Jerry Seinfeld sells 17 cars for $22M


Jerry Seinfeld sold 17 collectible cars at auction for more than $22 million.

The Jewish comedian’s cars – 15 Porsches and two Volkswagens – brought in $22,244,500 this weekend, according to the Los Angeles Times. A 1955 Porsche 55 Spyder alone went for more than $5 million.

Seinfeld is known to be a car aficionado. In his web series “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” — which featured President Barack Obama in December — he goes out to eat with a well-known comedian in a vintage car.

Gooding & Co. estimated the auction would actually bring in $10 million more than it did, Jalopnik said.

The “Seinfeld” star and co-creator showed up at the auction house to promote the sale.

Seinfeld had previously said he loved owning the cars and would have held onto them in an ideal world.

“[T]he reason I wanted to bid these cars farewell in this way is really just to see the look of excitement on the faces of the next owners who I know will be out of their minds with joy that they are going to get to experience them,” he said in February statement.

Seinfeld only failed to sell one car at the auction, a non-drivable Carrera GT concept car, one of two in the word, which didn’t reach its minimum $1.5 million minimum asking price.

Judd Apatow: Comedy drawn from an ‘Unfair Life’


Judd Apatow’s phenomenal success seems the result of a willed and desperate act of adolescent defiance against a childhood that threatened to destroy him.  Apatow was adrift in Syosset, Long Island, where his parents were always viciously fighting before they divorced when he was in junior high.  His mother left, and he remained with his father.  His brother, now an Orthodox Jew living in Israel, was sent to live with grandparents in California.  His sister went to live with their mother.  The family imploded, but before the final meltdown, he remembers a family malaise where his parent’s only advice was to keep repeating an annoying mantra about life being unfair.  Young Apatow had already figured that out, and the future producer, director, and writer of such stellar works as “The 40-Year-Old Virgin, “Knocked-Up,” and “This is 40” knew very early he was on his own in an unsafe world where he would have to make his own way.  Comedy called him, first as a chubby school boy who took solace watching the comediennes’ perform on the Merv Griffin show after school, and later on when he took special pleasure from their rebellious anger that somehow still managed to come across with a detached sense of cool.  He left for California after high school and tried to make it in the comedy clubs while attending USC and studying screenwriting.

Even after all of his success, Apatow is a restless 47-year-old man who continually looks for sparks to help him cope with his anxieties about matters large and small.  He has tried therapists and hypnotherapists and flirted with Buddhism and meditation and massage, but his nervousness remains.  His wife, the adorable Leslie Mann and his two precocious daughters, all of whom are frequently featured in his films, have provided some measure of comfort, but answers to his own misery remain elusive.  One senses that his friendships are guarded, and even his wife has confessed that he has often been emotionally absent from their marriage.  He tries his best with his daughters but admits he sometimes has trouble focusing on them after work when his mind drifts elsewhere.  He has recently returned to doing stand-up comedy and is enthused by the immediate charge it offers; an intensity he has trouble feeling while working on one of his movies.  He is also putting out a new book called “Sick in the Head Conversations about Life and Comedy” (Random House) which is a series of interviews he has held with comedy’s biggest legends.

But Apatow is a poor interviewer.  He interrupts too much, or lets his guest drone on.  He is a choppy talker and chaotic in his organization.  He switches the topic at odd moments, and reveals too much about himself or too little to the interviewee, which often leaves them feeling ill at ease.  Apatow isn’t trying to throw anybody off, but is a step out of tune with conversational flow.  When one of the comics gets rolling on the specifics of his comedic process, Apatow shifts gear.  When some of them attempt to empathize with what he has endured, he turns cold and we hear them grow quiet.  There always seems to be some sort or envy present; a one-upping one to his inquiries that is disquieting.  Yet, even with all this awkwardness where he seems to combine the worst traits of interviewers like Charlie Rose and Howard Stern with their feigned intensity, there are compelling moments.

Albert Brooks talks about his late in life happiness through meditation, but Apatow doesn’t seem convinced.  Chris Rock discusses his preference for keeping his act fresh even if it means leaving the stage for years at a time to come up with new material, which seems to frighten Apatow who we sense fears losing his relevance.  Gary Shandling, whom Apatow wrote for years ago, talks about his belief that what made his old television show spectacular was that the writers understood that what they needed to write about was what people tried to cover up.  This sounded like the beginning of an interesting conversation about the sophistication of certain comedy, but Apatow cuts him off.  Jeff Garlin actually confronts Apatow on his behavior by reprimanding him for not looking directly at him while he speaks.  Jay Leno seems frustrated by Apatow’s disappointment in Leno’s allegiance to stand-up comedy as his only goal. 

The reader will notice that although most of the interviews took place in the last two years, some are from the early 1980’s.  A brazen young Judd Apatow would call comics from his high school radio station in Long Island pretending to be from a major New York radio station, and scored interviews with big comics who didn’t know they were speaking on a 10-watt radio station that barely reached Apatow’s high school’s parking lot.  The funny thing is young Apatow sounds exactly like old Apatow.  It’s almost as if there has been no shift at all in perspective.  There is the same sad feeling of muted aggression and desire, but the older and younger selves seem interchangeable.  Perhaps that is Apatow’s real problem.  He never gets past himself.

Apatow is impressed by Seinfeld who writes every day on large yellow legal pads brief outlines of bits that will be polished to perfection.  He finds Seinfeld’s Zen-like persona troubling.  They are polar opposites.  Seinfeld insists he is a happy comic and works because it brings him pleasure and is simply who he is.  There is no hidden drama.  He explains to Apatow that he remains doing comedy because he loves the life it offers him; “the independence and the joy of hearing laughs and making jokes.  It’s as simple as that.”  But Seinfeld’s refusal to embrace the complexity of those drawn to perform stand-up is as disconcerting as Apatow’s mental chaos.

Jimmy Fallon stands out from the bunch as a genuinely happy and delirious clown from a happy and loving home.  Stephen Colbert rhapsodizes about how he learned not to lose heart after losing his father and two brothers in a plane crash while still a young child.  His mother slowly stitched his heart back together by reminding him to remain resilient even while accepting that all had changed.  Jon Stewart, who seems taken aback by Apatow’s brittleness, talks about how important it is for him to remain a good guy even though it grows harder with fame and money and the power to influence others.  Rosanne, whom Apatow also wrote for, discusses her mental illness and the strains show business success placed on her children. 

Apatow’s power has enormous reach, and the amount of comic luminaries who spoke with him are testimony to his elevated status in Hollywood where his films have grossed over a billion dollars.  But one senses Apatow would give a lot of that up to have the innate charisma and joy of his old roommate in Los Angeles; a young Adam Sandler.  He would often return home and find Sandler making phony phone calls and hanging up and exploding into gales of uninhibited laughter.  Usually, Sandler would be doing something silly like calling a Jewish deli in the voice of a kvetchy old Jewish lady pretending to be sick from one of their sandwiches and asking for another to be sent over.  For free, of course.  Apatow spotted a joy in Sandler, and a comic euphoria he could never emulate.  Perhaps that is why, before moviemaking, he turned to writing for other comics who had a more assured voice.  It was the twinkle in Sandler’s eyes that haunted Apatow; the delight he took in his own devilishness.  Apatow is still trying to find it.

Elaine Margolin is a frequent contributor of book reviews to the Jewish Journal and other publications.

Comics invade Sderot


Just 45 minutes from the hustle and bustle of beautiful downtown Tel Aviv is Sderot. Just 47 minutes from there is the Gaza Strip.

Location, location, location.

You know the old joke.

So who books Sderot? Answer is Avi Liberman.

Besides himself, this year, he brought Mark Schiff and John Mulrooney. Being comics on a five-city tour in Israel, Sderot was not one of the cities we were performing in. Yet, we found ourselves there anyway.

Avi has a no-nonsense approach to things. “Hey guys, they’re dropping bombs in Sderot almost every day. You want to go there for lunch?”

We were in Israel doing a series of fundraisers for Crossroads, a center for teens at risk. So we figured, let’s stick with the “at-risk” theme and head on down to a community that is at risk every day and grab something to eat.

The congregants at our synagogue back in Los Angeles, Young Israel of Century City, had given us more than $2,500 to spend in the embattled town, as they were suffering almost daily from Qassam rocket attacks.

We arrived along with the coordinator and publicist of our tour, Dena, and her husband, Jeremy, and were pretty moved at what we saw. We were shown the back of the police station with racks full of collected Qassams and just couldn’t believe how many there were. In the last seven years, more than 7,000 rockets have fallen on Sderot.

“We label each one and from what group fired them,” a cop told us.

Noam, our guide for the morning, was from the Sderot Media Center and decided that we should visit a man whose house got hit just a few days ago. Upon arriving, we saw that the kitchen was completely caved in, except for the menorah that was in perfect shape in what was left of his shattered kitchen window. He had stopped working to take care of his wife who took shrapnel in her leg.

His neighbor, a sweet, middle-age woman who we visited next, had a son who was also injured by a Qassam, and upon hearing the sirens, he now wets himself every time. We saw her again the following morning on the cover of the Jerusalem Post running with her daughter away from the school, which had taken a hit in the playground.

But enough of the tragedy (which goes on almost daily there). We were there to eat, and we were getting hungry. We first went to the falafel stand in the town square, and after ordering what amounted to about a $10 meal, gave the guy more than $100.

He smiled wide and asked whether it would be OK if he put a large sum of the cash in the tzedakah box on his counter.

“Do whatever you want with it,” we responded. “It’s not our money.”

Next, we went to an elderly woman who ran a small bakery. “How’s business?” we asked.

“When the Qassams aren’t falling, it’s fine,” she replied. “So right now, not so good.”

Mark got an apple Danish. It was three shekels. He gave her 100.

Avi then walked over and said, “I heard how good the apple Danishes were here.”

He got one and gave her another 100 shekels. John, an Irish Catholic who also wanted in on the joke, ordered a Danish and gave her 200.

The non-Jews always buy retail.

By this time, even she was laughing and couldn’t have thanked us more.

Walking into a small clothing shop, the salesman was trying to tell us that certain items were up to 30 percent off.

“Wow that’s great!” we’d say back, while Dena would be laughing in the background, knowing what we were up to. We bought two hats and paid double.

One store we went into was completely empty, and after paying 400 shekels for a pack of gum, the man graciously thanked us and told us he was closing at the end of the month if things didn’t change, because no one was around anymore.

One other market had a man who remembered Avi pulling the same thing last summer, and when Avi asked him about his two friends who were there previously, he told us they had moved away because of the situation.

Mark got a big laugh when he paid a woman for a haircut and said he didn’t have time to get one and would collect in a year, when he returned for his son’s bar mitzvah.

Even John, lucked out. Being Irish Catholic, he found some shamrock magnets in a small store and couldn’t have been more thrilled to overpay.

The second to last store we went into found Mark buying some hats for his wife, and when he paid double, the woman actually told us she was doing fine and refused, but knew where we could spend the last of our money.

“There’s an elderly Russian woman named Nina who is a seamstress,” the woman said. “She is really hurting right now. She has a small shop over there.”

We walked over, and all the woman had was some fabric in the store. She was in the middle of making a dress for someone. We bought a piece of cloth, telling her we were also in the business, and dumped all the money we had left, which amounted to about 600 shekels. After her initial shock, she offered us a receipt, but we said it was fine and she could keep it.

There’s an old saying that comedy is tragedy, plus time. Well, we can’t really make any jokes about Sderot, since the tragedy is still going on. All we can do is try and put a smile on a few people’s faces when we go there.

Lucky for everyone, that’s a smile you don’t have to be a professional standup comic to get. Try it yourself. You’ll be surprised just how good you are at it.

Go to Sderot on your next trip to Israel.

7 Days In Arts


Saturday

Two widely divergent Jewish performers come to Southern California tonight. Make the drive to Claremont for the feel-good sounds of Israeli folk/rock star David Broza. The celebrated trilingual guitarist and singer-songwriter will perform his English, Spanish and Hebrew favorites in a concert sponsored by Hillel of the Claremont Colleges. Or, for something closer to home and below the belt, head to Royce Hall, as UCLA Live! Presents “An Evening With Sandra Bernhard.” The bawdy comedian and student of kabbalah offers up her latest rants and raves, with musical accompaniment by Mitch Kaplan and Pam Adams.
David Broza: 8 p.m. $5-$50. Garrison Theatre, Scripps College, Claremont. (909) 621-8824.Sandra Bernhard: 8 p.m. $20-$45. Royce Hall, UCLA, Westwood. (310) 825-2101.

Sunday

Two seasoned comedians prove they’ve still got it, as Orange County Performing Arts Center presents “Together Again: Comedy Greats Tim Conway and Harvey Korman.” The “Carol Burnett Show” duo known as much for cracking each other up as they were for entertaining the audience joins impressionist Louise DuArt for two shows, today only.
2 p.m. and 7 p.m. $35-$60. Segerstrom Hall, Orange County Performing Arts Center, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa. (213) 365-3500.

Monday

Diane Arbus’ work gets center stage at MOCA’s latest show, “Street Credibility,” which examines the convergence of real and posed photography from the 1940s to the 1970s. Arbus’ choice to pose her subjects, who were real people, was a departure from a tradition that separated the worlds of journalistic style and artificial photography. Other artists featured in the exhibit include her peers, as well as later photographers whom she influenced — Larry Clark, Lee Friedlander, Sally Mann, Charles Gatewood, Garry Winogrand and others — as well as some of her predecessors, namely Lisette Model, August Sander and Weegee.
11 a.m.-5 p.m. (Monday and Friday), 11 a.m.-8 pm. (Thursday), 11 a.m.-6 p.m. (Saturday and Sunday). Free (members, children under 12 and all day Thursday), $5 (students and seniors), $12 (general). MOCA at the Geffen Contemporary, 152 N. Central Ave., Los Angeles. (213) 626-6222.

Tuesday

Queens, N.Y., transplant and author Lisa Lieberman Doctor puts her roots into the pages of her first novel, “The Deflowering of Rhona Lipshitz.” It’s Queens 1971, and Rhona Lipshitz is in love, but not with the man whom she’s engaged to marry in just 11 days. Doctor’s previous writing credits include an Emmy win for her work on the soap opera, “General Hospital,” and 16 years in the film industry, most recently as vice president of Robin Williams’ Blue Wolf Productions. She discusses “Rhona Lipshitz” tonight at the Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles.
7 p.m. 6505 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. R.S.V.P., (323) 761-8648.

Wednesday

New on DVD is a film that’s not the usual Holocaust-themed fare. “Liability Crisis” is the story of Paul, a Jew so obsessed with the Holocaust that he sees images of Hitler everywhere. His life is on the verge of unraveling when his long-distance girlfriend shows up and he must confront his situation.
$19.98. www.pathfinderpictures.com/video.

Thursday

Providing the second tile in the Skirball’s World Mosaic series is celebrated oud player and singer/songwriter Naser Musa, in a concert titled “Naser Musa and Friends.” Joined by violinist Georges Lammam, accordionist Elias Lammam, upright bassist Miles Jay and percussionists Souhail and Tony Kaspar, Musa will perform traditional Arabic, Arabic folk and traditional Andalusian music this evening. His lecture on Arabic music precedes the show.
7 p.m. (lecture), 8 p.m. (concert). $15-$25. 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. R.S.V.P., (323) 655-8587.

Friday

Filmmaker Stephen Grynberg had an interesting response to Judy Chicago’s call to artists to submit works on the theme, “Envisioning the Future.” He looked to the past. As a child of a Holocaust survivor, he has said that his personal exploration always involved looking at his own family history. By looking back, he was able to envision his own future. Hence the title of his art installation, “PAST FORWARD,” which was chosen as one in Chicago’s series.
Runs through Feb. 29. 5-10 p.m. (Feb. 13 and 14 only), Noon-4 p.m. (Friday, Saturday and Sunday). Progress Gallery, 300 S. Thomas St., Pomona. (310) 480-1794.

Make ‘Em Laugh


It’s a funny thing trying to arrange a stand-up comedy show in Israel. I had gotten the idea last summer when I was visiting Israel and a social worker friend of mine half jokingly suggested I put on a show for the runaway teenagers she works with. As enticing as it sounded to do stand-up comedy for a a bunch of angry kids, I was on vacation; it was only when I returned to the United States that I realized it wasn’t such a bad idea. Not to perform for the rebellious teenagers, but for the general English-speaking community. That way, even the angry teens could come. I got in touch with a promoter in Israel and he thought it was a great idea.

“We could use some laughs over here.”

No kidding. We tentatively agreed on dates and venues in Israel, and that only left one thing to do: find comics who were willing to go. I personally had no problem going; as an Israeli raised in the United States, I believe it’s an obligation to visit Israel when times get tough. But finding other people to go now is another story.

I began to float the idea around town to gauge reaction. Almost all the comics thought I was nuts.

“I can’t do it, Liberman. I’m doing two weeks in Baghdad during that time.”

OK. I get it. You’re not interested. I promised myself that if it took me months, I’d find some people who were. Yet I wasn’t looking for just anyone, but top-quality comedians; comics who had done “The Tonight Show,” Letterman, etc., to ensure a good show.

Months is what it took, but I finally found two friends in Los Angeles — Wayne Federman and Gary Gulman — and Dan Naturman in New York. All three had done a lot of television, so the quality of the show wasn’t going to be a problem.

Now it was just a matter of logistics: When could everyone come in? How many shows would we perform? Who would our audiences be? After months of aggravation, when I used so many calling cards for Israel that I could have just flown there myself, we finally settled it. (As much as it sickens me to say, the whole process gave me a newfound respect for what agents have to deal with. I only hope mine doesn’t read this: It will go straight to his head.)

When we finally arrived in Israel last June, we learned that one of our shows was canceled, and a few had been moved around. Fine with us — that gave us extra time to kick around in Tel Aviv. Wayne and Gary had never been to Israel before, and Dan had last visited Israel when he was 10. They all fell in love with the country (as most people do). Gary is even convinced he wants to retire there. We were all having such a good time that we nearly forgot why we were there in the first place: Showtime!

Our first show was in Ra’anana,which has a large English-speaking community. There were about 225 tickets sold and suddenly, I got nervous. Not because of the crowd, and not because I didn’t think we could pull it off. I just really wanted the audience to have a good time. I felt a greater responsibility to provide some joy for these people who have suffered through so much terror. If didn’t, I would have felt like I let everyone down.

Before I knew it the show was on and so was I:

“I don’t know if you go to shul normally in your life,” I told the audience, “but when you’re on El Al, you’re going. ‘There’s a plane full of Jews, but we specifically need you.’ The amazing thing is, I was still late…”

The other comics chimed in with their own local jokes:

Dan discussed his frustration at being in Israel: “I was surprised at the number of good-looking girls everywhere…but I can get rejected by hot girls back in the States! What do I need this headache for?”

Wayne summed up the religious conflict perfectly: “When I got to Israel I saw that there are all these different levels of Judaic observance, but one thing I realized is that anyone right above where you are is crazy, and anyone right below you is not really Jewish.”

The show went well, and for a minute it seemed like any other great gig, not a special tour in Israel.

Then one woman came up to me and said something which erased all the stress, worry and aggravation of putting it all together. “I just wanted to thank you. I haven’t had anything to laugh about in over a year,” she said.

Every now and then you’ll walk into a comedy club and hear the other comics say, “So-and-so Big Shot is here. If I can just make him laugh ….”

Well, after years of trying to impress “So-and-so,” it was in Israel that I had my big break. Everything I had ever done in entertainment, and maybe ever will do, were completely dwarfed by her words. Maybe they won’t get me a sitcom, a deal or anything else that we’re supposed to strive for in stand-up, but I didn’t care. I had achieved what I wanted.

So now I’m planning another stand-up tour in Israel, to ensure that this woman — and others like her — don’t have to go another year without an opportunity to laugh.

I know there will be lots of stress and aggravation again in planning this tour, but I also know I’m guaranteed a great payoff.

The comics will reprise their Israel tour at The Pacific Design Center on Dec. 6 at “A Night of Comedy and Soul,” a benefit for The Young Israel of Century City. For more information contact (310) 273-6954, or to find out about the “Israel Comedy Art Fund” email leebo99@aol.com.

Avi Liberman can also be seen on Comedy Central’s “Premium Blend” on Dec. 26th.

Funny Girl


Is it harder for nice Jewish girls in the world of stand-up comedy? Yes.

Is it impossible? Nothing’s impossible, shayna maydele, if you put your mind to it.

I’m sitting here wearing my new necklace. Bought it for myself, cause I deserve it! It’s a thin gold chain with a charm dangling on my upper chest that reads “single” in ’70s-style, almost psychedelic letters. It’s “Sex and the City” meets B’nai B’rith luncheon. It defines me. A female. A female comic. A Jewish female comic trying to make it in Los Angeles.

Unlike most female comedians in Los Angeles, I’ve had the luxury of running my own comedy rooms for a while now, and perform regularly in a supportive, safe haven where women are encouraged to explore their “funny.” My shows, titled “She-She Comedy,” encourage women to express themselves: find humor that’s universal and innovative, not necessarily self-deprecating and/or ego-deflating.

Then I go out in the real world, and it just ain’t the same.

I have been the only female comedy writer on a television writing staff, so I know what it’s been like to be the chick among the cocks. But I’ve never done it in front of a full audience, until tonight.

I head out to see one of my favorite headliner comedians (whom I will call “H” in order to protect the innocent — me — from getting future work). H runs an improvised rant show just for kicks at a local comedy club on Sunday nights. His guests are only high-profile celebs.

Tonight, he is co-starring with two comics whom I emulate and would never dream of sharing the stage with. I’m psyched, ready for an excellent evening of alternative comedy.

Little do I know how alternative it would actually be. Turns out the female comic doesn’t show. So when H jokes “There aren’t chick comics in the crowd, are there?” I can’t help but call out saucily, “Right here!”

“Who the hell are you?” H retorts.

“Lesley Wolff!” I shout out with all the confidence of Dame Judi Dench.

“So?” he says.

Somehow my reputation has not preceded me.

“I did Bob’s last film!” (Bob is the other comic sharing the stage, and although I only volunteered as an extra to help my friend who wrote the screenplay, I think that counts.)

He pauses. Unruffled, I run up toward the stage like a winner on “The Price Is Right,” thrilled with the dreamlike opportunity before me: working out my comedy chops with two of my favorite male comics.

H isn’t sure what to do and keeps me at arm’s length. “Now you stay there, Missy,” he says. I see the skepticism in his eyes. What is he afraid of? That I’m a woman? A sassy, outspoken Jewish woman? Was it my outfit? I didn’t “look” funny? I grin at him with anticipation, like a child having to pee.

“I know her,” Bob, his special guest, calls out. “Let her come up.”

The lack of trust and encouragement coming from H is thicker than blood.

Now, I know what it’s like to run a show, and if you don’t know the talent it could get hairy, but there seems to be a distinct gender variable involved. At least that’s what it feels like to me. Is it harder to give blind trust to a female comic? I think so. I myself might even hold the same prejudice.

While he keeps me at bay, H warmly invites a nebbishy Woody Allen-type up on the stage with open arms. “I like you,” he says to the guy. “You remind me of me at your age.”

Then he turns to me. I’m sitting there awkwardly with a smile plastered on my face. “You, I’m not sure of,” he says.

I wink playfully at H to alleviate the palpable tension. My bag of tricks is pretty shallow and I think this is a good icebreaker.

“Don’t wink at me!” H snaps. “I’m a married man and that makes me feel uncomfortable.”

Is he kidding? The tone of his voice doesn’t indicate it so. This isn’t going to be easy. I try my next trick.

“You were supposed to do my ‘All Jew Review!’ show,” I say. Maybe Judaism will be our bond.

“Like hell I was!” he replies. So he’s not about to do the mitzvah of giving me support. I surrender.

The show starts, and after my first round of improvising, H’s worries are alleviated. I’m good. If nothing else, I’m sure of that. I’ve grown up telling funny, ad-hoc stories to make it through the other not-so-funny stuff. I’ve mastered that.

The tension dissipates and the audience kicks back, relaxes, has a great time. I think they were on my side from the beginning.

The show is a success. I pulled my weight. Of course I did.

Yet after all is said and done, I still didn’t feel like I was embraced as a female comic as much as I would have if I were a guy. The words “Prove it, funny girl,” keep echoing in the back of my mind.

Then it hit me — it really hit me — that for the first time the only person I really had to “prove it” to was myself.

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