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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. ron sterling

    Why does America have to care everytime a jew says something? Isn't that why Israel was created? To give these wonderful people a place to go when the host country throws them out. Of course jews are never at fault and it is only pure hate that has caused countless nations over thousands of years all to come to the same conclusion, the jews got to go. They have an uncanny ability to destabilize nations. Why is this?

    October 2, 2012 at 2:08 am |
  2. Mike

    >Jewish
    >Super PAC

    stopped reading there

    October 2, 2012 at 1:59 am |
  3. Cogito

    Do you mean things like, among other things, reauthorizing the Patriot Act & the NDAA?...that's just super!
    Taking away your rights is a great way to defend them!
    I suggest you find out who else is running for President other than the two sides of the same coin that the Reps & Dems are putting forth, & take a good hard look at ALL of their platforms...

    October 2, 2012 at 1:56 am |
  4. cashmeremafia

    Not sure if profanity will convince people to go to the polls or even vote for Obama, but hey, that's why we have free speech! Whatever floats your boat!!

    October 2, 2012 at 1:47 am |
  5. Geoff

    Jewish humor? Seriously? More likely a poor excuse to use foul language and demean yourself. Penguins don't have to resort to profanity to articulate what they want, and the Jewish people whom I know don't either. Therefore I can only conclude that Silverman and Jackson aren't too bright when it comes to constructing clear sentences and use being Jewish as some lame excuse for it.

    October 2, 2012 at 1:35 am |
  6. Sani abubakar bako

    Nigeria was problem in the pilgram

    October 2, 2012 at 1:26 am |
  7. nc1965

    Something that CNN will not tell you.

    Electoral College – 270 NEED TO WIN.

    Real Clear Politics – Obama 269 Romney 191

    October 2, 2012 at 1:21 am |
    • jimmy

      nope CNN never mentions the electoral college. only has a big huge link to its own electoral college map. i guess CNN is covering up the electoral college. or maybe you are telling us these votes have already been cast five weeks before the election? either way this is one of the dumbest posts i've ever seen.

      October 2, 2012 at 2:03 am |
  8. Mac

    Republicans this year, are the most ridiculous group of retards ever to make a run for the presidency. Making the economy the key issue is going to bite them in their rear, for this election. The public clearly knows that the economic turmoil in the country was a mess created by Republicans themselves. So no one in the country trust them at the helm. No one believes anything the GOP has to say. Although I like Mitt Romney, its the pandering greedy corporate cronies around him who are just pining for those no bid contracts worth billions, that I abhor. This malicious group of GOP war mongers will again take the country and world economy to the brink of collapse.

    October 2, 2012 at 1:20 am |
  9. B B A

    Sarah pointing out that interracial dating is the preferred method to exterminate her own self-hated race...no need fdor Obama and Abadjamedad to be in any kind of hurry...

    October 2, 2012 at 1:10 am |
  10. Terry Brookman

    How many presidents, congress men and senators have served in the military and where was Obama in the first Gulf war, hiding under a bed or smoking dope would be my guess. The rich do not fight they get the poor to do that and that goes for both sides if you really believe there is any sides. Obama is a joke and has done nothing for anyone except the rich. Over half of the big give away money deal went to Europe to keep the Euro from collapsing, we got the bill. Even the money that stayed here went to the bankers and car company's what did the poor and middle class get, nothing unless you had a job at GM. The thing he does best is suck up to the UN.

    October 2, 2012 at 12:59 am |
    • Epidi

      "The rich do not fight they get the poor to do that " – Um...you do know that Mittens is a draft dodger don't you? And that he is one of those rich folks you are complaining about? lolz – get a grip. Your MItty boy's horns hold up his rather tarnished halo.

      October 2, 2012 at 1:32 am |
    • OpinionsToGo

      For a list of Obama's accomplishments see:
      http://www.thepeoplesview.net/2011/09/so-that-ignorance-wont-be-reason-why.html

      October 2, 2012 at 1:50 am |
  11. Dave

    Screw Obama / we need to send the boy home to Chicago

    October 2, 2012 at 12:56 am |
  12. Acdsasf

    Romney will be president ..... of Kolob.

    October 2, 2012 at 12:55 am |
  13. 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.

    BO 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.

    October 2, 2012 at 12:49 am |
    • paulm5545

      Hmmm...the Book of Mormon or Rev. J. Wright?

      October 2, 2012 at 1:06 am |
  14. Darrell Rutz

    OBama will win the RACE BY A LANDSLIDE!

    October 2, 2012 at 12:38 am |
  15. Darrell Rutz

    OBAMA has done more for the Sons of America then any Prez in the last 40 years! I know, because I am one!

    October 2, 2012 at 12:35 am |
    • Cogito

      Not sure why this didn't get posted as a reply the first time. Sorry for the duplicate post.
      With that said...

      Darrell:
      Do you mean things like, among other things, reauthorizing the Patriot Act & the NDAA?...that's just super!
      Taking away your rights is a great way to defend them!
      I suggest you find out who else is running for President other than the two sides of the same coin that the Reps & Dems are putting forth, & take a good hard look at ALL of their platforms...

      October 2, 2012 at 1:59 am |
    • noneya

      So you live off govt handouts? Take pride a bet ... Pathetic.

      October 2, 2012 at 2:06 am |
  16. bribarian

    No surprise Obama has the biggest degenerates as support.

    October 2, 2012 at 12:31 am |
    • Darrell Rutz

      At least he has people that vote for him! Not like the republicans base Honey Boo Boo,and the most stupid people on TV.

      October 2, 2012 at 12:44 am |
  17. Kuta

    Hey what's with the multiple paragrahs and polysyllabic words? I'm a Republican and can only digest information in predigested bites from my news mama Fox.

    October 2, 2012 at 12:30 am |
  18. Darrell Rutz

    Romney is a draft dodger, left the country so not to be drafted! His Sons all five of them has never served in the military! Cowards all of them ! They get tax payers money to have secret service baby set them from now own! What a load of Mormons crap!!

    October 2, 2012 at 12:28 am |
    • Ralph N

      Romney this, Romney that. Get over it. Obama is nothing but a trend follower in every issue. He can't lead. Also, notice how fickle CNN is. No sooner than Romney gains in the polls than CNN backs off their criticism of him in their articles. They don't want to be seen as being on the wrong side of the winner. Their sail changes with the wind.

      October 2, 2012 at 12:41 am |
  19. Brian

    "No matter what anyone says, Romney is still a cheat, dishonest, heartless man.".........................

    True, but so was Nixon and old Tricky Dick was elected by a landslide. Sometimes I wonder about the voters in this country. Mencken called them the "Booboisie."

    October 2, 2012 at 12:22 am |
  20. maestra730

    Sarah Silverman: a talentless hack whose bitter, profane rants showcase nothing except her own insecurity. Samuel L. Jackson: an aging action figure whose only real accomplishment is how often he's able to use the F word in any given sentence. Big deal. Both of these dimwits are completely irrelevant. Curse away. No one cares.

    October 2, 2012 at 12:17 am |
    • MrE

      i have one thing to say: Clint Eastwood.....

      October 2, 2012 at 1:04 am |
    • Sevim adem

      Our culture has degraded so much that we treasure and admire nd use profane language. How sad that we are about to reelect a president whose only experience and talent is with class warmongering, and who sat in a church for 20 years listening to hateful messages from someone who hated this country.

      October 2, 2012 at 1:46 am |
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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.