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Viral and profane pro-Obama ads channel tradition of Jewish humor
Sarah Silverman in her 2008 video "The Great Schlep."
October 1st, 2012
02:24 PM ET

Viral and profane pro-Obama ads channel tradition of Jewish humor

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) – When it comes to reaching voters, the co-founders of a Jewish super PAC aimed at re-electing President Barack Obama have this tip for you: Use humor, even if it isn’t kosher.

Two campaign videos produced by the Jewish Council for Education and Research – one featuring actor Samuel L. Jackson, the other comedian Sarah Silverman – have received a flood of attention over the past few weeks. A foul-mouthed Silverman pushes people to do whatever it takes to make it to the polls in spite of voter ID laws, while an uncensored Jackson orders disenchanted Obama supporters to “wake the f*** up” and get to work.

While Silverman warns viewers about being kept out of the polls, introducing herself as “your Jewish friend Sarah," Jackson, who voiced the recent bedtime story for parents “Go the F**k to Sleep,” rhymes his warning to voters, in a video that's been seen over a million times on YouTube.

“We're all on our way if Romney has his way; he's against safety nets. If you fall, tough luck; so I strongly suggest that you wake the f*** up.”

The unique approach is rooted in a “tradition of Jewish humor,” said Mik Moore, co-founder of the super PAC, which has raised over $200,000 so far this election cycle and has dedicated itself to advancing issues that Jewish voters are concerned about. He added that these ads were “trying to tap into” that tradition.

Moore, a political and communications campaign strategist, launched the group in 2008 with Ari Wallach, a consultant and social entrepreneur. It was in response to what they saw as a distortion of then-candidate Obama’s character and record, particularly on issues that were important to Jewish voters.

The group’s signature has been its comedic productions. In 2008, Silverman got on board, becoming the face and attitude behind “The Great Schlep,” a viral video aimed at getting Jewish grandchildren to travel to Florida, visit their grandparents and persuade them to vote for Obama.

In the video, Silverman jokes about the large concentration of older Jews in Florida, playing up the stereotypes associated with Jewish grandparents living there, a love for tracksuits being just one of them.

“If you knew that visiting your grandparents could change the world, would you do it?” asks Silverman, who writes her own videos. “Of course you would. You’d have to be a douchenozzle not to.”

Moore and Wallach know Silverman’s humor is, in many ways, self-deprecating to Jews. But according to the duo, that is a staple of Jewish humor.

“This is the humor that we were raised on; it resonates with us,” Wallach said. “Jewish humor is inherently never mean or vindictive or about making fun of anyone. It is about the kind of absurdity that is life.”

Jewish humor traces its roots to some of the religion’s founding documents.

In an essay on biblical humor, Hershey H. Friedman, a professor of marketing at the City University of New York, outlines this deep-rooted tradition.

“The Hebrew Bible employs many sorts of humor, but its purpose is not to entertain,” writes Friedman. “Much of the humor found in the Hebrew Bible has a purpose: To demonstrate that evil is wrong and even ludicrous, at times. The punishments meted out to wrongdoers are often designed to mock them and to hoist them by their own petards.”

In the Book of Proverbs, for example, fools, lazy people and senseless women are all openly made fun of.

“Like snow in the summer and like rain at harvest, so is honor unbefitting for a fool,” reads Proverbs 26:3. “It is better to live on a corner of a roof than in a house of companionship with a quarrelsome wife,” Proverbs 25:24 says.

Jewish humor has changed a great deal from the time of Moses, but the principles of being self-deprecating and absurd remain. Moore says the thing that separates Jewish comedy is the way such comedians play up their identities.

“Some Jewish performers hide their Jewishness to fit in,” Moore said. “Jewish comics do the opposite. It is the nature of their comedy. You accept whatever it is you are.”

And that’s what made Silverman a perfect partner in this super PAC venture.

Her language may not be kosher for all, but Wallach says the decision to stick with Silverman and work with Jackson was a calculated one. The group isn't not making these ads for children or seniors but rather for the millions who have made its videos viral.

Going forward, Moore says, the group plans to build websites around issues it views as important, possibly venture into print advertising and, of course, roll out more videos. Already, he says, it has about half a dozen more in mind.

- Dan Merica

Filed under: 2012 Election • Barack Obama • Florida • Judaism • Mitt Romney • Politics

soundoff (1,039 Responses)
  1. Reality

    Putting Jewish humor in proper 21st century perspective:

    Only for the new members of this blog:

    origin: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482 NY Times review and important enough to reiterate.

    New Torah For Modern Minds

    “Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. (prob•a•bly
    Adverb: Almost certainly; as far as one knows or can tell).

    The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.

    Such startling propositions - the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years - have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity - until now.

    The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine doc-ument.

    The notion that the Bible is not literally true "is more or less settled and understood among most Conservative rabbis," observed David Wolpe, a rabbi at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles and a contributor to "Etz Hayim." But some congregants, he said, "may not like the stark airing of it." Last Passover, in a sermon to 2,200 congregants at his synagogue, Rabbi Wolpe frankly said that "virtually every modern archaeologist" agrees "that the way the Bible describes the Exodus is not the way that it happened, if it happened at all." The rabbi offered what he called a "LITANY OF DISILLUSION”' about the narrative, including contradictions, improbabilities, chronological lapses and the absence of corroborating evidence. In fact, he said, archaeologists digging in the Sinai have "found no trace of the tribes of Israel - not one shard of pottery."

    October 1, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
    • hinduMithraism Christianity baseofhindufilthyracism.

      No need to hind, shoot your mouth hindu, ignorant, if you will hang around word probably, Visit limitisthetruth.com to see some light, hindu, ignorant.

      October 1, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
    • James PDX

      hinduMithraism Christianity baseofhindufilthyracism, can you please translate your reply to English? I can't properly make fun of you when I have no idea what you just said, and Google doesn't yet offer a translation to American from Gibberish.

      October 1, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
    • hinduMithraism Christianity baseofhindufilthyracism.

      NO DOGS!

      October 1, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
  2. silentcount

    The idiots just helped me make up my mind. I'll vote for Romney now for sure.

    October 1, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
    • Jimmy Joe Jim Bob

      You have to have a mind to change it.

      October 1, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
    • Church of Suicidal

      You made up your mind based on a Sarah Silverman video? Face it, you were genetically predestined to be a Romney voter.

      October 1, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • sally

      LMAO @Church of S.

      October 1, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
    • James PDX

      I hope Romney makes slavery legal, because Church of Suicidal just owned slientcount.

      October 1, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
    • MaryM

      more bs from the repubs

      October 2, 2012 at 7:52 am |
    • gary

      you were already pinhead

      October 2, 2012 at 10:16 am |
    • SkepticalOne

      Thanks Church! That was the funniest reply I've seen in a while and so true.

      October 2, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
  3. Bill in Pleasanton, CA

    I enjoyed the Silverman video! Very funny.

    October 1, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
  4. I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

    In the tradition of self-deprecating Jewish humor ...

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iwu-6GxBHN4

    October 1, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
  5. sally

    The Rummy pirate ship is sinking FAST! I love it. Soon you hear about "shake-ups" when a lot of his crew start to mutiny and jump ship. Awwwwww.

    October 1, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
  6. Atasha

    It is NOT kosher CNN. Video is from 2008!!!!!!!!!

    October 1, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      This is the one from 2012. Be careful with the volume control – this is a bleep free zone!

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ypRW5qoraTw

      October 1, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      And Samuel L. Jackson

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=hDTT1yRNsFE

      October 1, 2012 at 9:09 pm |
  7. Geof

    Other than Obama destroying the dollar, the employment base and the Middle East, getting sued by the Catholics, the Sheriffs, a few dozen States and wiping out our credit rating...he isn't that bad.

    The last thing we need is a successful Business man with a track record of actually helping people and serving the Country. If only we could find a sleazy Chicago Trial Lawyer instead.....

    October 1, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
    • Deist

      Now it is two days in a row that you've skipped your medication.

      October 1, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
    • Greg

      You really should't drink and type.

      October 1, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • Independent Voice

      HAHAHA Love Them... Needs to be an add showing...

      Every time OBAMA Bends Over to Smell the Balls of a Foreign Leader... Someone comes over and Kicks OBAMA right in the AZZZZ.

      October 1, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
    • OneADay

      Obama was not a trial lawyer, did not destroy the economy, did not destroy the credit rating. Arizona is so right wing and in the clutches of Eric that they little credibility.

      October 1, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      "The last thing we need is a successful Business man with a track record of actually helping people and serving the Country"

      How has he served the country? I mean he had his chance but instead skipped to France. And helping people is code for made his company rich by selling off companies piece by piece right?
      Oh and I forgot apparently 'community organizer' isnt helping the people, apparently its a bad thing.

      October 1, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • OneADay

      IV. Sounds like you fantacize about smelling balls and being kicked in the ass. Which might actually be a good thing as it would stop you talking out of it.

      October 1, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • Spongar

      So many leftist in denial on here. Pull your heads out.The Democrap Congress that Obumer was apart of, has the financial sense of a first grader playing monopoly. Then the repukes that have been there forever have their own issues. They both suck. Not enough good guys in congress to make a difference yet. It's sad that most limit themselves to 2 boxes to choose from.

      October 1, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
  8. Deist

    The reality is that no one knows who is behind these ads and what their motivation is. It would be better for democracy if we stuck to the facts and chose a President on his/her qualifications, without any religious bigotry or stereotyping.

    October 1, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
  9. lmc11

    Democrats really are low class. They scream about civility while acting like street thugs.

    October 1, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
    • Deist

      This could be the work of a desperate Romney minion trying to create a backlash for his helpless campaign of middle class destruction.

      October 1, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
    • sally

      aww – don't like your own medicine. awwwww. lol. Rummy pirate is toaaaast!

      October 1, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
    • sam stone

      Awwww....feeling a bit put upon, little fella?

      October 1, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
    • Independent Voice

      How about an Ad showing how OBAMA Slept and dreamed of Hawaii as Good Men Fought and Good Men Died.

      OBAMA Sleeping with a smile as Ambassador Chris Stevens' body gets dragged through the streets.

      October 1, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
    • OneADay

      IV. You are one deranged dude.

      October 1, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
    • Polopoint

      Stevens' body was not 'dragged through the streets', so you can stop putting out that baloney.

      October 1, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      "as Ambassador Chris Stevens' body gets dragged through the streets."

      except it wasnt. The photo shown, and acknowledged even on fox, was showing the locals trying to lift him to the vehicle that would take him to hospital, where they tried for 90 minutes to save him.

      October 1, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
    • gary

      low class? I guess your looking up to see them

      October 2, 2012 at 10:18 am |
  10. guam1

    More liberal terrorists that need to pull their heads out of their behinds one day...vote Romney.

    October 1, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • sally

      awww – still aboard the Rummy pirate ship i see. awwwwww.

      October 1, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • Jimmy Joe Jim Bob

      Right, if it's a senile old coot talking to a chair, it's okay.

      Hypocrite.

      October 1, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
    • sam stone

      Romney is dead in the water. If it bothers you, may I suggest the assistance of a tall building and a date with gravity?

      October 1, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
  11. SokrMom

    At a guess, Samuel L. Jackson and Sara Silverman are behind these videos–although Republican voters no doubt imagine a cabal of shadow-government agents who probably keep a black helicopter in the hangar!

    October 1, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
  12. hinduMithraism Christianity baseofhindufilthyracism.

    living by hindu foul way and hinduism, the way of foul ism is the way of hindu Jew's, criminal self centered, CON MEN by faith of hindu Judaism, criminal self center ism, CON ism and oppose limit of truth absolute, civility is religious duty of a hindu Jew, criminal CON MAN to drive humanity to hind, darkness of hinduism, illegality, way of hindu Jew's, criminal CON MEN to make humanity their gentile. slave. for more visit limitisthetruth.com

    October 1, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
    • RickN

      Try writing in English next time. Perhaps we'll get the gist of what you're trying to say though from your broken English, from I can gather, I doubt anyone is interested in your message. Better you post to a right wing site. You'll have plenty of company there. Have a nice day.

      October 1, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
    • ES

      What ?

      October 1, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • hinduMithraism Christianity baseofhindufilthyracism.

      Only by Christianity absurdity of a Christian, hindu and pagan. Filthy Christian Captain Crunch dog. Filthy pagan hindu pig dog. Filthy Randy Jackson dog. Filthy hebrew national beef dog. Filthy Ron Jeremy foot-long dog.

      NO DOGS!! Who let them be out? Quran means nothing else but path of triple abdullah absolute quantified. please visit ahmadinebinpaid.com/blog.html and click on word Choice to open file. But turn virus protection off before.

      October 1, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • Church of Suicidal

      Filthy Ron Jeremy foot-long dog.

      Classic. That made my afternoon.

      October 1, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
    • hinduMithraism Christianity baseofhindufilthyracism.

      Find some other way to hinde your hinduism, stupidity, than to hide behind English, not to admit that you are a hindu, ignorant.

      October 1, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
    • Church of Suicidal

      See, now that one? ....Not as funny.

      October 1, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
  13. Proud Vet

    So out of touch with reality,
    Please state how the President is out of touch with reality. The last I checked, he understood what it was like to pay back college loans. He has sat with people trying to work a few jobs just to make ends meet. See as a community organizer, he saw reality up close and personal. I think he has a closer connection and understanding of the reality the average American is facing than his opponent. How about the Republicans who voted against the very program which they have been pushing for the past 20 years as health care reform?

    October 1, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
    • lmc11

      Wow, do you even believe what you wrote? Obama went to private schools and then attended Harvard. He did not sit next to those who had to hold several jobs. He then worked for a landlord and helped to evict many poor families leaving them homeless. To suggest that our Campaigner in Chief was a hard working American is hysterical. From his lies about sitting whith his mother when she died (he previously said he was with her) to the girlfriends he has made up, this man is a phoney and nothing more.

      October 1, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
    • Angelique

      What about that community organizer thing everyone complains about?

      October 1, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • Deist

      Proud Vet: I believe what you wrote. Perhaps it is because I am a veteran also, and receiving G.I. Bill funds for college (which puts one in the Romney 47% category), and Willard has no sense of what it means to put your butt on the line for this country.

      October 1, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • gary

      Icm11 .. please read all the facts and not just cherry pick .. O Oh wait you are probably a GOPer .. never mind too hard to cure

      October 2, 2012 at 10:20 am |
  14. Captain Obvious

    Sarah Silverman / Samuel Jackson 2016

    October 1, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • SkepticalOne

      I second the nomination!

      October 2, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
  15. William Demuth

    One thing has always intrigued me.

    The nature of being Jewish is so different between Jews that it is difficult to fathom for us outsiders.

    It is the ONLY classification that can be both an Ethnic, Cultural, Nationalistic and Religious one, at the same time.

    I know a young lady, who is VERY culturally Jewish, yet LOATHES Zionists.

    For example, Atheists are common in the secular Jewish community (I suspect more so than anyone admits) yet because they are Jews many believe they are religious.

    I am curious, is anyone aware of any form of Atheist or Agnostic movement in Israel?

    Is a Muslim Atheist still a Muslim (lots of potential jokes just came to mind), or is their some other term they prefer?

    Is it even possible to be an Atheist in a Muslim majority country?

    October 1, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @William,

      Israeliis will tell you that Israel is a secular country. Clearly a lot of Muslims live in Israel.

      What is ethnically Jewish? Semitic or eastern European?

      October 1, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • SokrMom

      I think this is because Jews are actually individual people...

      October 1, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Semites is a loaded term.

      From a purely linguistic perspective, Palestinians are far more Semetic.

      Yes, I would say Eastern European culture's often have a Jewish element to them, although many would now be Russian Orthodox (At least on paper).

      And I am aware they are all people! I was not making any statements! It is the use of the term, and perhaps the lack of the use of the term Israeli that causes the most confusion

      October 1, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • hinduMithraism Christianity baseofhindufilthyracism.

      Nothing more than hinduism, deception, they know truth of religion, and they corrupted truth absolute to hind, fool humanity labeling their hinduism, crookedness as religion and took over defunct of Realities to cheat humanity of their wealth. Judaism is not a religion, but hinduism, crime by hindu Jew's, criminal self centered, CON MEN against truth absolute GOD and "HIS" humanity.

      October 1, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
    • RickN

      I'm not aware of any specific agnostic or athiest Jewish group. I believe you'll find that many Jews are agnostic (such as me). Perhaps this is because we're not threatened with an eternity in hell if we "don't believe". Plus, Jews are taught to question everything. We question our teachers. We question authority. You'll find Jews pushing the boundaries of science, education and yes, humor.

      October 1, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Well Rick, the origins of the Communist party had HUGE Jewish influence. Many of the most famous Atheists were actually Jews

      Any such party in Israel?

      Another question is what do Atheists who are of Jewish descent think of Israel.

      According to my young lady freind, many are unhappy with the zionists, because they fear the potential reprisals could wipe out the culture

      October 1, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
    • therealpeace2all

      @William Demuth

      Hello big Will D...

      " Is a Muslim Atheist still a Muslim (lots of potential jokes just came to mind), or is their some other term they prefer?"
      "Is it even possible to be an Atheist in a Muslim majority country?"

      That 'is' funny ! 😀

      Peace...

      October 1, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
  16. I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

    We had lots of commenters (on a separate topic) recently riffing on Jewish standup ...

    "Take my wife* ... please!"

    * Mary Magdalen

    A mainstay of Catskills Comics for generations.

    October 1, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
  17. bill

    makes total sense, especially sense Jesus was Jewish, and a Democrat

    October 1, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • bspurloc

      and a socialist

      October 1, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
  18. Satan

    I love it!

    October 1, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • SokrMom

      I gather your God has no sense of humor–and is a Republican, no doubt.

      October 1, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
  19. What?

    This is a 2008 video, CNN. Why do you have it posted as though it is new?

    October 1, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • tffl

      Silverman did a video in 2008, but she did a new one recently, and Jackson's is also new.

      October 1, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
  20. obama is Out Of Touch with reality

    oh so now jewish supper pac has joined the godless group of demoncrats, hopefully god will have mercy on you, but not likely since you are now part of the godless.

    October 1, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • Honey Badger Dont Care

      So now according to the GOP, President Obama is Christian, Jewish AND Muslim?

      Trifecta!!

      October 1, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • lolo

      Hopefully God will have mercy on your pitiful racist soul.

      October 1, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • Tom Baker

      Yes, dear. The Jews are godless. That is the logical conclusion to draw.

      October 1, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • Grahame Rhodes

      Speaking of reality. god is written with a capital G or God. Got it now/ thank you for underscoring your level of education

      October 1, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • Grahame Rhodes

      Supper pac MMMM can't wait

      October 1, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
    • Sam

      what's a supper pac? is that like velvetta shells?

      October 1, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      I don't think there'd be velveeta shells at a Jewish supper pac.

      October 1, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • RickN

      Since you're obvioulsy not Jewish you couldn't possibly understand. Don't even try. BTW, the stereotype you paint in your post is typical of the arrogance shown by uneducated know-nothings. Congratulations! You wear your badge proudly.

      October 1, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • Maureen

      I think supper pacs are like dinner theater...Jewish supper pacs are like dinner theater in the Catskills.

      October 1, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • sam stone

      Your god is an impotent little punk.

      October 1, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
    • sally

      The Rummy pirate ship is sinking FAST!! LOL. I love it.

      October 1, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
    • toydrum

      Isn't a supper pac when you take a picnic supper out to the park?

      October 1, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      For Supperware® products see 55 seconds in:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qybMK1ywgh8

      October 1, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • Jimmy Joe Jim Bob

      You're godless, too, you're just too deluded/dim to realize it.

      October 1, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • bspurloc

      which "god" do they have less of and u more of?
      cuz there just isnt enough "god" to go around

      October 1, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
    • gary

      Man made your God .. All authors of the books within the Bible .. yep .. man wrote ... so your point is?

      October 2, 2012 at 10:22 am |
    • KMW

      Maureen,

      I loved your comment. It has been the funniest one yet.

      October 2, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.