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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. Mitt Romney's Amazing Zombie Campaign! It's Dead, But It's Still Staggering Around!

    Want to see a Republican's head explode? On November 7, after Obama wins, just go up to one and say "Four More Years!"

    November 7 is going to be SO MUCH FUN!

    October 3, 2012 at 1:42 am |
    • Yeah!

      Pop go the weasels!

      October 3, 2012 at 1:48 am |
    • Rick

      Spoken like a true welfare recipient.

      October 3, 2012 at 11:32 am |
    • Rick

      Where I come from they teach that if you have to use profanity then your to stupid to think of the words you are actually trying to say. Seems like the only thing that gets Obama followers excited is profain language and freeloading.

      Hmmm......what does that say about Dems????

      October 3, 2012 at 11:36 am |
    • joe

      Get a life – little scared vanilla Rick.

      October 3, 2012 at 11:51 am |
  2. sally

    Rummy pirate supporters are getting desperate.

    Poor Rummy pirate's ship is sinking FAST. Soon we'll be hearing about "shake-ups" (the mutiny and all his people jumping ship). Soon everyone will be trying to distance themselves from Mr. Sneaky Snake. Poooor Rummy pirate. Awwwww. Like I feel so sorry for his 'tarded supporters . . . Not! lol.

    October 2, 2012 at 11:53 pm |
    • Wally

      Republicans in other races are already criticizing Romney and distancing themselves from him.

      Rats. Ship. That sort of thing.

      October 3, 2012 at 1:44 am |
    • zaskar

      another fool who beleives obamas lies. 4 years of broken promises and you want another 4 years of this. as a business owner i will pass all of obamas tax increase on business to the customer as will other small bussiness haha

      October 3, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
    • sally

      "4 years of broken promises " – oh we hear this too often. the cause of many things not getting done are the Repubtard congressmen who said they wouldn't cooperate with Obama from the very beginning not matter what. That means even regardless of the merit of whatever they non-cooperation was against for you repub. retards.

      That's OK, most people are wiser than the lemmings who listen to Fox fake news all day. Poor Rummy is going down hard. Oh and I'm gonna rub it in so bad, cause I'm sick and tired of listening to lemming repub. retards. Awwww – poor rummy pirate.

      October 3, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • Russell's Teapot

      Zaskar,
      As if you didn't pass it on to the other guy before?

      October 3, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • sally

      I meant: "whatever the non-cooperation"
      (not "whatever they non-cooperation")

      October 3, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
  3. Reality

    ONLY FOR THE NEW MEMBERS OF THIS BLOG:-–>>>>>

    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 11:36 pm |
    • zaskar

      a lot about nothing

      October 3, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • Reality

      Saving Christians like Romney and Obama 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."
      http://eternal-word.com/library/PAPALDOC/JP2HEAVN.HTM

      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,

      p.4

      "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 3, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
  4. rexdogcanadien

    Obama is contemplative and wise. He knows what needs to be done to improve the economy but the Republicans are hell bent on preventing him from doing so. He realizes that America's greatest need is a universal health care system. An unhealthy nation is a failing nation. Obamacare will go down in history as his greatest achievement.

    October 2, 2012 at 9:43 pm |
  5. rexdogcanadien

    Obama is contemplative and wise. He knows what needs to be done to improve the economy but the Republicans are hell bent on preventing him from doing so. He inherited a floundering economy from Bush. He immediately moved to right the ship at the expense of delaying his promises to change the culture of American politics. He realizes that America's greatest need is a universal health care system. An unhealthy nation is a failing nation. Obamacare will go down in history as his greatest achievement. It appears as if some citizens want to be instantly gratified. They should learn a lesson from the
    farmer who tills his fields, sows his seeds, etc, as he patiently waits to harvest his crops.

    October 2, 2012 at 9:40 pm |
  6. Name Jewel c.

    John & Jim suck Obama 's Dick

    October 2, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
  7. SugarKube

    Obama and the Reidtards of course.

    October 2, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
  8. Meliza

    I think if you take a peek at Fact check you'll see just as many articles debunking Democratic spin as there are debunking Republican spin. How do you arrive at the conclusion that it's a liberal site?

    October 2, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
  9. vowelmovement

    so Samuel J gots to bully people into voting for obama....

    October 2, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
  10. Hugh Mann

    I guess everyone is not a Puritan, then...

    October 2, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
  11. Meliza

    John, that's incorrect. It was 7.8% when Obama took office. Mind you, it had surged 3 percentage points during later months of the Bush administration to reach 7.8%. Crested at 10% and has since dropped to 8.2%, where it stands currently. http://www.factcheck.org. Feel free to check it out yourself.

    October 2, 2012 at 8:49 pm |
    • LIberalsSux

      Factcheck is a liberal site-nuff said

      October 2, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @Meliza

      SHHHHH!!! You're using FACTS! Why would you do such a reasonable and good thing? Don't you know you're not supposed to use facts with people like John? You need to protect their fragile little bubble of a world by placating delusional idiocy that they spew, otherwise not accepting their lies means you're persecting them and have been for many years!

      October 2, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      Take LiberalsSux for instance. When it comes to refuting the idiocy that Romney or some other far right moron spews, it's a liberal site that isn't reliable, but if it says something bad about Obama, it's either ignored that that's where the information came from, or some lame excuse about why that specific thing is ok.

      October 2, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
    • Meliza

      @hawaiiguest,

      Especially since even the most casual glance at the home page has a pretty equal share of taking either party to task for fudging the truth. I'd be inclined to agree with the grammatically questionable 'LIberalsSux' if there were no mentions of sketchy behavior by the Democratic party. But there are...so the dismissal of an organization designed to promote truthfulness no matter the party as 'liberal- nuff said' doesn't sound too persuasive to me.

      October 2, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @Meliza

      Oh it's not a complete dismissal, is a conditional dismissal based on whether or not they agree with the conclusion. In short, dishonest biased bullshit.

      October 2, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
    • Meliza

      @hawaiiguest

      I'm inclined to agree. LIberalsSux has been a bit quiet on this front of late.

      October 3, 2012 at 12:51 am |
  12. Flower doe

    obama 2012!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    October 2, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
  13. Concerned Jew

    A vote for Obama is a vote for Muslim Brotherhood......Wake the F#$#@ up

    October 2, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
    • Sadandsick

      And you really believe that drivel? Your lack of intelligence is showing.

      October 2, 2012 at 9:09 pm |
    • sanityguest

      this concerned Jew does not agree with you. you have been misled by the feqrmongering republicans.

      October 3, 2012 at 11:38 am |
  14. JoshE

    Good on ya, Sarah. The ad is dead on and it made me laugh. It's a nice change of pace from these "lets pretend we never swear or stop smiling" campaign ads I am already sick of.

    October 2, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
  15. What's Profane?

    You know what's profane? Lies. If you are offended by the f-word but alright with being lied to, go ahead and cast your vote for Romney. Sheep.

    October 2, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
    • b

      Baaa.....Baaaa....

      October 2, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
  16. John

    A Jew voting for Obama? Have these clueless idiots seen how he supports the PLO, and shuns the Israelies any chance he gets? That's a Hollywood wack-job for you.

    October 2, 2012 at 8:28 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      I find it completely amazing that people here would determine how much a person supports American Jews by how much they support Israel. I mean seriously, if you think the place is so damn wonderful, go live there. It makes no sense, are you that blind by your religious stupidity that Israel is the be all when it comes to your view of the American Jewish community?

      October 2, 2012 at 8:36 pm |
    • Concerned Jew

      Agreed...How can a Jew (Unless She is a traitor to her heritage) vote for Obama...
      He detests Israel and Jews....

      Why Are American Jews so clueless?

      October 2, 2012 at 8:39 pm |
    • Tony

      Almost all Jews I know support Romney. In fact, I don't know a single one in my community (which includes thousands of Jewish Americans) – that doesn't support Romney. Not because of his stance on Israel but because they're sick of watching the wealth of this country flow to China and India while Americans complain about their safety nets and services. They recognize that what we have now going on is UNSUSTAINABLE.

      October 3, 2012 at 1:34 am |
    • sanityguest

      i support Obama and Israel. as president of America, not president of Israel, Obama must deal with all people in the world in a more impartial way. Israel's leaders have no problems with Obama and have actually praised him (look it up on you tube and other places). We all know that the palestinian issue will not go away and most of us do not want to harm people who identify themselves as "palestinians". therefore, a solution to the situation in Israel and the territories must be found. this involves talking to all sides and actually listening to their fears, complaints and desires. that is all that Obama is doing. the alternative is going back to Bush style foreign policy: we don't like you and we will kill you and destroy your country. this is what Mitt and his advisors want (think Cheney and Rumsfeld). As a jewish american who supports Israel, i don't want that!!!!!!

      October 3, 2012 at 11:43 am |
  17. IQuestionAll

    Obama hates the American Flag because it is a symbol of freedom.

    October 2, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
  18. dscon

    My guess would be .........OBAMA's policies, are what's responsible.

    October 2, 2012 at 8:07 pm |
  19. jim

    DAILY CALLER: 'For nearly 40 minutes, using an accent he never adopts in public, Obama describes a racist, zero-sum society, in which the white majority profits by exploiting black America'... Developing tonight...

    October 2, 2012 at 8:02 pm |
    • sanityguest

      it's a shame that your mind is so weak that you fall for that rhetoric. and for the record, everything Obama said about New Orleans after Katrina is true and I hope that he stands by that speech. I am a white northerner and even I could clearly see how the government did not treat the poor communities in New Orleans the same way that it treated white communities after natural disasters. it is a shameful moment in our hiatory.

      October 3, 2012 at 11:47 am |
  20. jim

    Listen my friends
    And you will see,
    What King Obama
    Has done to you and me.

    On January twentieth
    Two thousand and nine,
    He took control
    We started our decline.

    With record unemployment
    And people forlorn,
    Our tax money spent
    Poverty the Norm.

    With free phones for some
    And EBT cards too,
    The lazy ones come
    Freebies from me and you.

    On November the sixth
    Two thousand and twelve,
    You must go vote
    Or were going to hell.

    The country deserves better
    Than the King and Moochele,
    America must survive
    And ring the liberty bell

    October 2, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
    • Anne

      If you think voting Obama is hell I will happily put on my asbestos suit and vote for him because voting Romney would be like sticking my head in the gas oven.

      October 2, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
    • old ben

      Correct, Anne. Romney is bad news for all.

      October 2, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
    • dscon

      Is your gas bill being paid by me, your friendly taxpayer?

      October 2, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
    • allah nothin?

      This weenie liked Bush. Let's give him a push. Where or when, not if, let's find a high cliff. Stop your bad rhymes, put in some work time.

      October 2, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
    • joe

      I quit reading your lame poem when you put "he took control we started our decline". You are ignorant. Unemployment was at 7.8 percent and climbing when Bush left office. This is just one of the many indicators that show our economy was on the decline before Obama took office.

      October 2, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
    • John

      Know your facts; when Bush left office, the unemployment rate was 6%...It has climbed during Obamanation to 10%. He has since waved the fact that it's dropped to 7.8 like it's a badge of honor. Idiot.

      October 2, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
    • sanityguest

      funny, I thought the decline started in 2008 while Bush was president and the weight of his debt from 2 wars and tax breaks for the rich, along with complete deregulation of the financial industry caused the economy to crash, the banks and investment houses to implode, and we almost lost the auto industry?????

      October 3, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • Russell's Teapot

      John,
      Blaming Obama for the economy crashing across multiple sectors within months of him taking office is akin to blaming Bush for allowing the 9/11 attacks to happen. Furthermore, expecting the American economy to go back to how it was during the height of the Bush years in less than 4 years is ludicrous, bordering on the absurd when one takes into account this was a global crisis (not to mention the wealth generated during the robust years, was built upon precarious foundations destined to collapse, and collapse they did).

      October 3, 2012 at 2:51 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.