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. wolfpackbob

    It is The Economy, Mr. President. Your Economy, Mr. President. You built that.

    October 2, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
    • mike w

      BULL SH!T! The Repubtards, their stinking economic policies, sloppy deregulation, and their penchant for fueling war left and right are what's responsible for the fvcked-up economy, d!ckface.

      October 2, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
  2. MeJew

    Thanks Samuel Jackson for the wake up call. America, wake up!

    National Enquirer:
    Is Michelle Obama's spending 'spiralling out of control'? First Lady insisted on $4m trip to Hawaii when her husband wanted local vacation. Barack Obama wanted trip to Camp David, Maryland. But his wife didn't want to disappoint their daughters.

    Many Americans are working so hard just to survive in this economy that they don't ever get to take any vacations at all.

    Wake the f___ up.

    October 2, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
  3. dannylee885

    Guess what: The media wouldn't be laughing and snickering about these ads if they were for Romney. They'd be leading the outrage parade. If you're one of those people wondering which side to choose, check out which side relies on unfair treatment by big media. Given that, ask yourself what you're not hearing. 'Nuff said.

    October 2, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
    • TeamZippy

      Gee, thank god there's not big media on the conservative side . . . OH WAIT! Fox news? Rush Limbaugh? Wall Street Journal? Nah, doesn't count. Koch brothers? Hell, Mitt Romney! You're a baffoon, wake up.

      October 2, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
    • WowCNNbadjob

      Yes danny the people who deny this are themselves in denial, and liars.

      October 2, 2012 at 8:28 pm |
  4. MeJew

    Sammy's right wake the f___ up. The Obamas have been chillin' on expensive getaways despite the dire condition of our fellow American and yet still use the taxpayers money for lavish family trips. Just like what Biden said, The middle class American's are already buried in the past 4 years (thank Joe for being so honest, what a gaffe). Where did the family have their good time?
    – President’s Day 2012, Michelle and the first daughters in Aspen, Colorado to ski.
    – Christmas 2011, the first family in Hawaii for an extended vacation.
    – Summer 2011, in Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., for the annual beach break.
    – June 2011, the first lady, her mother and daughters traveled to South Africa and Botswana.
    – President’s Day 2011, the first lady and first daughters travel to Vail to ski.
    – Christmas 2010, in Hawaii.
    – August 2010, the first family traveled to Panama City Beach, Fla., for some sun and fun at the beach.
    – August 2010, Obama spent the weekend alone in Chicago for his 49th birthday bash.
    – August 2010, the first lady and daughter Sasha traveled to Spain for a mother-daughter vacation.
    – August 2010, summer vacation again at Martha’s Vineyard.
    – July 2010, the first family went to Mount Desert Island, Maine.
    – May 2010, the first family had a four-day trip to Chicago.
    – March 2010, first lady and daughter spend Spring Break in New York City.
    – Christmas 2009, Hawaii again for the annual break.
    – August 2009, at Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Canyon for a short vacation.
    – August 2009, their first summer vacation as first family at Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.

    October 2, 2012 at 7:33 pm |
    • old ben

      Yep – presidents do that kind of thing. Get over it.

      October 2, 2012 at 7:35 pm |
    • juny1958

      You gotta love Biden....he hands it to Repubs. Thanks Moron......what is with the nasty vulgarity of this POS??? Is she funny or just plain stupid. When i was a kid a wise man said to me, " cursing is just an ignorant mind trying to express itself" NUFF said

      October 2, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
    • Capt Nemo

      Reagan and Bush II took LOTS more vacation time than Obama (or any other us president ever).

      October 2, 2012 at 7:55 pm |
    • MeJew

      old ben: You're right. I agree. But I cannot get over it when they have to spend 1.4 billion dollars. So where did the 1.4 billion dollars go? That money paid the salaries of their staff members, it paid for their transportation and housing costs, it paid for entertainment and vacations for the Obamas, and $102,000 was even spent on a "dog handler" for the family dog Bo. You can buy a book yourself: Presidential Perks Gone Royal: Your Taxes Are Being Used For Obama's Re-election.

      October 2, 2012 at 7:59 pm |
    • MeJew

      That's true Capt_Nemo: as your CBS liberal media reported iin August 2011: President Obama has taken 61 vacation days after 31 months in office. George W. Bush had spent 180 days during his presidency at his ranch where his staff joined him for meetings. And Ronald Reagan had taken 112 vacation days at his ranch. Aside from that, Obama played 100 rounds of golf as of Sept 2011.

      October 2, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
  5. vowelmovement

    obama poodles are a pathetic lot

    October 2, 2012 at 7:28 pm |
  6. vowelmovement

    vile and pathetic – instead of just saying vote for no matter who you prefer the fools take sides

    October 2, 2012 at 7:28 pm |
  7. John

    I got bored halfway through this CNN/Obama Super Pac ad (aka article) and am headed back to the home page.

    October 2, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
  8. Anne

    Vile, profane, crude, and vulgar? That's a turn off. Repugnant. But that seems to be what vile, profane, crude, and vulgar people enjoy, and where our increasingly shallow "society" is headed.

    October 2, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
    • Frank Lumpkin

      Amen. Pure trash. A real embarassment to black people and jewish people

      October 2, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
    • juny1958

      Ann: you are so right....but we as a nation got here the easy way... we didnt always need to be so crass and vulgar...but look what passes for entertainmen here on TV.....we are no longer a Super Power, just super sad

      October 2, 2012 at 7:41 pm |
  9. cantilever

    Robo-trolls being what they are, articles such as this one should be closed for comment.

    October 2, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
  10. t3chn0ph0b3

    Imagine Glenn Beck making a profane ad in support of voter ID. Now imagine him losing his career. It's the same imagining.

    This is why Glenn Beck isn't funny. He's in support of disgusting ideals.

    October 2, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
  11. Rose

    We already look like a joke to the rest of the world anyway, so I wasn't at all surprised.

    October 2, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
  12. Tony

    It's sad that the only group of people that being kept out of the polls are our military. Obama administration has failed once again to follow federal law and open military voting assistance centers across county, gives false information on deadlines, does not include voting instructions when service personnel are transferred to new area. Military voter registration is 1/10th of last election cycle.

    Hey Samuel, WAKE THE F*** UP!

    October 2, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
    • Rose

      I'm not surprised by that either, we're already being downsized to such low levels it's frightening if we're ever attacked here. So now they're being kept from voting, also?

      October 2, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
    • DougJ

      That's not true. Thanks for the Republican talking points. Sometimes I wonder why anyone would support Romney, but then I realize his supporters are simply uninformed. And if you want to see voters kept away from the polls, look no further than the GOP. They may keep as many as 5 million away this election.

      October 2, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
  13. Your Mom

    Mittens who?

    October 2, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
    • Frank Lumpkin

      Fitting that this joke of a president is supported by antisemitic racist humor. And I'm a democrat – sadly.

      October 2, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
  14. Anthony

    Jackson is worth almost as much mitt romney and i doubt he has hired anyone in his life. I bet he also likes to fire people and i really bet he isnt like the president at all, just another pampered celebrity.

    October 2, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
  15. Bill Willy

    Anyone who takes this seriously, or thinks it's even remotely funny, has some serious screws loose. Disrespectful, vile, childish, and plain stupid. Oh, sorry, I just described a liberal!!

    October 2, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
    • TeamZippy

      What's wrong with you?

      October 2, 2012 at 7:59 pm |
  16. whight_knight

    Obama is trash anyways he doesn't need anyone to make profane ads against him..especially since his very existence is profane and he should be smote and alleviate all the troubles he has created in this country..he has done nothing of any prominence and has bogged our country down in greater debt and higher unemployment and still many idiots praise him like he's a freaking savior..and before anyone pipes up I hate romney's sorry behind too..

    October 2, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
    • George

      You need help.

      October 2, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
  17. disengaging from you lunatics

    Just read a comment where the commenter proclaims himself an independant after chastising another for his republican ideology. I don't know about the rest of you partisan loons, but IMO, if you constanlty drink the koolaid from one side of the isle, you might not be an independent.

    October 2, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
  18. Leeroy

    Not funny at all. Typical of Obama supporters. 🙁

    October 2, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
    • TeamZippy

      Yeah. It really is funny. You might want to check and see if your humor switch is in the "on" position. I find with Republibots they often have it in the "off" position. This makes them unable to enjoy humor.

      October 2, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
    • Frank Lumpkin

      Theyre all on welfare anyway – skimming off the rest of us.

      October 2, 2012 at 7:28 pm |
  19. sally

    You can tell by some of the lame comments here that the Rummy pirate supporters are getting desperate.
    Poor Rummy pirate's ship is sinking FAST. Soon we'll be hearing about "shake-ups" where really it'll be mutiny and everyone will try to distance themselves from the sorry ass. Poooor Rummy pirate. Awwwww.

    October 2, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
    • jim

      Sad Sally. This is so typical of Obama supporters.

      October 2, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
    • sally

      I'm not sad. There's no time to be sad when the Rummy ship is going dooowwnnn. lol

      October 2, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
  20. Jay

    Too bad Samuel L. Jackson doesn't understand the difference between a safety net and a safety bed where people can lay around living off the Government dole. Sure, it's not a glamorous lifestyle, but it's easy (and we know how certain Americans love easy).

    I thought Samuel L. was a tough guy. Guess not.

    October 2, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
    • Frank Lumpkin

      These are the type of people who will vote for Obama regardless – and we all know why! Can u imagine the fall out if a white guy said he would vote for the white candidate no matter what !? OUch. So tired of the double standard

      October 2, 2012 at 7:30 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.