Unorthodox Jews

"Good for the Jews," the Paradise Lounge, December 16, 2006
By IAN SANDS  |  December 22, 2006
Rob Tannenbaum and Sean Altman, co-creators of the comedy/music revue "What I Like About Jew" recently decided to called it quits after seven years. In an unnecessarily thorough piece the Washington Post published earlier this month on the breakup, the duo mention that it just "wasn't fun anymore" as well as an argument over online directions (Altman prefers Mapquest, Tannenbaum is partial to Google Maps). The good news is that a pair of brand new groups have sprung up as a result. Altman's "Jewmongous" is touring this holiday season and is scheduled to stop off at Club Passim next week. Tannenbaum brought his "Good for the Jews," along with partner David Fagin of the Rosenbergs, to the Paradise Lounge this past Saturday on the second night of Chanukah.

In case you're not familiar with Tannenbaum's work in "What I Like About Jew," I should note that he doesn't sing feel-good Chanukah ditties in the style of the Leevees nor does he steal any pages out of Matisyahu's prayer book. His is a foul-mouthed, shtick-heavy act inspired by the borscht-belt comics and the seventies-era, Mad Magazine-reading punks. "I've got two pubic hairs and a three piece suit" was the first line sung Saturday night, from the Bar Mitzvah-spoofing "Today I Am a Man," and that from a straight-faced Fagin. Tannenbaum, who is also Blender's music editor, mimed along with the lyrics. By the time the song was through, the duo had uttered four different words for the genitals, plus "Percocet," "a slutty brunette," and "a hooker with a big huge chest."

"The way we explain it is there are Reform Jews, Conservative Jews, Orthodox Jews. We're Unorthodox Jews," said Tannenbaum in his reddish velvet suit.

It came as no surprise that the only liturgy lesson we got was the bogus kind. I'm referring, of course, to "They Tried to Kill Us (We Survived, Let's Eat)," a track about Passover that relies as much on pop culture as it does on scripture. Somewhere in there, Charlton Heston calls the Pharaoh "a damn dirty ape," and the Israelites battle the "fearsome Viet Cong." We were encouraged to belt the words "Let's Eat" at the end of each chorus and then chided when we missed one.

Fagin played guitar and contributed vocals, but for the most part he stayed out of the way. That strategy seemed to work fine for Tannenbaum, who was always the more talkative half of "What I Like About Jew." On song breaks, he told crude, cringe-inducing jokes like this one about an exchange he had with his grandmother concerning his single status. "She said, 'Robbala, I don't understand, even Rosie O'Donnell got married.' And I said 'well I suppose she eats pussy better than me Grandma.' Because you've got to set boundaries with your family." This, as you can imagine, got a decent rise out of the audience (anytime you put "Grandma" and "pussy" in the same sentence you're going to get that sort of thing). Later he was serenading a young woman in my corner of the room to the tune of "I'm Better Looking (Than The Guy You're Going Out With)" as her male companion looked on.

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