Jewish Journal

Jewish inspiration for Dr. Zoidberg

by Adam Wills

June 25, 2010 | 11:13 am

After a seven-year hiatus, “Futurama” returned to television on Thursday night. Comedy Central picked up the show for 26 new half-hour episodes. 

The cult animated series by “Simpsons” creator Matt Groening and David X Cohen revolves around Philip J Fry, a cryogenically frozen 20th century pizza delivery boy who awakens in the 31st century and goes to work for his distant nephew—mad scientist Hubert J. Farnsworth and his Planet Express delivery company.

Among Fry’s Planet Express colleagues is Dr. Zoidberg, a Jewish-sounding lobster-esque alien from Decapod 10. Billy West (“Ren and Stimpy”) voices Zoidberg, along with Fry, Farnsworth and clueless military commander Zapp Brannigan.

During his April appearance at Wizard-Con in Anaheim, West said the Jewish delivery for Zoidberg is no accident.

After looking at a character sketch for Zoidberg, West said he drew inspiration from two Jewish actors—vaudeville veteran George Jessel and Canadian character actor Lou Jacobi. “All these guys sounded like they had marbles in their mouths,” he said. Zoidberg “had all this cool meat hanging off his face, so it only made sense to imitate [Jessel and Jacobi].”

In past episodes writers have played with Dr. Zoidberg’s implied Jewish background. In “Future Stock,” the Planet Express crew attends a “bot” mitzvah for the free food, but a Chasidic robot blocks Zoidberg’s path: “No shellfish!”

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