Clip: Good for the Jews in Chicago
- This seems like the musical equivalent of San Francisco's Kung Pao
Kosher Comedy <http://www.koshercomedy.com/> show.
Good for the Jews duo offer a great time for all
By Joshua Klein
Special to the Tribune
Published December 22, 2006
As co-founder of New York's irreverent rock duo What I Like About Jew,
Rob Tannenbaum took Jewish pride to satiric heights and giddy
self-deprecating lows, to great success. But as a music editor at
Blender magazine, Tannenbaum's well versed in music industry
realpolitik, so he harbors no illusions as to the mainstream
commercial viability of Jewish music, however clever and funny.
"Barbra Streisand, Kenny G. and Neil Diamond have all recorded
Christmas albums," notes Tannenbaum, whose "Chanukah/Hanukkah" tour
brings his new band Good for the Jews (formed with David Fagin of the
power-pop act the Rosenbergs) to FitzGerald's Christmas Eve. "Phil
Spector produced one of the greatest Christmas albums of all time.
`White Christmas' was written by a Jew. If you're going to make any
money in this business, you're going to have to court the goyim."
Indeed, while "Christian music" has evolved into a genre unto itself,
the number of "Jewish" albums in any record store remains in the
"Things are changing," notes a hopeful Joshua Neuman, editor in chief
if the Jewish-themed magazine Heeb, rooting for the home team
underdogs. "The tide is turning. It used to be Jewish music was either
a punchline or the subject of an academic dissertation."
Come Christmas time, however, the tables of commerce get turned. With
tens of millions of Christian families stuck at home for the holiday,
Jews (and other non-Christians) take to the virtually deserted streets
in search of fun and distraction on the sleepiest night of the year.
"On Christmas Day we'll eat Chinese, walk empty streets until we
freeze," goes one wry line in the winkingly wistful "It's Good to Be A
Jew at Christmas," one of the first songs Tannenbaum wrote, and is a
hallmark of Good for the Jews. "Once a year the city's ours alone."
"That's the old joke," says Tannenbaum. So ... what we're trying to
say is you should come to the show because there's nothing else to
"What I Like About Jew" helped spur a movement in New York to keep at
least a few clubs open for the Chosen People, a tradition Tannenbaum
hopes Good for the Jews will continue to spread. Yet despite the
heavily Jewish-themed songs and humor, Tannenbaum would like to extend
an invitation to Jews and non-Jews alike. In fact, Tannenbaum claims a
large percentage of the crowd is typically composed of non-Jews, which
demands the question: How can you tell?
"Do you know Totie Fields?" asks Tannenbaum. "She was a great Jewish
comedian. Once she was booked on the `Mike Douglas Show' with Gene
Simmons [real name: Chaim Weiss] from KISS. She joked that underneath
all that make-up he was probably just a nice Jewish boy. So Simmons
asks her, 'how can you tell?' and she points to his nose and shoots
back `you can't hide the hook!'" (A quick search of YouTube for the
clip, from 1974, confirms the non-P.C. anecdote.)
But stereotypes aside, Tannenbaum has a practical approach to the
nightly Jew/not Jew census.
"At the start of each show we actually ask everyone in the crowd who
is not Jewish to raise their hand," he says. "And then I turn to
everyone else and yell: get 'em!"
Good for the Jews
When: 8 p.m. Friday
Where: FitzGerald's, 6615 W. Roosevelt Rd., Berwyn
Price: $15; 708-788-2118