Yeah, yeah... what do I know from Jewish? Well, nothing really but one woman does come to mind...
A few years ago (way more than I would like to admit), I did a fabulous cabaret show with the incomparable Ruth Bonnet. Ruth was THE waitress at Davenport's Piano Bar and Cabaret when it opened. Whenever she would be brought up to the mic to sing, everyone would sing a slight take-off from the old margarine commercial - - "Everything's better with Ruth Bonnet on it!"
If you don't remember peeling the stickers off your Rubix Cube to solve the puzzle, then you probably have no idea what I'm talking about.
Anyway, Ruth was a Chicago transplant from England by way of New York City, had an almost-crew cut hairstyle that was dyed shocking blonde and a comedic sense that cut to the bone and took no prisoners. We met at open mic night at the Gentry on Halsted when I was singing CAN'T HELP LOVIN' THAT MAN OF MINE (Who's a big faggy-assed showtune singer? THIS GUY!) and when I got the lyric "He can come home as late as can be," Ruth - - mind you, I had never seen nor met this woman before - - shouted out, "I'll break his fucking legs!"
Not only did I immediately love this English Rose with Susan Powter's hair, I also stole that line for all future performances of that song. Ruth knows her funny.
Our cabaret show was called STRANGE BEDFELLOWS. I did my Southern fag boy stuff and Ruth did her British Jewish girl stuff. It was a bizarre combo but somehow it worked really well, just like the combo of Rosie and Elizabeth on THE VIEW - - it sounds like a Hot Mess on Toast with a Side of "That Sucks!," but for some reason, it works.
Ruth writes and performs incredible parody songs and in our show, she took Kander and Ebb's I DON'T REMEMBER CHRISTMAS and turned it into hilarious I DON'T REMEMBER PURIM.
After she sang the Purim song one night, I walked to the mic and completely off the cuff said something like, "I don't understand that song. There are no Jews in the Great Smokey Mountains of East Tennessee." The audience gave just the slightest laugh.
Without missing a beat, Ruth shouted from behind me, "Yeah, that's because you killed them all." That got a nice laugh from the audience.
My mouth opened and without processing it I said, "Well, you killed our Lord." The audience screamed with laughter.
After the show, I asked Ruth if I had gone too far with that remark and she said, "No! It got a great laugh. That patter is in the show every night from now on!"
I know its probably rude to bring up that little exchange on Hanukkah, but it describes something that's been bothering me quite a bit lately.
People are getting WAY too touchy in this county when it comes to people making fun of them.
Rosie O'Donnell offends Asians in a quick, unscripted joke about Danny Divito making the news in China after being drunk on THE VIEW by saying the Chinese new reports probably went something like "Ching chong Danny Divito ching chong chichiching chong THE VIEW ching ching chong." She apologized on the air two days later.
In a comedy club, Andy Dick repeats Michael Richards infamous words and offends people and has to offer a public apology.
And for some reason, words in this country are becoming too horrific to speak, to print or even to type. How many times have we seen people refer to it as "The N-Word" after the Michael Richards incident?
Here's the truth about me:
- I like musical theatre and taking it in the butt. (Not necessarily in that order)
- My father once told me to stop "walking like a damn girl" when I was a little boy and I have never gotten that out of my head, but guess what? - - I still kinda walk like a damn girl.
- I enjoy Original Cast Recordings of Broadway shows, Judy Garland concert recordings, and Warner Brothers classic movies from the 30's and 40's.
- I watch THE GOLDEN GIRLS on Lifetime Television for Women.
- I like gay porn movies with titles like ALL THAT JIZZ, BUTT CRACK MOUNTAIN, THE MAN WHO BLEW TOO MUCH, and THE DA VINCI LOAD. These are actual gay porn titles... see? --->
- As I type this MY FAIR LADY is playing on the TV behind me.
My point is I'm a gay man and all of those things are stereotypes that are 100% true!!!
Making fun of that won't hurt me because its what I am. I'm comfortable with that.
The word FAG can't hurt me. Have I been called a fag by people who want to hurt me? Absolutely. But the people who would never use that word in front of me (Behind my back? Yes, but never in front of me... ), who smile at me, call me their friend and then get disgusted when they see two men kissing are far more upsetting to me than the stupid redneck in a truck who screams "Faggot!" out his window as he drives by me.
Again, show me a gay basher and I'll show you a cocksucker.
Ruth knew that my joke about her people killing my Lord was meant in fun because in my deepest heart, I don't feel any hatred toward Jewish people. Yet, I will admit I have prejudices. I don't like that I have them, but I have them. And the only way for me to deal with them and process them and hopefully rid myself of them completely is by talking about them - - not by denying them.
Or worse still, I will not rid myself of my prejudices by passing them off onto someone else (Andy Dick, Rosie O'Donnell) as being the person who has them and demanding that they apologize.
Lighten up, folks. Laugh at yourselves. And if you get offended by something someone says, then talk about it. It seems like now, all that's happening is the demand of an apology, that apology is then given and then both parties go to their corners in a collective huff. Ruth would agree with me when I say that, yelling and screaming is always less effective than a well placed joke laced with irony.
To prove that, I end with this:
In high school in East Tennessee, there were only 2 Asian people in my graduating class - - one boy was Chinese and one girl was Vietnamese. Her name was Debbie, I believe... if that memory synapse is still firing...
One day in class, Debbie answered a question correctly and this redneck reject from DELIVERANCE sitting beside her said, "Why don't you shut up, you stupid chink." Debbie gave the greatest response in the history of the world as we currently know it. She said...
"I'm not a chink. I'm a gook. If you're gonna insult me, get it right."
See? Educational, clever, humorous and so much better than a "Fuck you, now apologize to me!" don't you think?