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. bill ball

    an old arab saying is the enemy of my enemy is my friend thats why jew hating muslims love obama

    October 2, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • Ed K

      You're an idiot.

      October 2, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
  2. Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

    foul-mouthed Silverman pushes people to do whatever it takes to make it to the polls in spite of voter ID laws.

    Yes, like get an I.D.

    October 2, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • zapper

      Unfortunately it's been shown to not be that easy for a lot of senior citizens. Don't you think their votes count?

      October 2, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • EliMann

      "I'm Barack Obama and I Approve this Message".

      October 2, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
  3. Drewp

    Obama 2012!...while I don't particularly care what any celebrity thinks I do like the message from Jackson. Dems get out and vote, don't leave it up to others to reelect Obama. Heck I live in SC, which will definitely go red, but I'm still voting and will every election.

    October 2, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Pot meet kettle.

      October 2, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      That reply was not for you Drewp. Silly CNN.

      October 2, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
  4. Bob

    Actors read lines and do very little thinking.

    October 2, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • Bob

      Bruce Willis, Fred Thompson, Ted Nugent, Sonny Bono, Arnie Schwartzenegger......

      October 2, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
  5. Peter Guild

    How can a supposedly Jewish PAC support a presidential candidate who does not stand strong in support of Israel? My vote, and I'm Catholic, goes to Mitt Romney

    October 2, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
    • Bob

      The same isreal that murdered 34 US sailors aboard the USS Liberty?

      They ain't no friend of ours, bub.

      October 2, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • Hugh Jass

      "How can a supposedly Jewish PAC support a presidential candidate who does not stand strong in support of Israel?" Despite what Glen Beck says, Obama and the USA support Israel. Read a book some time.

      October 2, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
  6. zaqaz

    Who the f*** cares?

    October 2, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
  7. ted

    Yall might be able to make people laugh NOW, but there will be some serious crying in 2014 when Obmama care kicks in.
    The only Ace in the hole is, thanks to Michelle Obama being pointed the lunchroom gestapo there's a generation of Republicans on the verge of graduating high school. Their indoctrine will be complete when they apply for college and get turned down because they aren't of social Class stock deserving of such an honor and their mom and dad can't afford the million dollar tuition. What with the health premiums, outrageous out of pocket expenses, and the high cost of energy and food, on a Krispy Kreme salary.

    I just wonder who these kids will be voting for when they turn 18?
    I wonder if Comedy Central will be so damned funny to them then?

    Hmmm makes you wonder doesn't it. I think that generation, will matter more than the past 3 or 4 generations combined.
    They will be fighting to LIVE. Let alone go to college and get a decent job.

    Laugh it up funny boy. I knew a funny boy once. He got brains shot out over Okinawa.

    October 2, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • zapper

      I don't think most of us will be crying when 15-20 million uninsured people now have insurance. Are you aware that the national increase in health care insurance costs was the lowest last year in a decade? It's already working.

      October 2, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
  8. Love these ads

    I love these ads. Fair minded Americans who don't appreciate profance laced crap will cease sitting on the fence as they can't see themselves voting with these kinds of children who call themselves adults. Thanks so much!

    October 2, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
  9. Kate

    They could have done it without the profanity, BUT that's what grabbed your attention!

    October 2, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
  10. Bob

    Real classy.

    October 2, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
  11. Sam the Jew

    One day, an old woman went to the beach with her grandson on his birthday, and for his birthday she gave him a broad, yellow hat. While he was playing in the sand, a freak wave swept him out to sea.

    The old woman prayed harder than she had ever done, sobbing and tearing her clothes. "Please, oh Lord, I beg of thee: return my grandson alive, and I will be doubly faithful in my remaining years!"

    Immediately, another came crashing upon the shore and returned the child, alive and unharmed. The old woman looked up toward heaven and cried "where's his f&#@ing hat?!"

    October 2, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • Hugh Jass

      No, it's "He HAD a hat." Tradition!

      October 2, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • EliMann

      Sounds like Sarah Silverman and Samuel Jackson. These guys are funny, I mean phony.

      October 2, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
  12. CryBabies

    These ads are not representative of the Jewish people in the USA. They are sick and vulger and show no class whatsoever. They could have got their message across without the "F" bombs.

    October 2, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • ted

      Last I heard the Jews aren't so happy with Barry anymore.
      Not the ones that matter anyway.

      October 2, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      The “F” bomb is just a word. Grow up.

      October 2, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
  13. Empathy Not

    So Obama refuses to speak to Netanyahu, his U.N. ambassador skips his speech at the U.N. to have lunch with Hilary, and yet the Jewish Super Pac still supports him........ is there a difference between an American Jew and an Israeli Jew?

    October 2, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • Christianity and Islam is a mental disease- FACT

      "is there a difference between an American Jew and an Israeli Jew?"
      Big difference

      October 2, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
    • Love these ads

      Yes, in Israel they worship God. In America, many Jews worship Nietzsche. HUGE difference

      October 2, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • Hugh Jass

      " is there a difference between an American Jew and an Israeli Jew?" You don't read much, do you?

      October 2, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
  14. Al

    Jewish voters should be voting for someone that has turned his back on Israel, oh wait they are supporting Obama. These are not real Israeli they are just backers of a once proud country now trying to stay alive without the help of the United States since it's present leader is backing other countries leaders.

    October 2, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • c

      Thousands of non Zionist Jews are protesting in the streets in Israel against the Israeli governments continued aparthied like suppression of the Palestinians. They want a two state solution. There are also voices in Israel know as the Naturei Karta who do not support Israel's occupation of Palestine because they believe according to Torah they are still in exile as commanded by God. And that only He can and will return the Jews to where HE promised; not a man generated Aliyah to bring Jews back to their so called promised land. Many Zionist secular Jews are angry that some Amerian Jews; be cause they are losing their support. Natahyahu and the Zionist are not the only voices in Israel = nor are the so called christian voices in the US who blindly follow their lead because of their misguided understnading of the Bible.

      October 2, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
  15. Jim in PA

    I don't get it, where's the empty chair?

    October 2, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
  16. BKISER

    Religious or not, these people represent the classless Democrat Party. I would be ashamed.

    October 2, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • 1safechick

      Good. You're not invited in.

      October 2, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
    • AdamtheDude

      The "classless" Democratic Party? Sir, that is indeed the pot calling the kettle beige.

      October 2, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
  17. bribarian

    Obama's crowd are a degenerate bunch of people incapable of thinking, it's no surprised some jewbags would become their spokes people.

    October 2, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • greennnnnn


      Obama's crowd are a degenerate bunch of people incapable of thinking, it's no surprised some jewbags would become their spokes people.


      Jewbags???? And you're calling THEM degerates. Look in the mirror, dude. Disgusting.

      October 2, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
    • REGinAZ

      Calling others a "degenerate bunch of people incapable of thinking" just because something goes beyond your understanding really is an example of defensively condemning others for one's own shortcomings.

      October 2, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
    • Shootmyownfood

      Bigot much?

      October 2, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • c

      What are you -calling somebody a jew bag? Bet you think you're a real christian.

      October 2, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • Kate

      Yes, you are a real class act............and also, apparently, a bigot. Proud aren't you?

      October 2, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
  18. trilly2010

    Why should I listen to a couple of disgusting Democratic fools?

    October 2, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
    • REGinAZ

      Because as a Republican fool it could do you some good to approach reality.

      October 2, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
    • viszla7

      You don't have to listen.

      October 2, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
  19. pistoff2

    In the book of Proverbs people are made fun of? Get a grip, really, those mentioned were warned, they were not made fun of. You might look at Psalms, second chapter, now that says that God sits in the heavens and laughs, at who? Those who think they are in control.

    October 2, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
  20. jj

    There's a lot of vile comments here. I guess that's the price of anonimity.

    October 2, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • Mass Debater

      There are also many thoughtful responses, which is why we should have the freedom to respond anyway we like, even ignorantly like many of the religious zealots.

      October 2, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • Acegirlshusband

      A lot of people's true colors shine right through when they're hidden from the clear light of day. And usually its a lot of garbage that those same people wouldn't dare speak to their opponents if face to face.

      October 2, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Oh please… try talking to someone on a subway car. LOL

      October 2, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • Hugh Jass

      The price of FOX, I'd say. Lots of people have bought the notion that Obama has an army of millions, waiting to attack them and take their guns and make them get gay-married to a Socialist. No wonder they rave like madmen. And then there are people like me . . . the ones your mom warned you about . . .

      October 2, 2012 at 4:56 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.