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. History Bear

    The entire pile of you who question why we stay faithful to Israel and why Jews would vote for Obama because he's not a "Freind to Israel' miss some points. IF it weren't for Oil we would ignore all these islamic sand fleas. If we had half a brain in our heads we'd normalize relations with Cuba. But oil and special interest groups dictate some areas of foreign policy. IN fact two thirds of the people we send money to or treat of friends are not friends, instead they(including Israel) spy on us, steal technology secrets, try to buy (some successfuly) congress men and generally work to undermine us world wide. WAKE UP. We are the parents of Israel, along with Britian, and parents and childern often argue. COmes a real crisis we'll be there for Israel.

    October 2, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
  2. FreedomStorm

    Ωbama.  The great lie ushers in the end.

    October 2, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • tspokc

      OUTSTANDING ! Omegabama. How perfect !

      October 2, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
  3. pistoff2

    Jewish humor as is most humor, is at the expense of others. What they are banking on is the ignorance of the masses.

    October 2, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
  4. TownC

    These ads are degrading and demeaning and an insult. I wish that all sides would be more civil. I hope this profane ad gets more people to vote...for Romney!

    October 2, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • Hey

      You hope the ad turns people into idiots that think so little of their rights that they'll vote for Romney? Why would you want that?

      October 2, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
  5. clinky

    Humor authorities say Silverman's is traditionally Jewish, so you'd better not ask questions.

    October 2, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
    • pistoff2

      But of course! Even in the Bible, almost any laughter is at another's expence.

      October 2, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
  6. pc

    Self-hating Jews are the worst.

    October 2, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • pistoff2

      Agreed, after being married to one for 20 years, I had to learn what it meant to like myself again.

      October 2, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
  7. miriam

    I'm Jewish, grew up in a totally Jewish neighborhood in NYC in the 50's, and I know Jewish humor. This is not Jewish humor, it is merely tasteless. Perhaps if Samuel Jackson had some humor in his voice, instead of aggression – it might tip over into humor. As it is, I find it offensive.

    October 2, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
  8. Robert

    Perhaps Germany was partially right. However, rather than just removing all of a group of persons from society based on ethnicity, perhaps we should remove based on how screwed up they are in the head. (i.e., everyone who thinks the government owes them free everything at the expense of those who are willing to work ought to be put to forced labor in a camp somewhere. As for equal protection under law, we will not descriminate as to age, race or religion.)

    October 2, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
    • Mass Debater

      Robert, you fvcking Nazi, you will never win any friends starting a comment with "Germany was partially right". You merely show everyone how small minded and ignorant you are.

      And then of course theres this statement "everyone who thinks the government owes them free everything at the expense of those who are willing to work ought to be put to forced labor in a camp somewhere."

      So you believe just "thinking" something should be a crime and punishable by internment camp enslavement. How very progressive you are, you could teach Himmler a thing or two.

      October 2, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
  9. Whome

    I'm guessing the man himself, its like they say if there's a _ _ _ _ _ _ hiding in the woodshed he can't hide there forever.

    October 2, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
  10. johngf

    I expected to read at the end of this report from Pres. Obama; "I approve of this message."

    October 2, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
  11. oreo

    Forward..... right off the fiscal cliff.

    October 2, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  12. Ronald Raygun

    why would jews support obama if he was a muslim? sounds like the low IQs of the conservative voter base prove to be true. just like the dumb ones on facebook that posted some sanskrit text that was on a local work van and was trying to say it was arabic, talking about death to america. republicans campaign of fear and lies is destroying america. they dont want freedom they want to force their "christian" beliefs on everyone just like the taliban does with islam.

    October 2, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • BarackisnofriendofJews

      In four years he couldn't skip one of his golf weekends to visit Israel.. Apparently he can't be bothered. And right now he's far to busy going to fundraisers.

      October 2, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • Soldotnaman

      Not even close Ronnie, but thanks for playing.....

      October 2, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
  13. southernwonder

    seems like this is a form of "price-tagging" humor against our societal values.

    October 2, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • History Bear

      Societal values, don't make me laugh. Have you read lately,or watched movies or TV. What values. The Value of anything for a buck? Anything to get me noticed? Wake up shorty. The 50's are dead unfortunately and it's all about me and what I get and aren't I special. And both sides are guilty as heck.

      October 2, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
  14. dowdotica

    all y'all better wak the f##$%^up! i laughed so loud.

    October 2, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
  15. PeterD

    American Liberal Medias are in Bed with Obama to re-elect him.

    October 2, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
    • Mass Debater

      At least weren't not in the glory hole stall trying our best to please every doner as Willard "hot Mittens" Romney is. I know he'd rather not have to look them in the face as he takes their lengthy donations.

      October 2, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • Um...no

      Isn't it amazing how everyone is liberal and for Obama EXCEPT Fox news? I wonder why everyone else is so wrong when you guys are obviously right. Wierd.

      October 2, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
    • wolfdaddy

      Wait, why would jews support Obama if he doesnt support Israel??

      October 2, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • mpouxesas

      It is people who still beLIEve that there is such thing as liberal media who keep voting republicans...
      good luck with that retirement charlie...

      October 2, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • Mass Debater

      "Wait, why would jews support Obama if he doesnt support Israel??"

      Well, let's define support. Does it mean bend over backwards while lubing up your naked backside awaiting anything and everything our jewish friends want to shove? I think not. You are an idiot if you think in terms of "Obama doesnt support isreal" and "Romney is a friend of Isreal". Romney is a friend of Isreal like a car salesman is a friend to a new lotto winner.

      October 2, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • Yes Seriously!

      Are ALL Americans this stupid, or is it just on the CNN [Obama Campaign Manager] site?

      The Socialist, Liberal, American Jews support Obama. They were the ones who cheered Obama last year when he wanted to restore the pre-1967 borders!
      You know – the ones Obama said were the "Real Jews" –except he forgot to mention that the "real Jews" weren't THERE. Obama, the liar, arranged the meeting for the Jewish Sabbath [Shabat] so the "REAL Jews couldn't be present!

      That's how dishonest Obama is and CNN for quotoing Socialist, Liberal Jews as being totally representative!!!!!!! Pffft!

      October 2, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • Hey

      @seriously – damn, you are a flaming idiot.

      October 2, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • pistoff2

      Right on! There was a time when you could listen to the news, nearly unbiased, now it is usually the agenda of the media owners.

      October 2, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  16. Reality


    Why this election is far from humorous:

    Romney is Mormon because he was born Mormon. Should we hold this against him? Actually in the 21st century we should since he has this severe affliction, the Three B Syndrome i.e. Bred, Born and Brainwashed in Mormonism with no obvious change in his mental state which he could easily cure with some rational thinking.

    Obama also suffers from the same affliction as he believes in "pretty/ugly wingie thingies, bodily resurrections, atonement mumbo jumbo, et al. And there has been no change or desire to cure his version of the Three B Syndrome.

    We should be voting for leaders who can think rationally. Believing in angels, satans, bodily resurrections, atonement, and heavens of all kinds is irrational.

    Bottom line: BO and MR have been severely brainwashed in their theologically and historically flawed Christianity and they are too weak to escape its felonious grip. And we will be stuck with one of them for another four years of "god bless America" HOPING THAT THIS GOD IS ABLE TO ELIMINATE OUR $16 TRILLION DEBT.

    And the irony is that a good start in reducing this $16 trillion debt is to voluntarily eliminate religion i.e. god in our lives with the added incentive of saving 3.5 billion "souls":

    Saving 1.5 billion lost Muslims:
    There never were and never will be any angels i.e. no Gabriel, no Islam and therefore no more koranic-driven acts of horror and terror like 9/11 and the 24/7 acts of Islamic-sponsored insanity.

    – One trillion dollars over the next several years as the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan will end.

    – Eighteen billion dollars/yr to Pakistan will stop.

    – Four billion dollars/yr to Egypt will end.

    Saving 2 billion lost Christians including the Mormons:
    There were never any bodily resurrections and there will never be any bodily resurrections i.e. No Easter, no Christianity!!!

    – The Mormon ti-the empire will now become taxable as will all Christian "religions" and evangelical non-profits since there is no longer any claim to being a tax-exempt religion.

    – the faith-based federal projects supported by both Bush and Obama will be eliminated saving $385 million/yr and another $2 billion/yr in grants.

    – Saving 15.5 million Orthodox followers of Judaism:
    Abraham and Moses never existed.

    – Four billion dollars/yr to Israel saved.

    – All Jewish sects and non-profits will no longer be tax exempt.

    Now all we need to do is convince these 3.5+ billion global and local citizens that they have been conned all these centuries Time for a YouTube,Twitter and FaceBook campaign!!!!

    October 2, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • Sambo

      You're an idiot. Now lean forward and choke yourself.

      October 2, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
    • Guest

      Do I have to share America with this idiot?

      October 2, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • pistoff2

      Regardless of their religion, every Morman I have ever known had the kind of family values that made this country what is, er uh what it was.

      October 2, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
    • Reality

      Saving Christians like Obama and Romney from the Infamous Resurrection Con/

      From that famous passage: In 1 Corinthians 15 St. Paul reasoned, "If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith."

      Even now Catholic/Christian professors of theology are questioning the bodily resurrection of the simple, preacher man aka Jesus.

      To wit;

      From a major Catholic university's theology professor’s grad school white-board notes:

      "Heaven is a Spirit state or spiritual reality of union with God in love, without earthly – earth bound distractions.
      Jesus and Mary's bodies are therefore not in Heaven.

      Most believe that it to mean that the personal spiritual self that survives death is in continuity with the self we were while living on earth as an embodied person.

      Again, the physical Resurrection (meaning a resuscitated corpse returning to life), Ascension (of Jesus' crucified corpse), and Assumption (Mary's corpse) into heaven did not take place.

      The Ascension symbolizes the end of Jesus' earthly ministry and the beginning of the Church.

      Only Luke records it. (Luke mentions it in his gospel and Acts, i.e. a single attestation and therefore historically untenable). The Ascension ties Jesus' mission to Pentecost and missionary activity of Jesus' followers.

      The Assumption has multiple layers of symbolism, some are related to Mary's special role as "Christ bearer" (theotokos). It does not seem fitting that Mary, the body of Jesus' Virgin-Mother (another biblically based symbol found in Luke 1) would be derived by worms upon her death. Mary's assumption also shows God's positive regard, not only for Christ's male body, but also for female bodies." "

      "In three controversial Wednesday Audiences, Pope John Paul II pointed out that the essential characteristic of heaven, hell or purgatory is that they are states of being of a spirit (angel/demon) or human soul, rather than places, as commonly perceived and represented in human language. This language of place is, according to the Pope, inadequate to describe the realities involved, since it is tied to the temporal order in which this world and we exist. In this he is applying the philosophical categories used by the Church in her theology and saying what St. Thomas Aquinas said long before him."

      The Vatican quickly embellished this story with a lot CYAP.

      With respect to rising from the dead, we also have this account:

      An added note: As per R.B. Stewart in his introduction to the recent book, The Resurrection of Jesus, Crossan and Wright in Dialogue,


      "Reimarus (1774-1778) posits that Jesus became sidetracked by embracing a political position, sought to force God's hand and that he died alone deserted by his disciples. What began as a call for repentance ended up as a misguided attempt to usher in the earthly political kingdom of God. After Jesus' failure and death, his disciples stole his body and declared his resurrection in order to maintain their financial security and ensure themselves some standing."

      p.168. by Ted Peters:

      Even so, asking historical questions is our responsibility. Did Jesus really rise from the tomb? Is it necessary to have been raised from the tomb and to appear to his disciples in order to explain the rise of early church and the transcription of the bible? Crossan answers no, Wright answers, yes. "

      So where are the bones"? As per Professor Crossan's analyses in his many books, the body of Jesus would have ended up in the mass graves of the crucified, eaten by wild dogs, covered with lime in a shallow grave, or under a pile of stones.

      October 2, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
  17. Norm

    It's unfortunate this stuff is even considered worth discussing.

    October 2, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
  18. ru serious

    How any self-respecting Jew could vote for Obama is a mystery. He is no friend to Israel.

    October 2, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • *sigh*

      Many American Jews oppose Israel's govt/policies just like many American muslims are opposed to the Saudi government.

      October 2, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
    • HarryHoudini

      Can't imagine why anyone would ever question Israel's motives or methods...

      October 2, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
    • nmmell08

      The defense minister would disagree with you in Israel

      October 2, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • miriam

      Because as Jews, we have many concerns. And being accurate is one of them – Obama is a Christian. That said, I wouldn't vote for him, or Romney. Traditional Jewish values include "repair of the world" which could not possibly mean voting for corporate candidates. It also includes social justice and caring for those in need (again, Romney and Obama are useless), and caring for Creation. I'd say Jewish values are best represented by the Green Party.

      October 2, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
  19. Jonathan

    Someone that uses the word 'douchnozzle' is not someone that I consider having a respectable opinion. And cursing is merely a public declaration of stupidity.

    Seriously. We need to stop giving these people attention.

    October 2, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • Bob

      Go fu ck yourslef, douchnozzle.

      October 2, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • Mass Debater

      "cursing is merely a public declaration of stupidity."

      And your opinion is worth about as much as a warm bowl of shlt.

      Sometimes there is no way to get accross how you feel about frustrating fecal philanderers without using some colorful language.

      October 2, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
    • Randy

      This is the most logical thing that I have seen on this message board!

      October 2, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • Hey

      Asshole says what?

      October 2, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • Jonathan

      @ Randy: Thank you.

      @Mass Debator: You may not think my opinion has much weight or worth, but let us see who resonates better in a public setting rather than an anonymous forum setting. You can curse and belittle all you want and I will choose to use the power of vocabulary and well spoken language to get my point across, rather than join those wallowing in the gutter.

      @ Bob & Hey: Thank you for proving my point. Now, put on the big boy pants and use your words, rather than your emotional knee-jerk reactions to actually say something worth meaning.

      October 2, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
  20. Reality

    Where is the militancy in: "And the irony is that a good start in reducing this $16 trillion debt is to voluntarily eliminate religion in our lives with the added incentive of saving 3.5 billion "souls":

    October 2, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
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About this blog

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.