see this as a sign of growing despair in the Middle East peace process.  The Hebrew Hammer was a diplomat of sorts--what is your take on what’s going on in Israel today?

JK:  Israel? Isn’t that the little Mediterranean country where people speak English that has more technological, economic, scientific, cultural advancements per capita than pretty much anywhere else in the world? Now that I think about it, I’ve been there once. It was kind of  like the United States -- but with a fairer tax code and less deodorant. You’re like the 100th person I’ve talked to this month who is entirely focused on that little slice of Americana that sits like a gentle olive in a plate of steaming, angry, anti-Semitic humus ... humus that will not stop until that little, nebbishy olive is pushed into a sea of tahini. Our country, however, is perfect. I don’t want to talk about that ... or, the Sudan, Somalia, Haiti, North and South Korea, Iran, Al Qaeda, Snooki’s poof. There’s so much to discuss in so little time, and I have to pee because of all this coffee. STOP WITH THE G-D DAMN COFFEE ALREADY!!!

AB:  The Sages say that Macabees used to be able to hold their pee.

JK: Who are The Sages? Are they an old Motown band? And if so, they are full of … Hasmonean dung!  

AB:  Jonathan, as an inventor of cutting-edge New Jewish Culture--what do you see on the horizon of the Jewish creative world?  What new trends do you see developing to engage young Jews in taking great pride in their Jewish heritage?

JK: There’s no money in Jewish culture or creativity. I see a trend of young, homeless, Jewish hipsters. If you want to make a living AND create “Jewish” art, you need to make things that maybe two people on earth would actually want to see or hear. Now that’s where the grant money is! Have I pitched you my new graphic novel/Ipad App/Coffee Table Book about Hasidic Pickle Merchants?

AB:  Now we’re getting somewhere.  Unfortunately, we’re almost out of time.  Are you currently dating?

JK: Define dating. Because if by dating, you mean being depressed while having drunken sex with virtual strangers in order to place a band-aid over the intense feelings of loneliness and horniness I’m feeling … then, YES!  Dating, and available! Ladies, Facebook me! ;)

AB:  Gee.  I wonder what your JDate profile reads like.

JK: ??? That was it. I just copied and pasted. Stop laughing. Seriously, I’m being 100% honest.

AB:  Well, on that note, I raise a glass to you, Jonathan Kesselman.  I’d offer you a latke but you’ve eaten them all.

JK: I see your raise, but then I re-raise by grabbing that glass from your feminine, bourgeois hands -- and then I drink from that glass fully -- slapping your girlish hands away as you try to regain control of it.  Not gonna happen, Jew Boy.

Thank you for having me, Andy. Now, the last question for you: Is there a bathroom nearby? Latkes and coffee go together like Ex-Lax and Borscht.

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