January 27, 2011
Mendy Pellin’s unorthodox humor [VIDEO]
News anchor Mendy Pellin has gone where no Jewish journalist has ever gone before.
On “The Mendy Report,” broadcast on chabadtube.com, he investigated the scandalous case of mistaken identities between a bearded Brad Pitt and prominent rabbis. He fearlessly exposed a debilitating disease among Orthodox Jews, Siddur Finger Syndrome (S.I.F.S.), in which Jews abuse their fingers by using them as bookmarks for prayer books. His satirical segments have earned millions of hits.
Before moving a year ago from Brooklyn to the San Fernando Valley, where he lives with his wife and two children, Pellin, 28, could hardly walk the streets of Crown Heights, the capital of Chabad Jewry, without getting stopped for an autograph, a picture or a joke.
The comedian/actor (and ordained rabbi) is often hailed as the Jon Stewart of the Chasidic world.
Pellin is to comedy what Matisyahu is to music — an Orthodox Jewish artist who challenges religious stereotypes and makes Judaism accessible through pop culture. Pellin masterminded a way to make Matisyahu see the parallel.
“When I first started out doing the comedy bits, Matisyahu just blew up and was huge, so I didn’t even bother contacting him,” Pellin said during an interview at a Starbucks in Sherman Oaks, where he was sporting a shiny burgundy kippah, round glasses and a plaid shirt. In his latest video, “Whip My Beard” — a Weird Al-style spoof of Willow Smith’s hit “Whip My Hair” — he proudly defends his forked, straggly beard.
Pellin vicariously interviewed Matisyahu by editing himself into footage of a sleepy, unenthusiastic backstage interview Matisyahu once reluctantly gave to another reporter.
Soon after it appeared online, a woman came up to Pellin at a kosher Brooklyn supermarket and said her husband was a big fan.
“I said, ‘Thank you very much — you’re probably too embarrassed to say you’re a big fan,’ ” Pellin recalled.
Turns out, the woman’s husband was Matisyahu Miller, and he was outside in a car, waiting to meet him.
“I go out there, and he put on that same look that he did in the fake interview. He was mocking me, and we just hit it off. We were both kind of breaking the mold in different departments. He was getting a lot of criticism, and I was getting a lot of criticism — and support — on both sides. We had a love at first sight.”
Since then, Matisyahu has appeared — willingly — in Pellin’s videos, revealing a comedic side that doesn’t always come across when he sings about yearning for God. Pellin plans to surprise the audience with nonmusical shtick and a Q-and-A session with Matisyahu when he emcees the upcoming “Matisyahu: Up Close and Personal” concert Feb. 15 at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza.
Pellin’s videos seem to have the mystical ability to attract their A-list subjects.
Recently, Pellin filmed a role as an Orthodox Jew in a scene opposite Brad Pitt in the upcoming film “Moneyball.” Without knowing Pitt was the lead, Pellin had sent his segment on the Brad Pitt beard controversy to producers considering him for the part. They loved it, and so did Pitt.
During filming, Pellin said, “Brad Pitt came over to me and said he really loved my stuff.”
Pellin is enjoying a life of relative anonymity in the Valley, although once in a while, people stop him for a joke.
“Usually it’s on Shabbos, so I just tell them I’m an ultra-Orthodox Jew and can’t carry any jokes on me.”
To see Mendy Pellin’s videos, visit chabadtube.com/watch.
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