The spots feature some of America's most iconic older comedians and comedy writers -- Carl Reiner, Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara, Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman, Valerie Harper, Garry Marshall and Larry Gelbart. Their observations, tightly edited and interwoven in three 30-second spots titled, "Vice President," "Fear Tactics" and "Grandchildren," are both humorous and serious.
For instance, in "Vice President," Reiner, while winking, says of Republican John McCain's running mate Sarah Palin: "And he wants to put that girl who winks in the second position?"
"Unqualified," is Harper's serious retort.
All speak in support of Obama's plans for health care, Social Security, the economy and other issues. And they argue in favor of change in the White House after eight years of a Republican administration.
The specific goal of "Ain't Funny" is to help dispel fears and suspicions that voters -- especially older Jews in the swing states of Florida and Ohio -- might have about Obama. Most, but not all, of the on-screen participants are Jewish. The rationale behind the choice of spokespeople, said comedy writer Gelbart (the "M*A*S*H" TV series, the movie "Tootsie"), who is Jewish, is: "They've given me so much pleasure, why would they give me a bum steer now after a lifetime of enjoyment?"
Those contacted by The Journal said they were eager to participate.
"It's absolutely essential to me we hose out the building of this administration," said Harper, who while not Jewish has played Rhoda Morgenstern on television and Golda Meir on the stage. "I was very attracted to not just the candidate but the message of the Democratic Party. So it was easy for me to say yes. I want people to vote and to end the terrible, failed policies."
The nonprofit Jewish Alliance for Change has raised money to broadcast the three short spots on cable networks in four Florida markets -- North Miami, West Palm Beach, Hollywood and Fort Lauderdale. It also may air them in Ohio if it has enough money.
Supporters can also contribute to buy airtime themselves in any television market they desire through a partnership between Ain't Funny and a new organization, SaysMe.TV. Information is available at the Ain't Funny Web site.
"We decided the most effective way to use the resources we have is to remove the air of fear some older voters have about Obama," said Doni Remba, Jewish Alliance for Change's executive director. "If they hear it from people they've watched and loved and who have entertained them their whole lives, they have an emotional bond of trust with them."
The Republican campaign has argued that Obama is soft on terrorism. And although Obama has repeatedly expressed strong support for Israel, Republicans have suggested, for instance, that Obama might be less confrontational than McCain toward Iran, which threatens Israel with a "second Holocaust."
"It's reprehensible how often they throw that term around," said Boaz Yakin, Ain't Funny's co-producer-director, along with his wife, Alma Har'el. "I think the callous and cynical way those fears are exploited is detrimental to a democratic and open process. I dislike and resent fear mongering and character assassination going on with Obama."
Yakin is a New York-born Jewish director ("Fresh," "Remember the Titans"), who drew on his experience attending Orthodox schools for his movie, "A Price Above Rubies," set within Brooklyn's Chasidic community. His wife is an Israeli-born music video director. Earlier in the campaign, they produced an "Israelis for Obama" video.
"And I'm not minimizing the potential for terrible things to happen to Jews," Yakin said. "I'm an extreme Zionist; I don't take Israel's safety lightly, and I don't take Jewish people's safety lightly.
"A huge difference between us and Sarah Silverman's thing," Yakin said, referring to comedian Silverman's YouTube short, "The Great Schlep," "was that her work was getting young people motivated to talk to parents and grandparents. Ours directly addresses people that she was encouraging young people to go talk to. We felt that generation wasn't being spoken to directly."
Jewish Alliance for Change, founded in February, encourages Jewish involvement in the electoral process, as well as traditional Democratic domestic policies. Its Web site states it supports "diplomatic initiatives for a secure and peaceful Israel" and seeks to "promote better understanding of the policies advocated by Sen. Obama."
Remba became acquainted with Obama while doing graduate studies at the University of Chicago in the early 1990s. The American-born Remba lived in Israel for many years and was a translator for Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan.
"First and foremost, we're an issues-advocacy organization," Remba said. "Our main focus is on agenda and issues, and we think Obama is the better person to further the agenda this country needs and that Israel needs for security."
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