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. WASP

    as far as the whole "isreal" thing; i say let them stand up for themselves. if they pick a fight with iran, let them put on their big boy pants and deal with it. america isn't the world police, we did our thing over there because we were attacked, if the rest of it burns to the ground i won't shed a tear.
    the days of america pampering isreal should have been over a long time ago.

    October 2, 2012 at 7:12 am |
    • gay guy

      The days of idiots posting comments like yours WASP, SHOULD HAVE ENDED YEARS AGO, U ANTI ISRAEL UNAMERICAN DODO

      October 2, 2012 at 7:25 am |
    • gay guy


      October 2, 2012 at 7:28 am |
    • TSRVT

      gayguy, you are a pathetic excuse for a human being.

      October 2, 2012 at 7:37 am |
    • crazyvermont

      Friend, when the you know what hits the fan, you better hope and pray we're siding with Israel. My son participate in joint exercises with their troops several years ago and some of the stories he related about their capabilities were incredible.

      October 2, 2012 at 7:42 am |
    • Mr Woo

      You were attacked by a Saudi terrorist so you attacked...Iraq?

      October 2, 2012 at 7:46 am |
    • gay guy


      October 2, 2012 at 7:50 am |
  2. rudolph the red

    i think silverman is so incredibly cute.

    October 2, 2012 at 7:06 am |
  3. MightyMoo

    Hahaha.. Nana with the gun!

    October 2, 2012 at 6:56 am |
    • gay guy


      October 2, 2012 at 7:07 am |
    • rudolph the red

      "worst"? gosh, gay guy, you might be taken more seriously if you didn't speak like a moron

      October 2, 2012 at 7:17 am |
    • gay guy


      October 2, 2012 at 7:43 am |
    • logicisnifty

      Neither of these presidential candidates will "destroy america and israel". How can you say you aren't a moron yet believe the proven lies of "muslim communist. You are citing the fact that a millionaire donated 30 percent to charity (hello, tax write off) as reason to vote for him? How about DOING something to help those in need. Maybe you should investigate what either candidate has or will do to help the poor, the sick, the elderly, etc. It's not all about sending someone a check, it's all about programs and services to provide help and guidance. We all need help at some point in our lives. There needs to be places to get it.

      October 2, 2012 at 7:57 am |
    • Michael

      Gay Guy, first off, STOP SHOUTING ... we can read you five by fve. Secondly, stop drinking Mitten's Kool-Aid and stop listening to Rush Windbag and Coulter the Fascist. Anyone of Jewish faith and most of those that aren't should understand that reference and exactly why I used it. If you want any safety net destroyed (read: Social Security and Medicare) and your Middle Class taxes to go up $2000 go ahead and support Mittens. And take a close look at his Foreign Policy, whatever that is ... and he doesn't understand or back the proven climate change; he doesn't support science at all. While I may be a little disenchanted with Obama, I'll go with the enemy I know versus the one I don't.

      October 2, 2012 at 8:02 am |
  4. Sanseh

    Are they helping or hurting Obama. I think they are hurting by being stereotypical. Nobody likes foul mouthed people and if his campaign runs on such foul mouths what will that teach to children. Most parent wont like this and so being repulsed would not vote for Obama. Keep up the gutter ads that make you look bad, you may loose because of having such low standards.

    October 2, 2012 at 6:45 am |
    • Matt

      Real people don't like goody-two-shoes. Real people understand nuance. I know it is hard when you live in a black-and-white world, but open your mind a little, the world might just impress you yet.

      October 2, 2012 at 6:52 am |
    • WASP

      @sanseh: most parents i've watched have said far worse to and infront of their children. children have heard all of these words in modern music, video games, books, and movies; so no shock value there.

      October 2, 2012 at 7:05 am |
    • gay guy


      October 2, 2012 at 7:18 am |
    • Michael

      Gay Guy, being one that eschews rhetorical obfuscation, I'll tell you this once: Go Away Troll, lest you call forth the wrath of the Truth that will flog thee about your tiny close minded head and shouders. If you are truly gay, your rights will be stripped to your core since the Right does not believe that all men (read: HUMANs) are created equal; their values focus the wealth in THEIR hands and screw the rest of the world, up to and including hosing the environment that WE ALL have to breathe and drink, all so they can reap the millions on the backs of the masses.

      October 2, 2012 at 8:08 am |
  5. TPS Reports

    Wow! Shout out to all the zionists on here trying to convince us not to vote for Obama just because he is not a sycophant to Israel. My suggestion to you is that you mind your own country's elections (and if you are from here, please consider moving to the country you love more... Israel!!!"

    October 2, 2012 at 6:41 am |
    • killjoy

      a vote for either one is a vote for the federal reserve. and what laws or wars may come from that cozy association. write in paul everyone and someone will report it.

      October 2, 2012 at 7:03 am |
  6. muffin72

    Jews for Obama? Huh? Obama would love nothing more than to trash Isreal. What are these people thinking?

    October 2, 2012 at 6:32 am |
  7. dnokc

    Real Class! NOT!

    October 2, 2012 at 6:26 am |
    • Matt

      You know what's classy? Strapping your dog to the roof of a car.

      October 2, 2012 at 6:53 am |
    • gay guy

      No whats classy is eating dogs like Okillo did in Indoneisa, Obama is taking seniors OFF medicare soon, look it up dembos

      October 2, 2012 at 7:04 am |
    • rudolph the red

      "okillo", "dembos"...let me guess, debate team captain?

      October 2, 2012 at 7:16 am |
  8. setnommarih

    I am a "disaffected" Obama voter and NO! I am not voting for the lying POS again!

    October 2, 2012 at 6:22 am |
    • rush

      Nobody cares what you think or feel. Screw you.

      October 2, 2012 at 7:17 am |
    • Chris Koffend

      Your part of a very large group. I cannot begin to tell you how proud I felt the night Obama was elected. Not so much anymore. I have more friends that were big Obama supporters last time around, a very large percentage of them won't vote for him again. For Obama to win, he must get the African Americans to show up again in large numbers (well beyond historical norms). He must find a way to get uninformed voters to vote – which his campaign is good at doing. He needs to get women at about a 75% ratio and about 65% of Mexican immigrants. The jewish vote is too small to make a difference.

      October 2, 2012 at 7:56 am |
  9. thomas

    Anyone who would actually vote for Obama is an anti-Semite since he is the epitome of the word!

    October 2, 2012 at 6:04 am |
    • Matt

      What are you talking about? Aside from extremist ideologues, everyone agrees (everyone that matters anyway, you know... us people that rationally perceive the world from an objective viewpoint) that Obama has been better to Israel than any recent President. More money, more weapons, more missile shiels... what more could you people ask for?

      October 2, 2012 at 6:55 am |
    • rudolph the red

      Many people who vote for Obama ARE semites

      October 2, 2012 at 7:08 am |
  10. dantia

    I don't want to see Samuel's low class add... It really shows who he really is... A very simple adult man. Saw portions of it and some had to be beeped out.

    October 2, 2012 at 5:58 am |
  11. dave

    Yes, it is amazing that any Jew would vote for a US president who says that Israel is "one of" America's closest allies in the Middle East. Name one other US ally as dependable as Israel IN THE WORLD, let alone the Middle East. This one statement of Obama's makes it crystal clear how he sees Israel, and it's not a rosy picture.

    October 2, 2012 at 5:18 am |
    • independent jim

      with out the good will of the American people the state of Israel would not be an allie of anyone in the middle east or elsewhere ...why should America single out Israel as the most important allie in the middle east .. Israel has never done one thing to promote peace in the region all they seem to do is steal the land of the Palestinians and refuse to give it back even when the UN has imposed sanctions on them for it .. and lets not forget about the Billions of dollars the USA ha sgiven Israel and received nothing back ..except their spys stealing our secrets and their contempt for any American that isnt jewish

      October 2, 2012 at 5:50 am |
    • Reason

      Dave, remind me when Israel troops have fought alongside US troops in any conflict?

      Seems like the only time they were ever in battle together was when Israel attacked the USS Liberty.

      Some ally. Israel is just a welfare state of the US, not a strategic ally.

      October 2, 2012 at 6:05 am |
    • Cheryl

      America does not owe Isreal a darn thing. We protect them, turn a blind eye to their apartheid, and give them billions that is used to take Palestinian lands and ignore UN sanctions. The once bullied.is now the bully. These folk are not even the Hebrews of the Bible that God made a.covenent with. What have they done for US lately?

      October 2, 2012 at 6:27 am |
    • Matt

      Turkey. Turkey is more reliable, and have even allowed U.S. bases there, unlike Israel. Also, several Israeli prime ministers have made comments in the past that Israel does not have any allies, including the U.S.

      October 2, 2012 at 6:58 am |
  12. bill

    Hello everyone Im Ted Turner. Im a proud democrat and liberal and believe anyone who doesn’t agree with us can suck it. Here at CNN we have a proud tradition of acting like we are unbiased. We are the best in the news industry at seeming unbiased, far better than MSNBC and FOX news, they could never come close. But the problem with seeming unbiased is that we can’t just throw our liberal ideas into your face. At the same time we want you all to ‘decide for yourselves’ that those republicans and conservatives are un-American, Nazi, fascists, slave drivers that want to destroy america. The only way we can do that is by finding no name videos like this one and call it news, we make sure to put a link in our “news” article so you can see Samuel Jackson shamelessly cuss in front of a 7 year old. I hope you all enjoy……..CNN and friends

    October 2, 2012 at 5:11 am |
    • maxmaxwell

      Thanks Ted, ever since you married and divorced that commie Jane Hanoi Fonda, I have followed every political statement you have made, It only makes sense a billionaire who gave 10 billion to the UN to dodge taxes, and then cried a river when he was fired from his own Communist News Network. Waaaaaaaaa, I am so missing the bias you always gave us. If anything, you and James Murdoch are cut from the same cloth. I was wondering? Is it possible for you to finally just shut up??
      Ohhh, I hear Nancy Peeeeeloooosi , may be looking for a new stud muffin, see ya on the front page of the National Enquirer

      October 2, 2012 at 6:14 am |
  13. Dave

    Obama disrespects the Israeli leadership at every point. Not even agreeing to meet with top leadership when they are in D.C. His administrations’ distain for our Jewish citizen is very open. BUT HE DOES want your money. I'm not the brightest bulb in the room but I don't understand why anyone Jewish would support these anti-Semitic, racist people.

    October 2, 2012 at 5:04 am |
    • Cheryl

      He is not meeting with anyone. Why should Israel be any different. I just don't get why Israel continues to be coddled. Really, what the hell have they ever done for America?

      October 2, 2012 at 6:32 am |
    • Matt

      Hahahaha... always playing the victim card. If you hate the President, and don't feel respected here... move to Israel.

      October 2, 2012 at 6:59 am |
    • MightyMoo

      On a more serious note, I have some issues with Obama but I like him WAY better then Romney. If the GOP had picked Jon Huntsman as their guy then it could be a different story. Sadly they picked the worlds biggest flip flop.

      October 2, 2012 at 7:02 am |
  14. zimmy

    Americans are far too stupid to even tackle any issue. The comments on this site prove just that.

    Thank god I don't live there...

    October 2, 2012 at 4:54 am |
    • maxmaxwell

      we're glad you don't live here either. Oh and by the way I hate to bring this little fact up, but you really should listen as I tell you" We are a nation of but just 320 million people, We have the best military on this planet, we control the space over your head. We are the largest consumers on this orb. We have more inventions and control more industry than any other country in this solar system. In fact WE CONTROL THIS PLANET. Now be nice, and if you don't act up again, we will put off invading your little spit of a country for a while longer.

      October 2, 2012 at 6:20 am |
    • pmclean1319

      You are very small-minded if you really believe an internet forum is an accurate representation of American intellect and opinion.

      October 2, 2012 at 8:00 am |
  15. JP

    For those of you who are commenting without watching the video, watch it! It IS funny!

    October 2, 2012 at 4:51 am |
  16. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things.

    October 2, 2012 at 4:26 am |
    • Nope


      October 2, 2012 at 4:34 am |
    • nope


      October 2, 2012 at 4:36 am |
    • nope


      October 2, 2012 at 4:42 am |
    • Emilio Dumphuque

      Name one.

      October 2, 2012 at 4:52 am |
    • just sayin


      I got better . . .

      October 2, 2012 at 4:55 am |
  17. Randy Johnson

    Its just a super pac dudes. Remember this was a bill that was passed by a republican based Supreme Court. Never mind the house or the senate – now a days everything is at the mercy of the supreme court. So if thats what you wanted republicans there ya go – you got what you asked for.

    October 2, 2012 at 4:04 am |
  18. RogerW.

    Waah waaahh what a waste pf money Barry is outa there 4yrs and out!

    October 2, 2012 at 3:50 am |
    • Ron

      Wrong! Obama is winning easily. Won't be that close either! Sorry homschool.

      October 2, 2012 at 4:06 am |
  19. Tom Joad

    All Republicans, just please leave now and go to heaven. You will be much happier.

    October 2, 2012 at 2:20 am |
    • depotman

      waiting for Obama to send us there, via drone attacks

      October 2, 2012 at 3:07 am |
    • josh rogen

      i hate to break this to your bigoted closed hate fulled little mind, but not all republicans are red-neck tea party Christians, in fact most are not, most are just fed up with the consent lies and corruption that democrats seem to think is okay as long as it furthers their agenda. knee-jerk liberal propaganda and back-door racism may work with the young and dumb, but as a liberal republican I can tell you it doesn't work for me. to allow yourself to be brainwashed is truly sad. try picking out the respective lies and repeated messages meant to deceive you. try using your brain instead of allowing your brain to be used.

      October 2, 2012 at 3:27 am |
    • geladius

      Is that why you side with the party that has supported corporations and caused the country to go from a surplus to a deficit from Clinton to Bush Josh?

      October 2, 2012 at 3:41 am |
    • geladius

      Oh and lets not forget that most Republicans want to push their religion and life styles onto others but then preach about how they are being victimized by the "hippie liberals." It's funny how they turn it around saying it's a "hostile" take over of the country by the people who are "hippie liberals." Basically the ones who don't want to be fighting over seas in some dirt farming countries, or the ones who say gay marriage is fine because it's nothing to do with religious, just two people who love each other. Lets not forget the majority of the Republican officials seem to ride FOX's stories even though they are factual inaccurate and that their "news" organization has a record of false reporting, exaggerating stories and just out right lying. So don't give people this song and dance about "back door racism." You have Mittens on tape talking down to the middle and lower classes as some kind of peasantry and minorities as just a padding number for votes. Well guess what, peasants often beheaded the higher class in times of economic strife. Let the rich white Republicans think that over a bit and be glad times are different.

      October 2, 2012 at 3:48 am |
    • Not my fault

      Simple words for you to understand..... PHUK OFF

      October 2, 2012 at 4:30 am |
  20. Paramad

    corky214 I used the word exponentially and that was incorrect Mitthead never said that, he only wants to increase defense spending to 4% from 3.6% to 3.8% of GDP. We currently spend $550 billion give or take a few billion so I guess another 2% or 4% is chicken feed or you can wash a lot of hogs with that money!
    Obama got Bin Laden, we are out of Iraq and we will be getting the hell out of "The Graveyard o Empires" so what other wars are you describing? Or are you misinterpreting defending the U.S. with GOP wars of aggrandizement?
    You state the bloody obvious about Israel beset by enemies I described the strategic importance of Israel and to allay the fears of some misinformed folks that Obama is going to let Israel be destroyed.
    I take it you have already served our country in the military or are too old to go to the next one. If not when do you sign up?
    I had never heard of Sarah Silverman before but she kind of mixes Gracie Allen with Lenny Bruce and the guys that write South Park and I'm betting she will get more air time than you or I who cares?
    once again I apologize for using "exponentially" Mitthead never said that. I find how easy it is to make statements like the rest of the paranoid and deluded. I will be more careful in the future. You can check up on the rest of my comments though I stand by them-thank you!

    October 2, 2012 at 2:09 am |
    • Lpm

      I can't believe Jewish people are voting for and trying to help re-elect Obama the way he has thrown Israel and their leader under the bus if he gets in for 4more they might as well as change Israel's name to Trinity because there will be Iran's first nuclear test and the line in the sand their leader wants will be drawn around the zone with the highesr REMS and don't worry about. Lights anymore because all of Israel will glow in the dark then lets see try and cover that up like the new 9-11 attack the first in 11 years and it was under both Obama's and Clinton's watch.

      October 2, 2012 at 4:14 am |
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About this blog

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.