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. obamaphone

    Romney will take away my free obamaphone and make me have to work! No way! Vote Obama!

    October 2, 2012 at 10:12 am |
    • Mike

      You have entirely too much time putting up all of your absurd posts. But hey, it made me laugh. The first 10 posts or so. Now you just look sort of weird...

      October 2, 2012 at 10:16 am |
    • stephan

      LOL, you worry about phones for the disadvantaged that costs us next to nothing, while the shareholders in the military industrial complex take many times that in profit for one single bomber, that we don't really need.

      October 2, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • ELJ956

      The rich folks have unlimited text and data connection on huge display. Mine only have the tiny screen. Let's have Obama back, maybe this time we'll have the iPhone5. By the way, my kids want it too. No limit per household please. Nothing beats freebies. i love America.

      October 2, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
  2. gary

    Do the right thing .. Obama 2012

    October 2, 2012 at 10:11 am |
    • whatwhat!

      Now thats what I'm talking bout home slice! We need a prez that connects with the streets and knows we need money too, I aint working at no taco bell when Obama is giving me some fat cheese! Do the right thing peeps!!! Holla

      October 2, 2012 at 10:14 am |
    • jose garcia

      Not have to worry about being illigal anymore! Me stay free in the land of USA! Pleas vote Obama for me and my 12 baby!

      October 2, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • mike w

      Yep. Obama is the man. People are just too impatient and think that all of the huge mess of problems that have built up can be fixed over night. It's going to take a long time people. You need to opt for planning and careful consideration. Otherwise, nothing will ever get fixed if all you're doing is throwing a "quick fix" promiser in the WH over and over. If you still feel like it's not moving fast enough, write you senator and complain about them doing nothing but whining instead of cooperating.

      October 2, 2012 at 10:31 am |
    • Eliman

      Too much drum beating and horn blowing, blame game, whose the better debater, anti-religions ... Stick to the concerns of America. Who's better equipped to turn the economy around, create more jobs, better education. The last four years was terrible. Blame Bush for the wars but don't blame Clinton for his Open Trade and accepting China in WTO, ease up mortgage practices to allow sub-prime loans... these are the facts and Obama knows it even before he assume his presidency. End the blame game and move on. Too much rhetorics nothing on deeds. Obama sucks!

      October 2, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
  3. swagger

    Obama gots dem skills, dat pay my bills!

    October 2, 2012 at 10:10 am |
  4. Lady Bacon

    I truly like Samuel Jackson and think he's a great actor – and his recent bedtime story had me laughing to the point of tears. But, I must part ways with him, politically. Ba-rack will not receive my vote and he does not have my respect. The only thing that Ba-rack cares about is Ba-rack's re-election, people of the United States be damned (literally, by him). His words, as slick as the devil, are, unfortunately, just empty words that are not followed by any assistive, substantive action. He talks the talk but don't walk the walk. Ba-rack is not a Commander-In-Chief. He is not a statesman. He CERTAINLY is not an economist. And so, we need to elect someone that CAN do the job that he has not done – that of being a President. I imagine Ba-rack is a GREAT community organizer and I hope that my vote in November helps him to return to that position.

    October 2, 2012 at 10:08 am |
    • stephan

      Your right about him being a great community organizer! He has organized the great nation into something I'm proud of again!

      As a woman, how you can vote for Romney is beyond me.

      October 2, 2012 at 10:14 am |
    • musician

      What`s with the Ba-rack thing???

      October 2, 2012 at 10:15 am |
    • Mike

      It's not Ba-rack. It's Barack. The very least you can do is learn the first name of your President before denouncing him as talking slick as the devil and not being a statesman (really? he's far more a statesman than we've had in some time, in my opinion). If you want your government run like a business, vote for Romney. Just don't cry when the country is outsourced and unprofitable ventures like Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, the FBI, schools, and NASA are just forgotten about and we spiral downward behind the other nations in this world. A government is NOT a business. It should not be run like one.

      October 2, 2012 at 10:20 am |
    • James, AL

      Hey you! Lady with the blinders over your eyes. Get up and educate yourself on facts of the past four years. It has been the purposeful obstainance of the republicans that have slowed down the recovery. They decided not to work with the President Obama on day 1. Despite their narrow minds and stumbling blocks the president has has done VERY well with the second worst economy in our nations history.

      Obama/Biden 2012

      October 2, 2012 at 10:46 am |
  5. JustaMom

    Crude, rude and socially unacceptable. That's what this campaign has become. But, taking a look at the supporters of Obama, I'm really not surprised. Uncouth.

    October 2, 2012 at 10:06 am |
    • Mike

      Yeah, because the GOP represents the height of civilized discourse by constantly calling people liars and socialists. If you're going to get all high and mighty, take a look at the people you're planning to vote for.

      October 2, 2012 at 10:10 am |
    • James, AL

      I agree with you, but this kind of advertisement is not for you and me. It is made for the young adults, who enjoy crude, rude, and socially unacceptable. More importantly, it works. One of those videos already have more than 1 million views. These viewers are not people who are forced to watch a political ad cross their TV screen, they are purposely logging on to youtube and selectig this ad to watch. If it encourages people to get involved in the process, by educating them then the end justifies the means. I guess?


      October 2, 2012 at 10:34 am |
  6. GoRomney

    Ineptocracy......(in-ep-toc'-ra-cy) A system of government where the least capable to lead are elected by the least capable of achieving, and where the members of society least likely to succeed or even to sustain themselves are abundantly rewarded with goods and services paid for by the confiscated wealth of a diminishing number of producers. Congratulations Team Obama! You are leading us toward the American Dream.

    October 2, 2012 at 10:02 am |
    • Mike

      Gee, another way to look at it is that we're a country that supports the people who are having a tough time in life instead of walking over dead and dying poor in our streets. I guess just casting away those undesirables would create in jobs in what, ditch digging? That's not an America I want to live in. I am proud that some of my taxes go to helping my fellow man. In any system there are always abuses, unfortunately that is part of human nature. However if you look around you, there are in fact people who need a helping hand to get back on their feet. And there's nothing wrong with that.

      October 2, 2012 at 10:13 am |
  7. Reality Check

    "Why don't you folks just tell the truth; you do not like a black man running the country."

    Sure.. right after racists like you admit that the reason you're willing to ignore the failure of the Obama administration is based on your infatuation with the color of his skin..

    October 2, 2012 at 9:57 am |
    • Daniel

      You assume his administration is a failure.
      We do not all agree.
      And where we agree that he has fallen short, we note that COngress has a role in that responsibility, too.
      At least Clinton had a GOP that was willing to compromise and worth with a Democratic President to address and solve our nation's problems.

      October 2, 2012 at 10:04 am |
    • Rapstarz

      I know, BO is the shizzle! Jus check that swagger.

      October 2, 2012 at 10:04 am |
    • Scott

      85% of blacks will vote for Obama.
      Does that make them racist??

      October 2, 2012 at 10:12 am |
    • Mike

      Describe this failure you speak of. Calling it a failure doesn't make it so. How has the Obama administration failed you.

      October 2, 2012 at 10:14 am |
    • Duane's

      who cares what color he is.....he sucks...the economy sucks, the unemployment rate sucks, 43 million on food stamps sucks, losing our killer credit rating sucked, 6 trillion added debt since 2008 sucks, two full years of complete control of congress and nothing to help our economy passed...that sucks...our standing in the middle east sucks, the way the Obama adminstration lied to the America people about the attack that killed our embassy staff.....that really really sucks.....Obama sucks

      October 2, 2012 at 10:16 am |
    • Eliman

      He's not even black. He's beige dumdum.

      October 2, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
  8. angelo

    Romney at a prep school with friends ganged up on a single teen and cut off his hair because he looked different. At Bain he stated he enjoyed firing people and he outsourced more jobs than he had saved, yet reaped profits for himself. As a Governor he had the worst record of job creation. As running for President he stated that 47% of Americans dependent on government handouts and that he is not concerned about the poor. As an American I do not have off shore accounts to escape paying taxes as does Romney and while we pay around 25% in taxes, he only pays 14%. I am still amazed that has a following. The Republican Party is the party of mean.

    October 2, 2012 at 9:52 am |
    • cha-ching!

      I feel ya homie! I dun wanna work or pay for anything! Leave that up to the tax payers! Obama has made this possible! Keep him in office so I get all diz cheese! Obama 2012 for reals!

      October 2, 2012 at 9:57 am |
    • Reality Check

      It's really kind of amusing that you people are still making fools of yourself with this. You do realize that the entire family of the guy this supposedly happened to say it never happened.. right?

      October 2, 2012 at 9:59 am |
  9. cha-ching!

    I dun kno what Obama has done, but in these 4 years, I havent worked a bit and my Gov't cheese has gotten fatter n fatter! Now dats the shizzle and O gets my vote!

    October 2, 2012 at 9:52 am |
    • Fr33d0mhawk

      Yeee Hawwww, time to don the white dunce cap of patriotism and attend a cross litin in the name of Romney. Romney will only end that welfare for the coloreds but keep my white meth cooking welfare money a comin' -yeeeehawwwwwww! If'n u aint gonna vote for "Squeal like a pig boy" Romney then you'[ns hate Amerikkka. Where's my banjo boy? Yeeeee Hawwwwww my pants get tight when I watch HeeeeHawwwww!

      October 2, 2012 at 10:03 am |
  10. Sniffit

    I love how all the sissy Teatrolls flock to the articles outside the Ticker because they can't take the heat from those of us who undo their nonsense with facts. How's that carefully constructed alternate reality workin' out for yuo guys? /wink wink

    October 2, 2012 at 9:51 am |
  11. swagger

    Vote for swagger, vote for Obama!

    October 2, 2012 at 9:49 am |
  12. Dallas

    The big "O" is going down and I cannot wait to see it! Eye candy indeed. M0r on.

    October 2, 2012 at 9:35 am |
    • LLR

      I bet you've been expecting the rapture any day now ... for the past 20 years too! 🙂 Delusional much?

      October 2, 2012 at 9:41 am |
    • @Dallas

      Ring ....ring ...ring

      Answer the phone – it is REALITY calling.

      October 2, 2012 at 9:43 am |
    • obamaphone

      Obama gets my vote! I'm calling all my homies on my free obamaphone to vote for him. You wait n see.

      October 2, 2012 at 9:48 am |
  13. opmikey

    It is simply amazing that any intellegent Jew would vote for Obama. Let me rephrase that – any intellegent person.

    October 2, 2012 at 9:34 am |
    • MaryJ


      October 2, 2012 at 9:42 am |
    • @opmikey

      Well ty for outing yourself as a waste of space.

      October 2, 2012 at 9:42 am |
  14. yneeemee

    Harry S. Truman bumper sticker "The Buck Stops Here"

    Barack H. Obama bumper sticker "Blame Bush Some More"

    What a difference in presidential legacies.........

    October 2, 2012 at 9:34 am |
    • @yneemee

      You fail at spatial context.

      Bush left a ton of garbage to be cleaned and PRESIDENT Obama has done a great job.

      The fact he has against so much backlash by Boehner et all makes him shine even more.

      THIS is what your real issue is with Obama – he is succeeding and will do so over the next four years in the White House.

      Why don't you folks just tell the truth; you do not like a black man running the country.

      October 2, 2012 at 9:39 am |
    • Sam

      Romney bumper sticker "More Bush Economic Leadership!"

      October 2, 2012 at 9:45 am |
    • @@yneemee

      It's really hard to grasp the inability for intelligent and/or rational thought it takes to claim that Obama is doing a great job. If you had said he's done "OK" you'd still come across as biased.. but you'd at least have some credibility.

      Obama has been a disaster for this country.

      October 2, 2012 at 9:56 am |
    • doitforamericanottoamerica

      Romney bumper sticker: "Let them eat Cake"

      October 2, 2012 at 10:00 am |
  15. @xm1

    Remember the First Amendment?

    Didn't think so. People like you will defend the 2nd Amendment to no end, but when someone SAYS something you do not like, you berate and admonish it.

    YOU are the worst type of American – that is, if you are even American.

    October 2, 2012 at 9:28 am |
    • Crabtree

      You DO realize that the first amendment also gives us the right to criticize these people, right?

      October 2, 2012 at 9:34 am |
    • @Crabtree

      Say all you want and I will defend that right, but demanding its removal (as some have stated) is downright Facist in nature.

      October 2, 2012 at 9:36 am |
    • Ritr

      "when someone SAYS something you do not like, you berate and admonish it.

      YOU are the worst type of American – that is, if you are even American."

      Pot, meet kettle

      October 2, 2012 at 9:49 am |
  16. Alger Dave

    People like this support Obama. Enough said.

    October 2, 2012 at 9:26 am |
    • @Alger Dave

      So watch reruns of "Let's Make a Deal" instead – that Monty Hall is sure a cut-up.

      October 2, 2012 at 9:32 am |
  17. Ken

    I'm sure the backers of the superPAC will change their tune when Iran nukes Israel off the map and Obama twiddles his thumbs. The ads are offensive, low-brow and stupid but that is no surprise considering the source. I've always detested Silverman and although I used to like Jackson, I'll never go to another of his movies-He's a pig like Silverman and Obama.

    October 2, 2012 at 9:25 am |
    • @Ken

      Thank you for sharing. Your Mormon is going down tomorrow night in front of the entire nation.

      Need a tissue?

      October 2, 2012 at 9:29 am |
    • lenunu

      Overreacting much? Jesus – you are tightwad

      October 2, 2012 at 9:31 am |
    • Ken

      I was just kidding. I love Jesus.

      I love him so much, I would give him a three-way with myself and Michelle Bachmann's clearly gay husband.


      October 2, 2012 at 9:33 am |
    • get real

      Really Ken? You realize that half the US supports Obama. That percentage is much higher in Hollywood. So you are giving up TV and Movies completely? Good for you. You should go read a book instead. It is much better for you anyway.

      October 2, 2012 at 9:38 am |
  18. obamaphone

    I will vote for Obama! He gave me my free Obamaphone and I dont have to pay a cent! Now I can have more babies and have a free health care, free phone and still not have to work, all at the tax payers expense! Life is good! Vote Obama!!!

    October 2, 2012 at 9:23 am |
    • @obamaphone

      You do realize this program began in the 80s under Reagan, don't you?

      October 2, 2012 at 9:30 am |
    • child of midian

      An argument, like humor, needs to be based in reality. You have none of these things so you fail at all of them.

      October 2, 2012 at 9:32 am |
    • obamaphone

      Oh yea, I forgot everyone had cell phones in the 80's, but nonetheless, Obama is great! My friend Jose was an illigal immigrant and is not staying here free and doesnt have to pay anything like me! I love my Gov't cheese!!! OBAMA is the shizzle!

      October 2, 2012 at 9:35 am |
    • work?noway

      I know it's great! All my homies have obamaphones and we just had our 8th child now. We dont have to pay anything!!! Obama is the best prez eva!

      October 2, 2012 at 9:37 am |
    • LLR

      Funny, you seem to be describing most GOP supporters, especially the Tea Party crowd in the South. I always amazes me how they vote for people who want to take away the programs they depend upon.

      October 2, 2012 at 9:38 am |
    • @@obamaphone

      Yes it was created in the 80s for landlines, not cell phones. It was under Obama'a administration that it was expanded for cell phones. In the 80s it was created for emergencies and to assist with getting a job. The cell phone plan is supposed to work the same way, but the plan is increasing cost due to the cell phones. Maybe it is time to put it back to landlines.,

      October 2, 2012 at 9:38 am |
    • @obamaphone

      Phones period dips**t.

      Man, you guys are dumb.

      October 2, 2012 at 9:40 am |
    • swagger

      Obama has swagger like no other president. We dont need national security because he give me my check every month and I got me an AK to protect myself. Keep him in office so we can continue to cut millitary spending and give me more cash. I can finally not have to worry about working!!! OMABA 2012!

      October 2, 2012 at 9:41 am |
    • Heywood

      @ – @obamaphone – Do you realize there were no cell phones during Reagan's tenure, or at least anything smaller than an average mailbox and the gov't certaily was not giving them away.

      October 2, 2012 at 9:49 am |
    • pattipaws

      That started years ago moron.

      October 2, 2012 at 10:10 am |
    • ELJ956

      but it's unfair. the rich folks have unlimited text and data connection on huge display. mine only have the tiny screen. let's have obama back, maybe this time we'll have the iphone5. by the way, my kids want it too. no limit per household please. yeheeey!

      October 2, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
  19. nate

    At least Jews who might be offended don't go burn down embassies.

    October 2, 2012 at 9:19 am |
    • @nate

      Well, matches cost money ....

      October 2, 2012 at 9:35 am |
  20. Puddin

    Does anyone know what Ann Romney is trying to tell us. She was being interviewed last week, and she said "I'm not worried about Mitt's abilities should he become president, I'm worried about his mental state." (Or something to that effect). I can't quite figure out why she said that, but it sure is a concern and something voters should pay attention to.

    October 2, 2012 at 9:18 am |
    • @Puddin

      Her and Mitt say dumb stuff all the time.

      Why should that day be any different?


      October 2, 2012 at 9:31 am |
    • dotts

      She is more than likely speaking to the amount of stress and how taxing it will be on his mentality.

      October 2, 2012 at 9:40 am |
    • @dotts

      He can go cry on a bag of money.

      October 2, 2012 at 9:44 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.