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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. Al

    I'm going to break the pattern of Obama and Romney bashing and just say the Jackson clip is just plain cool. Jackson has a way with words (and maybe there are folks who don't know who he is, but the f-word is as much his trademark as anything else). And the message is a straight one: folks are being complacent. They see polls showing Obama out in front and they assume all will go their way, when they need to be working hard to make it go their way. The GOP is certainly working hard (just look at all the people they recruited to leave anti-Obama comments with this article – I keeed, I keeed.). So the "wake the f up" message is an honest one. It's not even aimed at GOP voters. Maybe if the GOP showed a sense of humor they'd get a few extra headlines like this.

    October 1, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
  2. mmr

    This woman and her foul mouthed friends are an embarrassment to Jews. I hope we aren't letting her visit Israel ... it would stink up the place something awful. What a turn-off.

    October 1, 2012 at 8:59 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      Israel loves her,.. and so do I

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_MB6LMbjhQU

      October 1, 2012 at 9:07 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-bYzCwjsaSM

      October 1, 2012 at 9:11 pm |
    • sqeptiq

      Small minds miss the message because they get hung up in the words...expand your consciousness, open your mind.

      October 1, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
    • rs1201

      she's a self hating Jew and an embarrassment. Jewish humor is never shared with non-Jews...it's just not done. All it does is promote anti semitism...I guess Silverman values the dollar more than her heritage.

      October 1, 2012 at 9:22 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      what are you talking about

      October 1, 2012 at 9:22 pm |
    • שמיחזה עִיר

      and how is she a self hating Jew, because she does not like Israels treatment of Palestine, because she want support a Mormon, or because she has a mind of her own; people like you make me sick; people like you are the reason why God abandoned you when the Babylonians came, and just for that I'm using my Jewish name ,... for a while.

      i love Sarah so much♥
      for the life of me i only meet people who dislike her, i have come to the conclusion that your all insane

      October 1, 2012 at 9:27 pm |
    • שמיחזה עִיר

      oh and i got word for you unless your talking about the Canaan (El Elyon/Asherah/Baal) your heritage was stolen form you by nomadic Egyptians and Babylonians

      October 1, 2012 at 9:30 pm |
  3. dywlf

    Just another case of jews caring for themselves at the expense of the country. Keep the whites , blacks, and hispanics fighting each other while they take over.

    October 1, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
    • sqeptiq

      Sorry Adolph, you stood last in line for brains, and the ones you got were sorta rotten and insane. With apologies to the PUSA.

      October 1, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
    • chuck

      Is that why a great many of the philanthropists are Jewish. Do you remember the three young Jewish boys that were
      murdered trying to march with Martin King. Ye of short memory!

      October 1, 2012 at 9:18 pm |
  4. inthemidl

    GOP AGENDA:::::::

    http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/mitt-romneys-real-agenda-20120928

    October 1, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
  5. Chris

    When you say Obama, you've said Profane!

    October 1, 2012 at 8:41 pm |
  6. Sam Yaza

    now back to the hotness

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?&v=whixWpH9MVQ

    October 1, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
  7. Sam Yaza

    you know Sarah i love you probably more then Istahar, but i'm not voting Obama he just not good for this country; you know with the whole NDAA, the censorship, the bailout, being in the pocket of BofA, being christian. their just so much, i don't like about the guy; i didn't vote him in 1008 and i won't vote him know

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vaObRxkX8K4

    and shes a Jew,.. i love Jews♥
    its kinda the reason why i got kicked out of heaven.

    October 1, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
    • Hammer

      are you drunk?

      October 1, 2012 at 8:54 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      nope i don't do drugs

      one hast to have pure and perfect, body, mind, and soul

      October 1, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
    • Insightful

      You never voted fo Obama. No one is fooled You reak of Republi race mongering veiled with bs.

      October 1, 2012 at 9:09 pm |
    • chuck

      Jews don't believe in heaven or hell.

      October 1, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
    • שמיחזה עִיר

      no duh i am a republican, cant say the same for the people in the republican part though. for some reason they cant realize that republican is anti King and that means their God.

      i mean when i turn to god and yell in his face "you don't represent me! I didn't vote for you! your a tyrant i demand a recall/ it revolution time! death to the tyrant God Yahweh! freedom to my people" I'm being the best republican a devil can be♥

      October 1, 2012 at 9:34 pm |
  8. Mayflower

    Funny thing: the article quotes the ad as saying Romney is against safety nets, and yet I listened to that whole clip where some people took that quote. It is completely out of context. His point was the the very poor already have a safety net, and it's the working poor and middle class which need help.

    Not that I care about Silverman or this ad campaign, but I would really like it if everyone involved in the campaign would show a little class and keep their f*bombs to themselves. Yes, BOTH SIDES.

    October 1, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
    • Bill

      I agree.

      I LOVE Sarah (Call me!), but her video was very Michael Mooreish... i.e. lies.

      Sorry, I don't want liars pushing my positions.

      October 1, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
    • Scott603

      For me, what is more important than f-bombs is the fact the the US is the only nation in the entire world without maternity leave, my friends in Asia and Europe received between 3 months, and 1 year fully paid, guaranteed by law. A friend of mine here had to choose between going to work 1 week after a complicated delivery, against her doctor's advice, or lose her job. But Republicans call us Socialist.

      October 1, 2012 at 8:36 pm |
    • Scott603

      We say we already have safety nets, but we are the only first world nation where people with medical conditions (including children) go untreated and die because their job doesn't give them insurance. For the 50 million Americans without health insurance, a brain tumor or cancer is a death sentence. But in Australia, Denmark, Germany, Israel, France, or New Zealand they will get treated. Are their lives worth more than Americans?

      October 1, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
    • Sandra

      You do realize that both Romney and Ryan want to totally destroy those safety nets, or have you had your head in the sand or under a pillow when they go on about 'vouchers' for seniors, getting rid of programs that help?

      October 1, 2012 at 8:50 pm |
    • sqeptiq

      safety net...47%. See a connection? I know, I know, it takes thought.

      October 1, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
  9. EKIA

    The last thing Obama voters are going to do is get to work. Unless work means showing up for 5 minutes to vote to get the government to steal someone else's money to support your food stamps, section 8 housing, and cell phone.

    October 1, 2012 at 8:10 pm |
    • JoJo

      The tax evading, draft-dodging chickenhawk Replutocrats stold our money and our blood for their unnecessary wars and war-profiteering, so fair is fair.

      October 1, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
    • timdav83

      Sigh...

      I work 8 hours a day and support Obama...
      And, the wealthy steal money from the poor all the time...

      October 1, 2012 at 9:11 pm |
    • Mary1972

      Hey clueless m–ron,
      I have been working for the past 30+ years and put in 50+hrs/week. I support Obama. People like yoy in the GOP only make me vote Democratic all the way.

      October 1, 2012 at 9:21 pm |
  10. Sam Yaza

    Sarah Silverman...

    i just creamed my jeans♥

    October 1, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
  11. Chuck

    Why my Jewish cousins like Obama is a mystery to me, the guy
    hates Israel, and snubs thier leader. Secular Jews in America
    are an embarassment to the Jewish faith.

    October 1, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      There's that awesome religious tolerance that the religious people always tout. You must be so proud.

      October 1, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
    • chuck

      Hates Israel????? You have to get your head out of "Fox News".

      October 1, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
  12. Guest

    Vote Obama cos I wunt a fone.

    October 1, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
    • JR

      That's rich! No, wait–if it were rich, it would be on Romney's site, right? So, it's poor??? Middle class? How 'bout just part of the 47%?

      October 1, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
  13. Reality99

    Sarah Silverman is a reason that sane people might consider an abortion.

    October 1, 2012 at 8:02 pm |
    • Bill

      Seems pretty far fetched to me.

      Supporting abortions just in case Sarah gets pregnant so she'll be "re-available" sooner? Is that where you're going? That is sick man.

      October 1, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
  14. Justin

    I'm sure this will get censored by CNN, but am gonna try anyway. All of you that are following Obama need to quit drinkung the koolaid. Are you serious? Have we become such a wimp of a nation that we apologize to an attacking force on our country for being who we are? We need to build up are military might, we need to protect Israel, we need to be their friend. Our country is not Islam we should not modify our beliefs for them, we don't modify it for any other religion. It is an unequal playing field becasue of Obama, if you are an unworking, muslim in this country you are a god under Obama's reign. We need a course correction, and fast, we need to be a large military power like we used to be, we need to protect our citizens from invading forces instead of apologizing for being in the way. If we had the spineless, gutless, crybaby citizens back in the late 1700's that we have today, we still would be under british rule. Stand on your own two feet and push government back to where they belong. Part of liberty and freedom is having the freedom to fail, if you can't handle failure, well you are too weak to be an American anyway.

    October 1, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
    • slason

      Right wing parroting of ignorance doesn't help your cause or America.

      October 1, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
    • sqeptiq

      Well, I thought it was impossible, but you have taken delusional to a whole new dimension.

      October 1, 2012 at 9:11 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Hahaha! We "need to build up are military might." What a moron! Good thing nobody is paying attention to you except your mom.

      October 1, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
    • Mary1972

      Right wing ignorance does not put food on the table or get you votes either.

      October 1, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
    • chuck

      Wow !!!!! I haven't read such uninformed dribble in a long time.

      October 1, 2012 at 9:26 pm |
  15. America first

    Sarah Silverman is an embarrassment to all Jews...
    America needs to wakeful whether Dem or Rep...Congress could not pass a budget even if t wanted to...Our revenue is approx $2.5 trillion but our expenses to run govt , pay for programs is Approx $3.5 trillion... A $1trillion miss that is impossible to balance...This is what both candidates need to be talking about fixing....Obama just added to the problem over the last 4 years..

    October 1, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
  16. Morgrut

    Who cares about Jewish humor? Did they help us fight corruption and injustice? No.
    Call me when they have a clue. I'll be dead by then, so don't bother.

    October 1, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
    • chuck

      Yes Jewish humor did fight for justice. Maybe your to young to remember Mort Sahl or Lenny Bruce or Sid Caesar.

      October 1, 2012 at 8:59 pm |
  17. dee

    Sarah Silverman is so annoying. I prefer nice young Jewish actors like Logan Lerman, Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anton Yelchin, etc.

    October 1, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
  18. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    October 1, 2012 at 7:32 pm |
    • kenny

      who are u praying to win and we'll prove it... lol...

      October 1, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
    • Eli

      Tell that to all of the dead children who were denied medical care in favor of prayer and "anointing with holy oil". Tell that to all of the unemployed who pray for jobs rather than looking for them. Tell that to people at war against others over a competing religion and THEIR prayers.

      Yet you trot out your "prayer changes everything" comment over and over ad nauseum. So SAD.

      October 1, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
    • nope

      @eli
      nope

      October 1, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
    • hal 9001

      I'm sorry, "Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things", but your assertions regarding atheism and prayer are unfounded. The degree to which your assertions may represent truths is 0.0. To help you understand the degree to which your assertions may represent truths, I will access my Idiomatic Expression Equivalency module (IEE). Using my IEE module, the expression that best matches the degree to which your assertions may represent truths is: "TOTAL FAIL".

      I see that you repeat these unfounded statements with high frequency. Perhaps the following book might help you overcome this problem:

      I'm Told I Have Dementia: What You Can Do... Who You Can Turn to...
      by the Alzheimer's Disease Society

      October 1, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
    • snopes says

      nope to nope

      October 1, 2012 at 8:28 pm |
    • nope

      @snoops
      nope

      October 1, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
  19. neckbonesandwich

    Obama HAS too win! We must all vote as many times as we can. Romny will destroy this country.

    October 1, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
    • KalifUni

      Obama already has. Romney still can save it. Buy yourself a clue.

      October 1, 2012 at 7:28 pm |
    • Suedatajo

      That is what has been going on in these media polls that one person voting as many times as he or she can ,tampering to make Obama win .You can't mess with Jesus ,he is watching you .

      October 1, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
    • nope

      @neck...
      nope

      October 1, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
  20. Paramad

    Strategically do you think it makes any sense for Obama to let Israel get taken out? Do you read any history at all? Israel is a powerful country despite it's size and to lose Israel would be like having lost England in WWII.
    Look at a map if you have one and see where Israel is located does that give you any clues to how important Israel is to the Middle East.?
    The other point you miss is that Israel will turn Iran into a large silicon chip. They have very sophisticated weapons systems for nukes and they have more of them. Not to mention a pretty high tech conventional warfare military.
    What ever our difference of opinion may be on settlements, etc, etc. America can't afford to lose Israel and Israel can't afford to alienate the U.S. we are stuck with each other.
    One more point I want to bring up is the GOP hatred of Obama is blinding you to the fact that If Mitthead gets elected The U.S. will be at war with Iran within two years. Mitthead wants to increase military spending exponentially you should ask your self why? It would be great for Israel if the U.S. got involved in another pointless war, it takes the pressure off of them and it feeds the military industrial complex keeping all of Mitthead's cronies rolling in the dough.
    What really burns me is that you GOP ers have the Fortunate Son Syndrome if your not familiar with the song it was written by John Fogerty during Vietnam but it still holds true. You guys like to start wars but you are reluctant to send your own children off to die for nothing.

    October 1, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
    • Barry Goodman

      I totally agree, those are funny commercials.

      October 1, 2012 at 7:09 pm |
    • Corky214

      Utter nonsense.

      a) Obama is at war on more fronts and with less success than any recent president, including George Bush.
      b) Israel has an existential threat as well as being our strong ally in the region.
      c) As to fortunate son syndrome: it affects both parties. Go, draft return go.
      d) Sarah Silverman is a slimy young woman...who cares what her religion is. She is slimy and mean: nothing can change that. Why she is "funny" escapes my understanding.
      e) Romney has never, ever stated that he want to "increase miltary spending exponentially." That is hogwash.

      Find the quote...find anything like it! You are truly full of malarkey.

      October 1, 2012 at 8:21 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.