The Arty Semite

Is Rick Moranis 'Too Jewish'?

By Mark Cohen

  • Print
  • Share Share

Writing about Rick Moranis required that I remind myself what he’s done. After all, his great comic roles in Mel Brooks’ “Spaceballs” and the first “Ghostbusters” movie are pushing 30. So I sneaked over to YouTube to watch Moranis order his starship to “ludicrous speed,” and in “Ghostbusters” ask, “Okay, who brought the dog?”

But what has Moranis done lately? Well, in 2005 he released a Grammy Award-nominated comedy song album called “The Agoraphobic Cowboy,” a parody of the freedom-loving cowboys that complain about being fenced in. And now he has an enjoyable new comedy album called “My Mother’s Brisket & Other Love Songs” that will please many in the Jewish community and provoke students of popular culture to wonder if Moranis will be the one to finally reach that frightening land of commercial failure known as “Too Jewish.”

On his website Moranis tells us that’s exactly where he’s headed. “When I first began writing jokes and sketches with various Jewish partners one of us would inevitably stop at some point and announce, ‘Too Jewish!’ Too Jewish for the star, the show, the network, or the audience. The songs on this album are all in that category.”

Yes, they are. And some of them are terrific. In the klezmer-style “Pu-Pu-Pu,” the Toronto-born Moranis pays homage to the sanitary North American version of the Old World spitting that helped ward off the evil eye.

We ran into the Feldmans
Man did they look great.
Mindy graduated with a three point eight
Milty says they’re just about to renovate
And don’t tell anybody but Debbie is late.

Pu-Pu-Pu
Pu-Pu-Pu
When it’s too good to be true
Pu-Pu-Pu

“Kiss My Mezuzah” is a Jewish “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” Moranis-as-seducer shows off his apartment and woos his love with, “Blessed are you, and oh yeah me too / You’re in the home of a mensch.” “Brisket” is up-to-date, not nostalgic, and so can lampoon society’s latest excesses. The man who wants his mezuzah kissed shows off his “60-inch plasma,” and in another song a social media obsessed guest records that “I’m fressing with one hand so I can live blog.” Live blog what? “The Himel family bris.”

It is easy to see why Moranis cites early 1960s Jewish song parodist Allan Sherman as one of his inspirations. Sherman was among the first to be warned that his Jewish material would cause him to fall off the edge of the earth. Instead, his three “My Son” albums led Sherman to a land of fame and riches. It is kismet, then, or bashert, that “Brisket” ushers in this summer’s 50th anniversary of Sherman’s “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh.” (And would it kill you if I should plug my new Allan Sherman biography, ”Overweight Sensation” that’s gotten such nice reviews? Pu-pu-pu!)

The cover art on “My Mother’s Brisket & Other Love Songs” features a Friday night Shabbos table complete with candles, silver Kiddush cup, a four-sided wine bottle that announces from across the room it’s Manischewitz, and a challah. At the center of it all is Moranis, helping himself to some brisket offered by a motherly figure wearing a frumpy housecoat and oven mitts. On his head, Moranis wears a yarmulke. It is brown and almost invisible against his brown hair. Would a white yarmulke have been too Jewish? Maybe not. But before we go crazy let’s see Brisket’s sales figures.

Listen to ‘Pu Pu Pu’ from ‘My Mother’s Brisket & Other Love Songs’:


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Rick Moranis, My Mother's Brisket, Music, Mel Brooks, Comedy, Allen Sherman

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • “You can plagiarize the Bible, can’t you?” Jill Sobule says when asked how she went about writing the lyrics for a new 'Yentl' adaptation. “A couple of the songs I completely stole." Share this with the theater-lovers in your life!
  • Will Americans who served in the Israeli army during the Gaza operation face war crimes charges when they get back home?
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • "I feel great sorrow about the fact that you decided to return the honor and recognition that you so greatly deserve." Rivka Ben-Pazi, who got Dutchman Henk Zanoli recognized as a "Righteous Gentile," has written him an open letter.
  • Is there a right way to criticize Israel?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.