The Shmooze

Comedian Tales — It's All in the Timing

By Masha Leon

  • Print
  • Share Share

It was all about tale telling at the Society of Illustrators’ “From the Borscht Belt to Seinfeld: The Evolution of Jewish American Comedy.”

With welcoming comments by Society’s executive director Anelle Miller, panelists included Yiddish scholar and Jewish comedy maven Prof. Edward Portnoy, “comedy writer Tom Leopold (“Seinfeld,” “Cheers”), Drew Friedman, whose amazing caricature illustrations of comedians graced the gallery walls, director producer Bill Persky (“Dick Van Dyke Show,” “Sid Caesar,” “That Girl”) and irrepressible actor-comedian Larry Storch.

“Good evening boys and girls,” Storch greeted the roomful of fans. Experiencing a few punch line lapses, a befuddled Storch sat down, but no sooner did someone else claim the mic, Storch jumped out of his chair, commandeered the mic and completed his narrative.

Back row : Drew Friedman Bill Persky Tom Leopold and Edward Portnoy // Front row: Anelle Miller and Larry Storch // Photo: Karen Leon

Storch, who served with Tony Curtis on a U.S. submarine tender in 1944, recalled: “He told me ‘I’m going to be a great actor one day’ and I told him ‘you’re a good looking kid, why not model some clothes?’ Tony said, ‘No! No! No! Don’t try to stop me! ‘ I told him when the war is over, ‘if you need any help, call me.’ So the war is over and he becomes TONY CURTIS! and I am struggling in dives. I call Tony and in a Russian accent ask, ’Do you need a Russian for a new play or picture? I speak Russian…. Tony Curtis was my life-saver and I never forgot it.”

Bill Persky — whose sister married Paul Grossinger the same month that Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier, joked: “My sister did a lot better— the food was better and Grossinger’s was larger than Monaco.”

Persky recalled directing Jan Murray in a movie when the stand-up comic became a grandfather. “Jan didn’t want anyone to know it because he thought it would hurt his career and told everyone ‘I don’ want this out, I have an audition tomorrow for a movie.’ He goes to the audition and the producer says: ‘Jan…I thought you were older!’ So Jan chimed in, ‘Are you kidding? I’m a grandfather!’”

Later, I told Persky about my Jan Murray encounter. For my 1983, annual Forward “Catskills Chronicles” column, I chose Brickman’s, aka the “Catskills’ Citadel of Comedians.” Ringside in the 800-seat nightclub, I wrote in my pad: “tanned face, trim, gleaming white hair.” An angry Murray walks over, hovers above my table: “No one writes down my jokes! What have we got here?” he reaches for my pad. “What’s this: ‘ Red shirt, white pants, black jacket?’ Are you with “Womens’ Wear Daily?”

Total silence in the room. “I’m with the Forward. The Forverts.”

He put the pad on the piano, about to start — the nightmare of every stand-up — lost the rhythm of his routine and begins pacing the stage. “Look what that Forverts lady did he to me!” he bellows. After a few minutes of ad-libbing, Murray was back on track. Years later when he’d spot me at a Catskill hotel, he’d introduce me to his entourage with:” Let me tell you what this Forverts lady did to me!”


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: jewish, society of illustrators, jan murray, grossinger, comedy, comedian, catskills, bill persky

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!
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • Why are peace activists getting beat up in Tel Aviv? http://jd.fo/s4YsG
  • Backstreet's...not back.
  • 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.