Larry the Torah Guy
About the rabbi who said he and Larry David were tight, along with a week of humor on 251.
My school brought in a rabbi to speak to us—to inspire us. As I recall, he was animated, slamming the lectern, pacing like a leashed animal in our school cafeteria. At one point in his inspirational sermon he began listing Hollywood types he supposedly had roped into one-on-one Torah study. I don’t remember the others. But the last in his list was Larry David.
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“Larry, he’s such a sweet soul,” he said. “It’s sad, but what he really wants? He wants to be learning in yeshiva like you,” he said, lying, while trying to look the way a normal person looks when they haven’t just told a transparent and egregious lie.
The rabbi was a kiruv guy, the closest the Orthodox rabbinate has to stand-up comics. Kiruv is the Hebrew word for “outreach.” Basically a rhetorician, he gigs at schools, shuls, summer camps, and (he would have us believe) Mort’s Deli with the co-creator of Seinfeld.
His goal: increased observance of Torah and mitzvos. And he’d say what it took to get there.
So why was he boasting to the already converted? In short, “inreach.” Our school had its share of the religiously disaffected, boys who were less interested in Jewish case law and more interested in the Wide World of Porn. A bit of kiruv might help.
OK, but Larry David? This would have been in 2002, or maybe 2003, and Curb Your Enthusiasm was new and buzzy. Still, the rabbi had miscalculated. Maybe a few of us had actually watched Curb. But fundamentally, Larry David was an middle-aged Jew, a decidedly unsexy catch for this audience. It wasn’t like he’d managed to convert Mariah Carey or something.
I watched the rabbi hop around with his microphone. The whole thing had me feeling deeply uncomfortable. The guy was a moron. But he was effective, and my classmates were laughing. I found myself filled with jealousy for anyone who could do that to a crowd. Did I want to be that rabbi? Nah. But Larry David? Maybe.
And now I’m a real-life humor editor, so woohoo! I’m Larry David!
IT’S TIME FOR SOME SHORT HUMOR
It’s been another week, another five days of comedy on twofiftyone.net, the dot-net comedy site. Here is what happened last week:
Sarah Morrissette has a new cartoon that left us looking ten years younger.
Paul Lander gives us a highly condensed summary of Macbeth in his most recent installment of Short Attention Span Theatre.
Do you like footnotes? Anthony Scibelli packs a bunch of them into his very short story. I bet you like footnotes.
Finally, Tim Cahill and Kristina Libby are back with their latest, “Early Titles for J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye.” Kudos to them for digging through the Salinger archives. Read them all at the site, but here is a sample of what they unearthed:
There’s more where that came from, and more up on the site already.
IT’S TIME TO SAY GOODBYE
This is Pershan, signing off. You’ll get another email from us on Friday, when Michael Gerber answers another of my questions.
I taught science and history at a yeshiva hs in Seattle for many years. Hilarity ensued. Over and over. But a lot of that shit they get behind ain't funny at all.
I sure could relate to this.
Good rabbi story! I grew up going to a reformed temple in Los Angeles. Our rabbi never mentioned Larry David, but this was way before Seinfeld, so that would've been a weird one to name check. One day, flipping around some local cable channels, I saw our rabbi on TV. That was the first and only time I saw a rabbi doing the televangelist thing. In unrelated news, I became an agnostic, cultural Jew shortly after my Bar Mitzvah.