March 31, 2005
White Rapper Gives Lyrics Kosher Spin
Onto the stage walks a Caucasian man in a button-down shirt and thick, plastic glasses. He looks like he would fix your computer. Instead, off come the glasses and out comes the Jewish "bling," a rhinestone-studded Star of David on a bulky metal chain.
Meet Eric Schwartz, the 29-year-old actor, rapper and musician known to his fans as Smooth E. Think a combination of the satire of Weird Al Yankovich with hip rap persona, sort of Eminem with a Woody Allen smirk. He does both straight-ahead rap and parodies of well-known rap tunes, often with a Jewish twist, though he's also willing to get R-rated as the mood strikes him.
Schwartz has a gig at The Laugh Factory this week and also just posted his latest parody, a musical take on Michael Jackson called, "Bubbles and Friends."
When he sat down to be interviewed at a Beverly Hills-adjacent coffee shop, his responses to questions quickly became a one-way rap session.
"I'm white," said Schwartz, who was raised as a Reform Jew and attends temple. "People are going to notice that right away."
For a rapper, though, he dresses almost nerdy: "Eminem has his own thing -- this is how I dress. I don't try to look like something that I'm not."
"People don't expect the fire that I am about to spit," he added. "I think that's why when I'm on stage, people are caught off guard."
As for his Jewish shtick, it's a "big part of who I am, but it's not everything. I do other kinds of music, too," such as his parody of Jackson. During the interview, one coffee shop employee recognized Schwartz from his televised parody of rapper Eminem as a gay "Feminem."
But it is his Jewish-themed lyrics that set him apart. "So Kosher" is a parody of the No. 1 hit single "Slow Motion" by Juvenile. Schwartz's version, goes, in part:
Mmmm, I like it like that.
It's like I live by rules of the psalm.
His parody song, "Hannukah Hey Ya," became a widely distributed animated e-card in 2004. (The e-card was made without his permission. Schwartz finally tracked down Jason Kwon, the animation artist, and both now share credit for the piece.)
Other songs from his CD, "Kosher Cuts," include "Crazy Jew," a parody of Outkast's "I Like the Way You Move," and "Lose the Gelt," a parody of Eminem's "Lose Yourself."
His love of hip-hop goes back to when he went to swap meets with his father, a clothing vendor, or "shmata salesman," as Schwartz put it. After he discovered rap music, he would comb through bins for used discs that he listened to with near religious fervor.
He spent all of his bar mitzvah money on turntables instead of saving for college. But he earned money back by using those same turntables as a DJ at other people's bar mitzvahs and other gigs. Schwartz earned a degree in journalism from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, which has inspired some of his comedy.
"News is everybody's experience and has a great impact on people," Schwartz said. "It works the same way with comedy. My comedy is about what's going on, whether it be pop-culture or politics."
He was recently quoted saying that President Bush and former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein should have used "rap lyrics to duke out international conflicts on the microphone."
"They should battle it out like in 'Eight Mile,' he told The Journal, referring to the movie starring Eminem.
Schwartz's recent projects include a commercial promoting John Travolta's latest film, "Be Cool," in which he accosts Travolta and starts rapping at him. He also narrates the television show, "Animal Atlas," on the Discovery Channel, and he's the new host of a Tuesday comedy lineup at the Laugh Factory. In addition, he performs at The Comedy Store, where audiences can judge for themselves whether he really can, as he claims, "shake it like a kosherized pickle."
Eric Schwartz (www.suburbanhomeboy.com) will perform on April 5 at 9:30 p.m. at The Laugh Factory, 8001 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood. For information, call (323) 656-1336.