October 26, 2006
Choice of a Jew generation
If you're in a bookstore and see a book with two impish-looking guys trying to sneak a light for their cigarettes from a chanukiah, then you've happened upon "Jewtopia: The Chosen Book for the Chosen People" (Warner).
Yes, the saga of Los Angeles' longest running original play continues. "Jewtopia," the play, was first brought to us in 2003 by two unemployed writers/actors who maxed out their credit cards to mount the funny, if somewhat stereotypical, comedy about dating and Jews. It was originally supposed to run for six weeks but was so popular that it extended for another year, then left in 2004 for an off-Broadway run in New York, where it's still playing to sold-out audiences.
Now Bryan Fogel and Sam Wolfson, the creators and sometime actors in the play have expanded their "Jewtopia" vision into a book, and they are working on a movie deal as well. The 200-plus page color book, might be mistaken for a coffee table book -- except that much of the material inside is not fit for the living room.
Consider, "The Jewish Kama Sutra: An Illustrated Guide to Lovemaking," because "Jews are certainly not known for their prowess and skills in the bedroom." Positions include "The Challah," "The Heimlich," "The Reader" "The Minyan" and "Bubbe's Visit" (She cleans while he...oh, don't ask.)
"It's to be read in the bathroom only," jokes Wolfson, who plays Adam Lipschitz, a Jewish guy facing extraordinary parental pressure to marry a Jewish woman.
"I think it should be read at the family seder -- it's a good substitute for the Haggadah," replies Fogel, who in the show plays Chris O'Connell, a Christian obsessed with meeting a Jewish woman who strikes up a bargain with Adam to help him pass as a Jew if Chris can find Adam a date.
To be sure, there's more than just sex jokes in "Jewtopia: The Chosen Book..." There's a chapter on Jewish History, the Holidays ("Celebrate the Bad Times"), Food ("Anyone Have Some Zantac?") Travel ("Planes, Trains and Diarrhea") and Conspiracy Theories ("Do Jews Control the World?") with real, live facts mixed in with, well, bubbemeises, like Moses' lost diary or the game "Match the Nose to the Jew."
In a world where it's hip to be sardonic about Jewish identity (Heeb, Jewcy, Rabbis Daughter) "Jewtopia: The Chosen Book..." is a more idealistic, "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Jewish Stereotypes" kind of take on our people-sophomoric and sometimes scatological humor by two guys who are clearly having fun.
"We kind of consider ourselves the Trey Parker and Matt Stone of the Jewish world," Wolfson says, referring to the creators of "South Park." "Not so much enforcing stereotypes but having fun with them.
So they're not self-hating Jews?
"We hate ourselves for so many other reasons," Wolfson says. "There are so many good reasons to hate ourselves aside from being Jewish."
Bryan Fogel and Sam Wolfson will be reading from "Jewtopia: The Chosen Book for the Chosen People" on Nov. 2, at 7:30 p.m. at Barnes and Noble, 16461 Ventura Blvd., Encino. -- Amy Klein, Religion Editor