Columbus Hillel Humor Jewish Michigan

2 Rabbis walk into a Comedy Club

There have been a lot of comedy events lately and that makes sense. The Hebrew month of Adar, with the festive holiday of Purim in the middle of the month, is approaching and according to the famous phrase, “when Adar comes we increase our joy.” And that seems to be exactly what everyone’s doing.

Rabbi Jason Miller and Jewtopia (Bryan Fogel & Sam Wolfson)This past Saturday night, Congregation Shaarey Zedek in Southfield (a suburb of Detroit, Michigan) brought the off-Broadway show “Jewtopia” to their shul. I believe it was a more sanitized version of the show that I saw in New York City this past December with a group from my shul since the full version would not be appropriate in a synagogue. I thought “Jewtopia” was great and I even bought the “Jewtopia” book after the show which the writers/actors, Bryan Fogel and Sam Wolfson (in photo at right), graciously autographed.

Locally in Columbus, Ohio, it all started Thursday night when I had dinner with Israeli comic David KilimnickRabbi David Kilimnick (left). I was asked to take David to dinner and then to his performance at Tifereth Israel, the other Conservative shul down the street in Columbus. David performed his routine for about 180 USYers who were in town for a Central Region USY (CRUSY) Kinnus hosted by Tifereth Israel and at Agudas Achim. Unfortunately for David, his show was in the main sanctuary, which proved to be a poor venue but he did get some laughs from his funny perspective on making aliyah. David also performed Friday night for Ohio State University Hillel and then on Saturday night for the Main Street Synagogue (Torat Emet).

Rabbi Jason Miller & Rabbi Bob AlperI thought it was pretty funny that a rabbi was doing stand-up comedy at the Main Street Synagogue across town on the same night that my shul, Agudas Achim, was hosting a rabbi doing stand-up comedy as well. Rabbi Bob Alper (in photo to right) contacted me a few months ago about doing a Saturday night concert for us and I thought it was a great idea. Jake Kander, our program director, took care of all the arrangements and asked if I would be willing to be the opening act. I’ve never really done stand-up comedy before, unless you count introducing some comedians with a few jokes as I have done with some local comics from Detroit and for the Sklar Brothers (in photo to left). I also got some good laughs in October when I gave the “invocation” before “Boys Night Out,” a night of comedy hosted by my shul’s brotherhood.

So I agreed to warm up the crowd before Bob Alper took the stage. There were a couple articles about Bob Alper in the local Jewish newspapers in Columbus leading up to the event, including a great front page article in This Week Community Newspapers (Bexley edition). Some photos from the Bob Alper show are available here. Below are two video clips of my opening act. The first is my stand-up routine and the second clip is my introduction of Bob Alper.

Rabbi Jason Miller & Sklar Brothers (Randy and Jason Sklar)Here is the front page article from This Week Community Newspapers:

In keeping with a long-running Jewish comic tradition, two rabbis will perform stand-up comedy Saturday, Feb. 10, at the Congregation Agudas Achim, 2767 E. Broad St.

The 7 p.m. show, which is open to the public, features professional stand-up comic and rabbi Bob Alper. Alper, who has been performing for 20 years, was a rabbi in Buffalo and Philadelphia for 14 years before becoming a professional comic.

Alper performs for synagogues, churches, colleges and other venues as he travels the country. His tag line: “The world’s only practicing clergyman doing stand up…intentionally.” He is also the first Jewish person to earn a doctorate from Princeton Theological Seminary.

His comedy, which is sanitized for a family audience, isn’t totally preoccupied with religion.

“My comedy is half religious. You don’t have to be Jewish to get the jokes,” Alper said.

Alper’s career took off after he placed third out of 100 entries in a Philadelphia comedy contest. He was beaten by a chiropractor and a lawyer, he said. He travels across the country, performing about 100 shows a year.

He frequently performs with Ahmed Ahmed, an Arab Muslim stand-up comedian. They sometimes team up for college shows that are sponsored by the school’s diversity department or the Hillel and Muslim Student Association.

Rabbi Jason Miller of Agudas Achim will warm up the audience with a few jokes of his own. Laughter and fun, Miller said, are key components to the Jewish faith.

“It is important in life to be able to laugh at ourselves. It is a core concept in Judaism to have fun and enjoy life,” he said.

When Miller became the Agudas Achim rabbi eight months ago, his first column in the congregation’s newsletter addressed how important it is to have fun in the synagogue.

“One thing that not enough rabbis drive home is how important it is to have fun while they are in the building,” he said. “Both young and old should feel like this is a place to have fun.”

Miller even teaches a class about Jewish humor. Comics like Woody Allen, Larry David, Mel Brooks and Lenny Bruce are the public faces of the comic tradition in the religion.

The sometimes self-deprecating style of Jewish comedy recognizes that there is humor in being Jewish. Miller recently took some congregants to New York to see “Jewtopia,” a Broadway show that lampoons Jewish stereotypes.

“We were in pain from laughing so hard,” Miller said. “It’s healthy.”

Anyone interested in scoring free beer and learning more about the relationship between Judaism and humor can attend Rabbi Miller’s monthly class, Torah on Tap, at the Bexley Monk on East Main Street. The next installment is at 7 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 22.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |
Humor Jewish Purim

Pimp My Purim Shpiel!

“Why isn’t your Purim Spiel funny?” asks Rob Kutner (pictured) on his ‘Shushan Channel‘ website. Kutner is a writer for “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.” He continues, “Jewish people are the funniest people in the world. So why are most Purim spiels [their spelling… I use “shpiel”] so lame? We’re not sure, but we decided to fix the problem. Enter “The Shushan Channel.”

Rob Kutner ( Shushan Channel offers to raise the bar on Purim by providing original, topical and hilarious Purim shpiels created by top comedy writers from New York and LA. These shpiels can be used by synagogues, Hillels or JCCs and are guaranteed to make people laugh.

From the website you can look at sample sketches and read reviews from congregations who have used The Shushan Channel in the past. I watched the sample sketches and they are pretty funny, but even with a good script it is still critical to have good delivery and comic timing. Most Purim shpiels are so bad, however, that at least with some professional comedy writers there is bound to be an improvement.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |

The Man of 100 Voices

In Rabbinical School, I remember learning that in order to deliver good sermons a rabbi has to find his/her voice. Well, here’s a video of a man (Jared Gordon) who has found 100 other voices (and can do them in only 4 minutes). I’ve always been a fan of celebrity impressions and this guy is hillarious.

Like Saturday Night Live’s “Lazy Sunday” (Chronicles of Narnia Rap) viral video, there are a lot of challengers (see “Lazy Shabbos”) on YouTube, but I think Jared Gordon does the best impressions.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |
Humor JTS

Rabbi Jason or Elf Jason?

Office Max has a new promotion on the Web, called Elf Yourself, that allows you to upload a head shot of you or a friend to create a dancing elf. Here is my creation. It’s not the best cutout of my face, but I didn’t want to spend [er, waste] too much time doing this.

Thanks to Arthur Bocian of Congregation Agudath Israel in Caldwell, NJ for letting me know about this fun waste of time!

I actually like the Elf Yourself I did with the face of Arnie Eisen, the new chancellor of The Jewish Theological Seminary. Fortunately, Prof. Eisen has a great sense of humor. I found it to be even funnier if you play the song “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” from Disney’s “The Lion King” while you watch Chancellor Eisen dance.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |
Humor Jewish

Hanukkah-mania? No Wrestle-mania!

Here’s a great video from the Man Show with Jimmy Kimmel and Adam Carrola in which they spend the eight nights of Hanukkah with the professional wrestler Goldberg.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |
Humor Jewish

Jewish Parody of Harry Potter

Harry Plotzer and the Sanhedrin’s Stone
A Jewish parody of the first book of the kosher adventures of the Hogwarts hero.

by Doug Brook and available on Jewcy

Hat tip to Jewsweek

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |
Celebrities Humor Jewish Movies Music

Funny Jew Stuff

Funny selections from Jewsweek’s Jewriffic Awards.

Best reference to child molestation:
“Rabbi Feldman, stop touching me!”
— Adam Sandler on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno explaining what he was thinking when the director of his new movie, Spanglish, told him to channel a time from his childhood that would make him cry on cue.

Best rip-off of Fiddler on the Roof by a hot woman: Gwen Stefani riffs on Fiddler on the Roof on her new CD Love, Angel, Music, Baby with the song “Rich Girl,” a take off of Tevye’s “If I were a rich man”.

“Now that you’ve let the secret out that I’m not Jewish, I expect my career to be done. Thank you very much. I appreciate that. My career is officially over.”
— Jason Biggs thanking the women of “The View” for alerting the world to the fact that he’s not Jewish.

Best piece of political critique: “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a time when the party that controlled the Senate, the House, the White House and the Supreme Court was so out of sorts about how little respect they get. At a certain point you want to say, “OK, Goliath. Stop pretending.”
— Jon Stewart writing about the recent elections in Rolling Stone Magazine.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |