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December 14, 2011 By:
A Really Big Show!
What would Judah Maccabee say?
You light up my life? Maybe, "Got some extra oil to fry up a batch of latkes?"
Or just throw another Lag B'Omer on the fire: It all would be in keeping with the celebratory mood he'd probably have after attending the Semitic semantic world of Jewmongous, Sean Altman's potato-pancakes worthy put-on which he will stage on Dec. 22, during Chanukah, at MilkBoy Coffee in Ardmore.
The tall and the short of it: The gospel acording to the cover art for "Jewmongous"
MilkBoy? A pareve parody for the holiday? No wrong in milking the religion for laughs, which Bronx-boy Altman does once over lightly and warmly. Call it a blintz blitz; the humor comes out lyrically in such daffy ditties as "They Tried to Kill Us (We Survived, Let's Eat)" and "Long Tongue Shloime." (Don't ask, but do tell!)
Is nothing sacred? Or is Altman -- who would never claim he's bigger than Jesus, just, at 6 foot 3 inches, taller (he's written an album about it) -- a menace to menorahs everywhere?
Well, spin the dreidel and take your chances, he warns, because his shtick uses kugel as a cudgel for some Jewish killer comedy.
Jewmongous? As Carly Simon would have said -- if she had seen Sean Altman's show or maybe even knew who he was -- nobody does it bigger.
But people do know who Altman is; he has composed for off-Broadway, collaborated with a number of groups and, as part of Rockapella -- which he founded -- Altman co-wrote the theme song and appeared for years in Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?
And just where in the world is he now? In Israel, performing prior to his MilkBoy gig, proving that matzah is not just a meal but a meal ticket to him. Not that he's got that special K approval. A secular Jew, he concedes he really didn't know much about Simchat Torah before parodying it in What the Hell is Simchat Torah?
"I thought that was an obscure holiday," he says.
"Now I know: I should have picked Shemini Atzeret instead."
He is the pick of critics, some of whom have called him the "anti-Kurt Cobain." But he has always been a rebel with a cause; it was just tracking down that cause that took so long.
He rebelled by going outside the pushke box and marrying a non-Jewish woman during his roaring 20s; now, a nifty 50, he's changed his ways: "Marrying a knockout JDate Jewess cemented the deal." Not in a Jimmy Hoffa kind of cement, but still the kind that makes for good foundations.
He's learned a lot since that first marriage outside the chupah ("Mistake No. 1"); the tribal rights that come with marrying a Jewish woman have helped since. "Even though I have never been religious, I have always felt connected to Judaism," says the comedian who "always knew I'd never be a Talmudic scholar" but was smart enough to know what he likes.
And that includes a capella: "Rockapella next year celebrates its 25th anniversary," he intones even if he doesn't exactly sing the praises of The Sing Off, TV's paean to a capella that pains him a bit. "I can't believe they didn't invite me on to be a judge," he says not so seriously of his "sour grapes."
It's a sweet whine, however, as he does well elsewhere. And as far as his show at MilkBoy? Now that Mel Gibson has announced his intent to make a movie about Chanukah, "audiences are probably grateful that they'll be seeing me and not Mel" -- who carried the cross in The Passion of the Christ -- "carrying the show."