Take my joke, please! Oy vey! Kosher comedy site gives bubbe and zeyde a chance to take over the mike
Take my joke, please!
Oy vey! Kosher comedy site gives bubbe and zeyde a chance to take over the mike
By SHEILA McCLEAR
Posted: 1:16 AM, June 29, 2010
What happens when you put a bunch of old Jews on a soundstage and invite them to crack wise? Thirteen hours and about 140 video clips later, they’re still funny — and they’ve eaten all the pastrami sandwiches and cookies.
The concept behind the wildly popular Web site Old Jews Telling Jokes (oldjewstellingjokes.com) is simple. It basically involves everybody’s bubbe and zeyde telling their time-tested jokes in front of the camera. Four new videos are posted to the Web site each week. “Everyone has a grandparent or a great-uncle that was known for telling jokes, especially at family gatherings,” says producer Eric Spiegelman.
The Web site, he says, “is like comfort food: It’s warm and good for the soul. Even if the jokes are off-color. Maybe even especially because some are off-color.”
Spiegelman and the site’s creator, Sam Hoffman, started recording the geriatric jokesters a year and a half ago in a storefront in Highland Park, NJ. As the site expanded, they did a recording session at a soundstage in Hollywood, and last Friday, at the RGA Digital Studios in Midtown.
Chairs were set up for the audience — mostly the other jokesters — to watch and laugh at the others as they waited to tell their quips. “You’re not tellin’ it right!” Marvin Nissenbaum’s wife called out when he fumbled his punch line.
Members of the tribe came from far and wide in response to a call for Talmudic talent that the Web site put in its e-newsletter. Others learned about it through their children or grandchildren. One man traveled all the way from Louisville, Ky. Others simply stopped by on their lunch hour, told their joke and left.
“My granddaughter heard about the filming and said, ‘My bubbe tells good jokes,’ ” says Ettie Steinberg, 79, who came in from Philadelphia to tell her joke. “Some people have an innate sense of humor. I always found that it defused a lot of trouble. My husband and I are married 62 years. In this age and era, it’s a big deal.”
She then proceeded to tell a few jokes ribald enough to make a longshoreman blush.
Salt Lake City resident Louis Borgenicht, 67, was in town attending his 50th high-school reunion.
“I got an e-mail that they were taping, and said, ‘This is perfect. This is my favorite Web site in the world,’ ” he says. “I’ve always been funny,” he adds confidently.
“It’s a genetic thing, but it’s not from my mother. Maybe not from my father, either. It’s a spontaneous mutation.”
For Hoffman, 43, the site is about more than humor — it’s a link to the past.
“The project really has two goals: to entertain and to archive,” he says. “This type of storytelling won’t be around forever.”