January 23, 2019

‘Girls’ Producer Jenni Konner on Finding Her Voice

"Girls" Producer Jenni Konner; Photo courtesy of Jenni Konner

Jenni Konner is a writer, director and producer known for executive producing HBO’s limited series “Camping” and HBO’s acclaimed series “Girls,” which ran for six seasons. She began her career as a writer on Judd Apatow’s television series “Undeclared” and today resides in Los Angeles, where she runs her production company, I Am Jenni Konner Productions. 

Together with her former producing partner, Lena Dunham, Konner launched the biweekly feminist newsletter ‘Lenny Letter’ in 2015 and established the publishing imprint Lenny Books with Random House in 2017.

Howard Rosenman: How did your involvement with “Girls” come about? Did you realize the show would define a generation?

Jenni Konner: No. The character Hannah says in the beginning, “I’m the voice of a new generation or of a generation.” That was meant entirely as a joke, so it was very funny to me that people at that time thought she was actually claiming that. I got involved because I saw Lena Dunham’s first feature, “Tiny Furniture,” and thought it was incredible. She had this amazing new voice. Honestly, our agents introduced us and we became partners.

HR: There appear to be progressive values of tikkun olam in “Girls.” Is that a fair assessment?

JK: I really believe in the concept of social justice and I believe that can happen through art. It was never our intention to fix the world. We were just making something we liked, but it did give me a platform to have a stronger voice in the world. We started a feminist newsletter, as well. We were interested in pushing new voices forward and voices that weren’t necessarily being heard.

HR: How has your Jewish background influenced your work?

JK: There’s a lot of humor in the Jewish community and that absolutely has been an influence for me, and my father, particularly, is very funny, as is my mother. That had a lot to do with who I am now as an artist. I was inculcated with reading and telling stories because that’s what we Jews do. I was a voracious reader. I still am. I read one to two books a week. There’s a lot of storytelling, hyperbole and exaggeration for the sake of the story, which feels to me inherently Jewish.

HR: What is your Jewish background?

JK: Until I was 12, there was almost no talk of Judaism beyond Hanukkah, which was fine with me since I was a kid. My father, all of a sudden, remembered that we were Jewish and decided to throw me a big bat mitzvah. So I had to cram, never having gone to Hebrew school, and I went to Temple Emanuel and got a tutor. I did it all in six months as opposed to two years. We went to High Holy Days for a while after that. Now I go to Kol Nidre and Neilah.

HR: As a progressive in Hollywood, how do you feel about Israel the nation, not necessarily the government?

JK: I feel conflicted. I’m not going to pretend that I don’t. I feel undereducated, which is why I would never come out with a very strong opinion at this point in my life. 

HR: Might your daughter go on a Birthright trip?

JK: I don’t know if she’d go on Birthright, but she is part of a summer camp/movement called Habonim Dror — a sort of a socialist Jewish camp. She goes every summer. When you age out of the camp, you are supposed to go to Israel to a kibbutz. That’s something she’s talking about.

“It was never our intention [on ‘Girls’] to fix the world. We were just making something we liked, but it did give me a platform to have a stronger voice in the world.”

HR: You’re a member of IKAR and a friend of Rabbi Sharon Brous. How has she influenced you? 

JK: Sharon’s commitment to social justice really moved me. It wasn’t a basic phone-in sermon of my childhood. Her High Holy Days, especially, are barn burners — incredibly motivating, emotional and come from the heart. She’s a brilliant woman leading this very cozy community. Every part of that excited me. My kids’ father, and one of my closest friends, goes most Saturdays, and my daughter was bat mitzvahed there and my son is about to be [a bar mitzvah].

HR: Have you ever experienced either sexism or a negative experience vis-à-vis the #MeToo movement?

JK: Yeah, I’ve seen some gross things in my time. One of them I wrote about in “Lenny,” and that was sort of before the #MeToo movement. I strongly feel that had it happened now, this man would have been walked off the set and unemployable. 

HR: What are the plans for your new company?

JK: I work with two incredible women, Katie Belgrad and Nora Silver. We have hit the ground running. We have two movies we are producing, one at Netflix and one at New Regency. We also want to re-enter television. I’m now pushing other people’s voices forward, and writing, directing and showrunning myself. I’m going to take one step back on many projects and help other people do that job.

Howard Rosenman has produced more than 43 movies, including “Call Me by Your Name.” He also is a co-founder of Project Angel Food.

Judd Apatow Responds to Louis CK’s ‘Comeback’ Show

Photo by Mark Seliger.

On the last day of 2018, director/comedian Judd Apatow, along with thousands of others, went to Twitter to slam Louis CK’s leaked “comeback” stand-up show. CK, who was accused of and later admitted to doing sexual misconduct a year ago, has been shunned from the stand up community ever since. His new routine includes calling Parkland students boring, Auschwitz and the LGBTQ community.

CK kicked off his set mentioning that following his #MeToo scandal, he would “rather be in Auschwitz” than in New York City. “I mean Auschwitz now, not Auschwitz back then. There’s a gift shop, Starbucks. People buy tickets to go there.”

CK later takes a swing at gender pronouns and the Parkland shooting survivors.

“Why does that make you interesting? You didn’t get shot,” CK said. “You pushed some fat kid in the way and now I gotta listen to you talk?”

Apatow called the bit “hacky, unfunny and shallow” while saying it “is just a symptom of how people are afraid to feel empathy.”

It’s much easier to laugh at our most vulnerable than to look at their pain directly & show them love and concern,” Apatow wrote. “Louis CK is all fear and bitterness now. He can’t look inward.”

The “Knocked Up” and “40 Year Old Virgin” director is no stranger to raunchy comedy and has experience writing taboo jokes for TV and film. He further explained to Twitter users and fans the difference between jokes and what CK presented.

“I am not a sensitive comedy watcher,” Apatow wrote. “I just think it is weak material.  Compare it to the work of our greats. Would Richard Pryor have done a routine about how shooting victims were boring?  People will want to make it political but it is more about his fear of self discovery.”

Elon Gold Gets Into the Hanukkah Spirit

For comedian Elon Gold, this is a busy time of year, with stand-up appearances in his native New York, here in Los Angeles and in Israel, where he performed in Jerusalem on Nov. 24. He spoke with the Journal about Hanukkah memories, Christmas admiration and his comedy-centric dreams.

Jewish Journal: What Hanukkah memories stand out from your childhood?

Elon Gold: My parents were teachers on teachers’ salaries. We lived in an apartment on Pelham Parkway in the Bronx. I remember unwrapping one present and it was a package of three Bic disposable pens. But it was still a nice tradition, a gift every night. These customs continue generation after generation and I’m doing that with my family. I’ve got four kids, 9 to 18, and by night five [the presents] get very shvach (weak). But we end it with a bang on the last night. Hanukkah is not a religious holiday like Yom Kippur when you’re in shul all day. There’s no obligation other than lighting the menorah. It’s not so much a religious observance as a fun family tradition that recognizes our heritage and our people.

JJ: How are you celebrating Hanukkah this year?

EG: I’m doing five shows in New York and my family is coming with me. Then I come back to L.A. to emcee the (pro-Israel nonprofit) Stand With Us “Festival of Lights Gala” at The Beverly Hilton on Dec. 9, for the eleventh year in a row.  

JJ: Got a good Hanukkah joke?

EG: “There aren’t any songs on the radio for us, other than Adam Sandler and his great ‘Hanukkah Song.’ You know why? All the great Jewish songwriters were busy writing Christmas songs. They knew where their bread was buttered.” My brothers and I used to take Christmas songs and make up new lyrics, with a funny, Hebraic twist. 

JJ: You do an annual Christmas Eve comedy show.

EG: “Merry Erev Xmas” at the Laugh Factory, making Christmas fun for the Jews in L.A. This is our 10th year. Russell Peters, Alonzo Bodden, Ben Gleib and Dom Irrera will be there this year, and surprise guests. I love the whole holiday season, starting with the night before Thanksgiving through New Year’s, including Christmas. I kind of enjoy it. I like the lights and listening to Christmas music. I can get into the spirit of it, even if I don’t observe it.

JJ: Do you have any TV appearances coming up?

EG: Judd Apatow asked me to be in Season 3 of his show “Crashing” on HBO. I’m in two episodes. I think the first and second. I take Pete [Holmes, the lead actor] to one of my shul gigs. It premieres in January. I’m on a new family show on Netflix called “Best. Worst. Weekend. Ever.” I’m playing a really funny character, a pet store groomer, loosely based on a couple of Israelis that I know. I’m an integral part of the story about these kids who are trying to get into Comic-Con. I have a stand-up special streaming on Amazon Prime, “Elon Gold: Chosen & Taken,” and I’m working on my next hour-long comedy special. In July, I did an appearance on [“The Late Late Show With] James Corden,” where I got to dispel the inaccurate Jewish stereotype that Jews are obsessed with money. When there’s a message behind the joke, it makes it a little more important. I’m proud of that.

JJ: When did you know you were funny?

EG: In eighth grade I started doing impressions of my teachers, but the first time I knew I wanted to do this for a living was at a Purim spiel at Yeshiva University High School in my sophomore year. I wrote and performed two one-man sketches. It went so well that seniors and juniors that never looked at me, let alone talked to me, came over and said, “You’re funny, dude.” It was so gratifying. 

JJ: You always planned to do it as a career?

EG: For a while I was into the stock market, read The Wall Street Journal, but jokes come so naturally to me. This was what I was meant to do. Unlike a lot of people, it was never my intention to get into comedy to get girls. I met my wife when I was 15, and I knew I would marry her. We’re together 30 years. Our 25th wedding anniversary is coming up in June.

JJ: What’s on your career wish list?

EG: There are projects I’m trying to develop, including a comedy TV show with Howard Gordon, the [co-]creator of “Homeland.” I’m very active on WhatsApp and I want to keep putting out viral clips and have people share my work. For the first time in my 25-year career I feel like I have fans who are familiar with my stand-up and are excited to come see me live. 

I love being the go-to Jew for fundraisers and gala dinners. I get to help a cause and make people laugh — a total win-win. I’m happy where I’m at and creatively at the top of my game but I’m not satisfied. I don’t think I’ve scratched the show-business surface. A lot of comedians put in 20 years before things start cooking for them and hopefully I’m one of them. Meanwhile, I’ll keep coasting like I am. As long as I’m paying the mortgage, I’m OK.

Elon Gold hosts “Merry Erev Xmas” at the Laugh Factory on Dec. 24.

Jewish Comedy Stars Team Up for Election-Eve Telethon

“Veep” star Julia Louis-Dreyfus, director Judd Apatow and other Jewish notables from the comedy world are teaming up for the get-out-the-vote special “Telethon for America,” which will stream live on Nov. 5, the night before the midterm elections. Organized by actor-comedian Ben Gleib, the two-hour special aims to get young voters to show up at the polls. Viewers can watch it on YouTube, Facebook Live and ComedyCentral.com.

“The ‘Telethon For America’ flips the traditional telethon on its head. Young Americans are more motivated than ever before and the Telethon For America is working to build on that momentum to make sure an even higher percentage of young people get out and vote,” Gleib said. “We are excited to reach them in a brand new way, thanks to our production partners, our performers, and the social platforms of the influencers that they listen to.”

Stars scheduled to appear, perform or man the phone banks include Tribe members Chelsea Handler, Amy Schumer, Jeff Ross, Debra Messing, Jackie Tohn, Iliza Schlesinger, Samantha Ronson, and Zoe Lister-Jones. Others on board include Jessica Alba, Lil Rel, Tom Arnold, Charlize Theron, Jane Fonda, Asha Tyler, Minnie Driver, and Connie Britton.

Watch live here.

Judd Apatow on His New Documentary and the Mystery of Shandling

Photo by Mark Seliger.

When he was 16, aspiring stand-up comedian Judd Apatow interviewed comedian Garry Shandling for a high school radio show and asked him for advice. Shandling provided it and much more, hiring Apatow to write jokes for the Grammy Awards and write and direct “The Larry Sanders Show” a decade later. The mentorship-turned-friendship continued until Shandling’s death in 2016.

Now 50, with iconic film and TV comedies including “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” “Trainwreck,” “Bridesmaids,” “Freaks and Geeks” and “Girls” to his credit, Apatow pays tribute to his friend in the two-part HBO documentary “The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling.” He spent two years poring through footage, photographs and diaries, and conducting interviews with Shandling’s family and friends to get insights into the man behind the laughter.

Jewish Journal: In the film, you say of Shandling, “In many ways, he was a mystery.” Why?

Judd Apatow: People didn’t understand what he was going through and how he was feeling. He often seemed neurotic and people didn’t know what was troubling him. The film was an opportunity to talk about his inner life because he left behind 30 years of journals, and an enormous amount of writing and interviews to go through. It was fun to have a reason to watch it all. I miss him. I thought he’d want me to learn whatever lessons there are from his life.

JJ: What did you learn from him?

JA: The most important thing he taught me is there’s nothing more important than kindness. As he got older, most of his focus was [on] being a mentor and giving back. In his journal, he writes, “Give to other people. That’s the win.” He was focused on connecting with other people, and being more loving and more kind. He’d chased glory, he’d chased creativity and where he landed was: “Nothing matters but love and being there for other people.” That’s so important, especially now.

JJ: Are there parallels in your careers?

JA: We both spent a lot of time alone in our rooms as kids. When he was young, he wrote jokes for George Carlin, and George’s encouragement really helped him. Garry’s encouragement of me made me want to encourage people like Seth Rogen.

“When I was a kid, my family never talked about religion. For reasons I never quite understood, it wasn’t part of their lives. It probably had to do with the many people lost in the Holocaust on my mother’s father’s side.”

JJ: How did being Jewish influence Shandling?

JA: Clearly, he was one of our great Jewish comedians. A lot of his material was about the experience of being Jewish. A Japanese foreign exchange student lived with his family when he was a kid and he was exposed to Buddhism and Eastern thought. I know that was very important to him. He certainly was a seeker.

JJ: How would you describe your connection to Judaism growing up and now?

JA: When I was a kid, my family never talked about religion. For reasons I never quite understood, it wasn’t part of their lives. It probably had to do with the many people lost in the Holocaust on my mother’s father’s side. My brother became very religious after college and is now Orthodox and lives in Israel. I’ll go to a seder every once in a while at somebody else’s house. I’m open to everything. I’m not sure what I believe. I’m still on my journey, with many evolutions to come. I’m about, “How can I put more kindness into the world?”

JJ: What were you like as a kid? Were you the class clown type, always trying to be funny?

JA: I caused a lot of trouble. I did some damage. I don’t know if I was trying to be funny, but I wanted to be funny around [age] 10. I was into the Marx Brothers and Abbott and Costello, and that turned into Steve Martin and George Carlin and “Saturday Night Live.” When I was a kid, it really was the golden era for comedy, with “Monty Python” and “Saturday Night Live” and “Second City.” The comedy club scene was booming in the ’70s. I was enamored by all of it.

JJ: Who or what makes you laugh today?

JA: Will Ferrell, Adam Sandler. I’m a big fan of John Mulaney, Dave Chappelle, Hannibal Buress, the TV show “Atlanta.”

JJ: Do your wife [actress Leslie Mann] and daughters [Maude, 20, and Iris, 15] think you’re funny?

JA: Sometimes. It changes by the day. But most of the time, they’re funnier than me.

JJ: What are your proudest accomplishments so far?

JA: I’m very proud of being part of “Freaks and Geeks.” It had a big effect on a lot of kids’ lives. I hear all the time how it helped people get through high school and made them feel better about themselves. I’m proud of the work I did with my wife, Leslie, on “Knocked Up” and “This Is 40.” And I’m proud of this documentary.

JJ: What’s next for you?

JA: I’m working on the third season of “Crashing” on HBO. It’s a show about comedy but also a religious person trying to find his place in the world and where his religion fits into that. It uses comedy to make you think about deeper ideas. I’ll be at Largo doing a benefit for the ACLU on April 21.

JJ: Do you have longer-range plans?

JA: I don’t. I’d love to write a play but I haven’t had a good idea yet. After two years of hard work on this [documentary], I need a nap about now. I need to slow down and appreciate the work I’ve done and recharge my batteries. I’m trying to convince myself to do that.

“The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling” is available now on HBO and HBO On Demand.

Adam Sandler and Judd Apatow are raising money for Vegas victims

Adam Sandler and Judd Apatow are joining comedic forces for “Judd & Adam for Vegas,” a fundraiser to be held at Largo at the Coronet on Friday, Nov 3. Tickets are $250 and proceeds will go to the National Compassion Fund, benefiting victims of the recent Las Vegas shooting, the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

If this dynamic duo (with the promise of special guests) doesn’t do it for you, feast your eyes on this masterpiece of a poster – caricature at its finest, with an homage to Las Vegas  icons Siegfried and Roy.

Sandler and Apatow have collaborated on flicks like “Funny People,” but their bromance predates their celebrity. Before getting their big break, the two were roommates in the Valley, splitting a $900/month unit (Sandler slept on the couch). During an interview with 60 Minutes, the two revealed that they’d frequent the restaurant chain Red Lobster (which has the best cheese biscuits, period) once a month. “That was a big night out,” Sandler added. “That was like, ‘We’re fancy now,’” said Apatow.

Find out more about “Judd & Adam for Vegas” here.

Moving & Shaking: ‘Judd Apatow and Friends’ support the ADL, Honeymoon Israel receives grant and more

From left: Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Regional Director Amanda Susskind, film director Judd Apatow and comedians Natasha Leggero, Wayne Federman and Neal Brennan appeared Aug. 24 at Largo at the Coronet in support of the ADL. Apatow organized the event, titled “Judd Apatow and Friends.” Photo by Tyler Ross

Hollywood writer, producer and director Judd Apatow organized an evening of comedy called “Judd Apatow and Friends” in support of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on Aug. 24 at Largo at the Coronet in Beverly Grove.

Apatow (“The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” “Knocked Up”) was joined by comedians Natasha Leggero (“Chelsea Lately”), Wayne Federman (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”), Neal Brennan (“Chappelle’s Show”) and Jerrod Carmichael (“The Carmichael Show”).

Apatow said he was inspired to organize the performance in response to the Aug. 11-12 white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville, Va., that included anti-Semitic chants, acts of intimidation against local Jews, neo-Nazi demonstrations and the death of woman who was a counterprotester.

Apatow, who is Jewish, publicized the event on Twitter, where he has been active in criticizing the administration of President Donald Trump.

During the event, Apatow “touched on several ADL areas of concern, including anti-Semitism, women’s rights, racism and immigration reform,” the ADL said in a statement.

ADL Regional Director Amanda Susskind also spoke at the event and discussed “ADL’s role in monitoring and exposing extremist and hate groups, and protecting civil rights in America,” the ADL said.

The sold-out event raised $8,700 in support of the ADL, which fights anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry in the United States.

In addition, in a current online campaign, Apatow has pledged to match contributions of up to $10,000 to the ADL’s national office.

Whitney Kirk and Lindsey Arnold were participants on the September 2016 Honeymoon Israel Los Angeles trip. Photo courtesy of Honeymoon Israel


Honeymoon Israel, a national Jewish organization that subsidizes newly married couples with at least one Jewish partner to take part in group trips to Israel, recently received a $1.5 million grant from the Jim Joseph Foundation. Some of the grant money will help pay for Honeymoon Israel’s overall operations, while part will go toward the $600,000 invested in its local branch, said Michael D. Wise, co-CEO of Honeymoon Israel.

The 2-year-old organization works to help new couples build connections to local Jewish communities and encourages them to experience a deeper sense of Judaism by visiting Israel with other local couples.

“Seeing, touching and feeling Israel together as a newly married interfaith couple was a profound experience,” Diana and Karen Lovati, a couple from Los Angeles, said in a statement.

Whitney Kirk and her wife, Lindsey Arnold, of Playa del Rey, took Honeymoon Israel’s third trip, which left from Los Angeles in September 2016.

“Honeymoon Israel allowed my wife and me the opportunity to visit and experience the wonders of Israel as a couple, without the fear of being judged as a married, interfaith, lesbian couple,” Kirk said. “Before Honeymoon Israel, we were looking for a local Jewish community, and a year later, not only do we still stay in touch and spend time with the couples and staff we met on the trip, but our community continues to grow through couple-hosted events.”

In a statement, Barry Finestone, president and CEO of the Jim Joseph Foundation, said the future looks bright for Honeymoon Israel, which continues to grow and expand to more cities.

“The foundation is excited,” Finestone said, “to engage even more couples from a range of backgrounds in this powerful experience.”

— Julie Bien, Contributing Writer

The Valley Jewish Community Center boys 16-and-under soccer team won the gold medal at the 2017 JCC Maccabi Games. Photo courtesy of Lori Larcara


The Valley Jewish Community Center’s boys soccer team for players age 16 and under took the gold medal at the 2017 JCC Maccabi Games in Albany, N.Y., which were held Aug. 6-11.

The team dedicated its victory to the memory of Dr. David Fett, whose son played on the team eight years ago. Fett, an ophthalmologist who also was a supporter of the Valley JCC, died a few days before the tournament began.

Lori Larcara, mother of Jake Larcara, one of the Valley JCC players, said the team was proud to be playing in Fett’s honor.

“They never lost sight of their goal and the task at hand,” she said. “More importantly, they never forgot that this tournament was for them and Dr. Fett.”

The other team members were Amit Bitton, Ori Bitton, Tal Bitton, Yoav Cohen, Evan Davila, Edan Klier, Mikey Levy, David Luner, Dor Moskowitz, Benjamin Newman and Harel Spivak. The team was coached by Oren Diamant.

Larcara credited the support that all of the Valley JCC’s soccer teams have received from Shay Diamant, Philip Benditson and Kobi Koren, who has been coaching local JCC Maccabi teams for 25 years.

“These gentlemen volunteer their time, compassion and commitment and bring in donations of approximately $20,000 to help cover costs and offer financial aid,” Larcara said in an email.

The JCC Maccabi Games, held each summer in North America, also had competitions in Birmingham, Ala., from July 30 to Aug. 4, and Miami, from Aug. 6-11.

Pesach (Paul) Nisenbaum and his wife, Lida Baker, were among several people from Los Angeles who made aliyah to Israel in August thanks to the nonprofit Nefesh B’Nefesh organization. Photo courtesy of Pesach (Paul) Nisenbaum


Several people from Los Angeles made aliyah to Israel in August thanks to the nonprofit Nefesh B’Nefesh (NBN) organization.

Founded in 2001, NBN works with numerous agencies — including the Jewish Agency for Israel, Israel’s Ministry of Aliyah and Immigration Absorption, and the Jewish National Fund-USA — to facilitate emigration from the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. In 2016, the organization surpassed bringing its 50,000th oleh (immigrant) to Israel.

Los Angeles-area residents who made aliyah in August included Pesach (Paul) Nisenbaum and his wife, Lida Baker; Carey Fried, Sara Chana Morrow, Rivka Grob, Yehuda Frischman and Robin Silver-Zwiren.

Nisenbaum, 66, a retired special education teacher, said the recent death of his mother, Faye Franks Nisenbaum Gelb, led him to decide it was the right time to fulfill a longtime dream of immigrating to Israel.

“We have been to Israel many times, over decades,” he said in an email. “I have been waiting to make aliyah for decades.”

Marty Adelstein, CEO of Tomorrow Studios and an advisory board member of Creative Community for Peace Photo courtesy of Creative Community for Peace

Marty Adelstein, CEO of Tomorrow Studios, has joined the advisory board of the Creative Community for Peace (CCFP), the organization announced on Aug. 21.

CCFP is composed of prominent members of the entertainment industry who promote the arts as a means to achieve peace, support artistic freedom and counter the cultural boycott of Israel. In August, the organization supported British rock band Radiohead’s decision to perform in Israel, despite the protests of some musicians, including former Pink Floyd member Roger Waters, who called on Radiohead to cancel its performance.

Adelstein’s career spans 25 years as an agent, manager and feature film and television producer. Other entertainment industry professionals involved in CCFP include Adam Berkowitz, co-head of the television department at Creative Artists Agency; Jody Gerson, chairman and CEO of Universal Music Publishing Group; and Rick Krim, West Coast president of Sony/ATV Music Publishing.

“[Their] success and wide-ranging relationships will help us in our mission to promote the arts as a means to peace, defend artistic freedom, and counter the attempted cultural boycott of Israel,” CCFP said in a statement.

Moving & Shaking highlights events, honors and simchas. Got a tip? Email ryant@jewishjournal.com.

Actor Jason Segel opens up about childhood as Jewish outsider

Actor Jason Segel — best known as the star of  “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and “How I Met Your Mother” — opened up on Marc Maron’s “WTF” podcast this week about growing up half-Jewish and complete outsider.

Segel sat down for the Monday podcast ahead of the release of film “The End of the Tour,” in which he plays tortured writer David Foster Wallace — a career U-turn away from the comedic work that made him famous.

On Maron’s podcast (on which President Obama was recently a guest) Segel said he long felt unsure of his place in the world. He traces the feeling back to growing up with a Jewish father and a Christian mother; attending Christian school during the day and Hebrew school at night.

“At Christian school you’re the Jewish kid, and at Hebrew school you’re the Christian kid. I think that’s the nature of groups,” he said. “And so everyone wants to compartmentalize people. And I think I decided at that point, like OK, its me versus the world kind of.”

“Is your mom Jewish? No? You’re not a real Jew,” offered Maron, who is himself Jewish.

Segel recalled explaining his bar mitzvah to his Christian classmates as a pivotal moment that that pushed him away from his peers and toward acting.

“This is when you become funny … Little 13-year-old Jason Segel standing there like, ‘On Saturday I become a man,’” he said, imitating his adolescent voice breaking. “It’s literally a direct cut to getting punched in the face.”

Weighing in on mixed-religion parenting, Segel said, “You know what? Neither of [my parents] are religious. So they made this decision that they were going to let me decide, which is the dumbest thing you can do for a kid. Because you don’t really care [at that age].”

Segel did credit his parents, though, with enrolling him in acting classes when he was a child. They were less concerned with the acting than with him becoming less shy and making some friends, he said.

And acting was indeed a refuge for him.

Segal recalled tapping into his childhood angst for the TV show that launched his career, “Freaks and Geeks,” created by Paul Feig and executive produced by Judd Apatow, both Jews. Segel credited Apatow with changing his life by teaching him how to act and write.

“It was really special. Everybody was kind of like digging deep into what it feels like not to feel comfortable,” he said.

Segel said he later spearheaded and co-wrote “The Muppets” movie in 2011, because the puppets’ message appealed to him as a kid and he wanted to share it with a new generation.

“I felt like one of the things The Muppets did that was really unique and special is they never made fun of people, they never got laughs at other people’s expense,” he said. “They’re a frog and a bear and Gonzo’s a whatever, and they all kind of come together. And I felt like you can catch a kid at a certain age and instill this idea that it’s OK. Whatever you are is OK.”

An alcoholic who quit drinking a couple years ago, Segel said when he got the script for “The End of the Tour,” he could immediately relate to Wallace — the pioneering author of postmodern novel “Infinite Jest,” who committed suicide in 2008.

“At this point in my life, it felt like kismet when we started shooting, he said. “I’m like a year and a half sober at that point and [“How I Met Your Mother”] was coming to an end, and I was at a real moment of. ‘What do I do now?

Of working with Jewish co-star Jessie Eisenberg, who plays Rolling Stone reporter David Lipsky in “The End of the Tour,” Segel said, “It was the most intimate experience I’ve ever had acting.”

The film relies heavily on Lipsky’s transcripts from interviewing Wallace over the final five days of his book tour for “Infinite Jest.” He never published the profile he set out to write.

Segel said he and Eisenberg would drive together to the set and go over their scenes in the morning, act “against each other” all day and then drive home together at night and reflect on the day. After a late-night donut, they would wake up and did it all again, he said.

“The End of the Tour” opens nationwide Friday. Segel has surprised naysayers by earning critical acclaim for his performance. Apparently, he still doesn’t fit neatly into any one box.

Judd Apatow won’t quit shaming crusade against Bill Cosby

Judd Apatow, the comedian and director who has been an outspoken critic of Bill Cosby in the wake of dozens of accusations of drugging and sexual assault, should have felt vindicated at the revelation of unsealed court documents from 2005, in which Cosby admitted to drugging a woman for sexual purposes.

Instead, Apatow said such a confession, even though it was in the context of an investigation and not from Cosby to the public, should not have been necessary.

Apatow told Esquire, “I don’t think there is anything new here. It is only new to people who didn’t believe an enormous amount of women who stated clearly that he drugged them. We shouldn’t need Bill Cosby to admit it to believe 40 people who were victimized by him. I am sure there are many victims who have not come forward. Maybe now more people in show business and all around our country will stand up and tell people he attacked that we support you and believe you.”

Apatow called on “Cosby Show” co-star Phylicia Rashad and on Cosby’s wife, Camille Cosby, who have denied the allegations against him, to join singer, model and actress Jill Scott and withdraw their support.

Scott had previously called the accusations “insane,” but after the release of the prior confession, said, “Sadly, his own testimony offers proof of terrible deeds, which is all I have ever required to believe the accusations.”

Prior to the scandal, in a New York Times interview, Apatow identified Bill Cosby as one of his heroes–along with Steve Martin and the Marx Brothers–who inspired him to pursue a career in comedy.

Apatow grew up in a “Jewish but nonreligious” family in Flushing, Queens. His mother, Tamara, managed record labels founded by her record producer father Bob Shad. His father, Maury, was a real estate developer.

Apatow told Danielle Berrin of the Hollywood Jew blog: “I’m not a religious person, but I couldn’t be more Jewish.”

When asked if he uses the same, mainly Jewish ensemble because of the connection created by the shared heritage, he replied, “Maybe. It’s just a sensibility that’s almost an unspoken, unconscious thing. You can’t quite put your finger on why.”

Berrin sees the director of “40 Year Old Virigin” and “Knocked Up,” and producer of “Girls,” as focusing on outsiders, eccentrics and misfits — a central theme in Jewish comedy.

It’s possible, Berrin posits, that the male stoner culture could be a rejection of “overwhelming Jewish ambition in the quest for success, wealth and power, which in itself is a response to never having had any.”

Following the revelation of Cosby’s prior testimony under oath, that he administered Quaaludes so he could compel them to have sex with him, Apatow tweeted: “Cosby admits to offering ‘educational trusts’ to women who accused him. That is how young they were. College kids.”

Whoopi Goldberg and Raven-Symone of “The View” have said they still need irrefutable proof before they accept the allegations against Cosby.

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.

Calendar: June 20-26



Jewish directors every which way! This super-cool venue’s summer film schedule continues with some of our favorite visionary filmmakers. From “The Big Lebowski” (Coen Brothers) to “E.T.” and “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark” (Steven Spielberg) to “The Princess Bride” (Rob Reiner), there’s a genre for everyone! With a view of the city behind the screen, it’s a truly unique — and seasonal — way to watch these classics. And it beats sitting in traffic and staring at the car in front of you. 8:30 p.m. $7.50-$55. Through Aug. 15. Electric Dusk Drive-In, 1000 San Julian St., Los Angeles. ” target=”_blank”>pasadenasymphony-pops.org.



It’s the 29th anniversary production of Jerry Mayer’s hit comedy, in which boy meets girl, marries her, meets another girl, becomes interested in her, and hilarity ensues. You might know Mayer from his TV work with “The Facts of Life” and “The Bob Newhart Show,” and now you can get you can get to know him for this guilt-ridden, delightful play. Directed by Chris DeCarlo and featuring Wayne Roberts, Barbara Keegan, Dan Gilvezan and more. 3:30 p.m. $29.50. Performances extended through Sept. 27. Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica. (310) 394-9779, Ext. 1. TUE | JUNE 23


He’s made his mark on comedy as executive producer on TV’s “Freaks and Geeks” and “Girls,” and by producing films such as “Knocked Up” and “Superbad,” so it only makes sense that Judd Apatow would also write an awesome book. “Sick in the Head: Conversations About Life and Comedy” is a collection of intimate, hilarious conversations with the biggest names in comedy from the past 30 years — including Mel Brooks, Jerry Seinfeld, Jon Stewart, Roseanne Barr, Harold Ramis, Louis C.K., Chris Rock and Lena Dunham. And he’s here to talk about it. 7 p.m. Free. Barnes and Noble at The Grove, 189 The Grove Drive, Los Angeles. (323) 525-0270. WED | JUNE 24


The best-selling author’s books include “The Inner Circle,” “ The Book of Fate,” “History Decoded” and the children’s books “I Am Amelia Earhart,” “I Am Albert Einstein” and more. He’s here to discuss and autograph his latest book, “The “President’s Shadow (The Culper Ring Series),” a political thriller that involves the White House and the fate of a nation. In conversation with Brian K. Vaughan. 8 p.m. $20-$43. Anne and Jerry Moss Theatre at New Roads, 3131 Olympic Blvd., Santa Monica. ” target=”_blank”>ncjwla.org.

FRI | JUN 26


If you’ve had access to the Internet in the past two years, you, too, were probably touched by the YouTube sensation and real-life phenomenon of the 5-year-old boy whose fight against leukemia led him to transform San Francisco into Gotham City for a day in 2013. Dana Nachman’s documentary shows how his wish came true, with more than a billion people on social media worldwide cheering him on. Nachman, who has three Emmy Awards and several movies under her belt, explores why this story resonated so deeply. Opens Friday. Various times. Check local listings.


Los Angeles Summer Events: May 30 – August 30

SAT | MAY 30


In addition to two major premieres commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic from Bryce Dessner (half of indie rock favorite The National) and minimalist composer Philip Glass, there will be two string quartets and a performance of the piece responsible for making Caroline Shaw the youngest Pulitzer Prize winner for music. Both composers have worked with either Yiddish or biblical Hebrew in past pieces and have been recognized for their huge impact on the international music scene. 8 p.m. $65-$112. Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grande Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 850-2000.



It’s the last Saturday night performance of the play adaptation of the hilarious book by Annabelle Gurwitch. Performed by Gurwitch herself and directed by Bart DeLorenzo, “I See You Made An Effort” asks: Is it possible to enjoy just one night off from the indignities put upon a woman of a certain age? Gurwitch’s work can also be found in the Los Angeles Times, Glamour, Los Angeles Magazine and more. Get your laugh going, or at least, make an effort. Ticket price includes a copy of the book! 6 p.m. $25. Through June 8. Skylight Theatre, 1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles. (213) 761-7061. THUR | JUNE 11


Composed by David T. Little and featuring librettist Royce Vavrek, this new opera is based on the story by Judy Budnitz from her first collection of short stories, “Flying Leap.” After an unimaginable catastrophe, a family struggles to keep it together. The teenage daughter hangs on to hope, unwilling to accept her dire situation, until a stranger shows up. Tonight is opening night and the first opportunity the West Coast will have to experience this raw and powerful contemporary opera. Directed by Robert Woodruff. 8 p.m. $69. Through June 15. REDCAT, 631 W. Second St., Los Angeles. (213) 237-2800. SAT | JUNE 20


The second half of this super cool film venue’s summer schedule features some of our favorite movie visionaries. From “The Big Lebowski” (Coen brothers) to “E.T.” and “Indiana Jones” (Steven Spielberg) to “The Princess Bride” (Rob Reiner), there’s a classic for everyone. With the city sprawled out behind the screen, it’s a truly unique — and seasonal — way to watch the best of the best. It certainly beats sitting in traffic and staring at the car in front of you. 8:30 p.m. $9-$13. Through Aug. 15. Electric Dusk Drive-In, 1000 San Julian St., Los Angeles. (818) 653-8591. TUE | JUNE 23


He’s dominated television with “Freaks and Geeks” and as an executive producer on “Girls,” as well as film with comedies including “Knocked Up” and “Superbad,” so it only makes sense that he’d also contribute a book. “Sick in the Head: Conversations about Life (and Comedy),” is a collection of intimate, hilarious conversations with the biggest names in comedy from the past 30 years — including Mel Brooks, Jerry Seinfeld, Jon Stewart, Roseanne Barr, Harold Ramis, Louis C.K., Chris Rock and Lena Dunham. If you’re a comedy nerd, this should be the next book on your shelf. 7 p.m. Free. Barnes and Noble at The Grove, 189 The Grove Drive, Los Angeles. (323) 525-0270. THUR | JULY 9


Eighteen years and still going strong! An ensemble of a couple of dozen young musicians from around the world, iPalpiti & Soloists offers an expansive and international repertoire. Founded by Lord Yehudi Menuhin, the orchestra is often served by renowned conductor and honorary President Eduard Schmieder. With tons of concert opportunities in all kinds of cool locations, it will be difficult to miss out on this festival. There also will be a chance to meet the artists during the grand finale gala. Various times. Through July 26. Free-$120. Various venues. (310) 205-0511. THUR | JULY 16


Jonathan Larson’s “Rent” is a musical set in the East Village of New York City. It follows a group of young dreamers as they learn about falling in love, finding their voice and living for today. Confronting AIDS/HIV in a time when it was uncommon to do so, the musical also made political noise during the 1990s. Winner of the Tony Award for best musical and Pulitzer Prize for drama, the show has been enthusiastically received across the board. Whether you’re in it for the pop tunes or Puccini’s “La Boheme” influences, it will be a theater experience at its best. 8 p.m. Through July 26. $65-$149.50. Saban Theatre, 8440 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills. (323) 655-0111. THUR | JULY 23


The Skirball Cultural Center kicks off its Sunset Concerts series, held each summer in the museum’s one-of-a-kind hillside setting. Devoted to inspiring the diverse populations of greater Los Angeles, the lineup will again showcase exceptional global talents, both legendary and emerging. Some headliners include the Yuval Ron Ensemble, Hurray for the Riff Raff and tonight’s Los Angeles debut of funky Afro-Colombian group La Chiva Gantiva. A full schedule is available on Skirball’s website. 8 p.m. Free. Through Aug. 27. Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 440-4500. TUE | AUG 18


Conductor Brad Lubman leads the Los Angeles Philharmonic, with the help of Grant Gershon’s Los Angeles Master Chorale, in a live scoring of Stanley Kubrick’s science fiction masterpiece. See the film’s visual grandeur on the Hollywood Bowl’s big screen while the soundtrack is performed right in front of you. Music includes Strauss’ “Also sprach Zarathustra,” “The Blue Danube Waltz” and more. 8 p.m. $11-$45. The Hollywood Bowl, 2301 Highland Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 850-2000. FRI | AUG 21


If you missed him last year at the Saban, here is another chance to catch the soulful songwriter. Hitting it big with his early ’90s hit “Walking in Memphis,” Cohn has spent years joining clever and sensitive lyrics with a musicality that’s simultaneously country, rock and pop. He won the 1991 Grammy for best new artist and has released seven studio albums. He toured with Bonnie Raitt in 2013, so maybe at this show you’ll here some super secret on-the-road stories. 8 p.m. $38-$68. Saban Theatre, 8440 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills. (323) 655-0111. SUN | AUG 30


Take you out to the crowd! Your Los Angeles Dodgers invite you to their 16th annual kosher baseball game. They’ll be playing the Chicago Cubs, so after waiting in line for a kosher hot dog or four, put on the special shirt that comes with your ticket package — a T-shirt that says “Dodgers” in Hebrew. The first 40,000 in attendance will get Dodger headphones! Sounds like a home run to us. 12:10 p.m. $30 and $38. Dodger Stadium, 1000 Elysian Park Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 224-2642.


Moving and shaking

Dikla Kadosh has been appointed to the top leadership position of the Los Angeles chapter of the Israeli-American Council (IAC). Effective Aug. 25, Kadosh will succeed the IAC’s new national CEO, Sagi Balasha, as the L.A. regional director.

The IAC, a national organization with five regional offices, organizes the Israeli-American community around philanthropy, volunteer work, support for Israel and more. Los Angeles has one of the largest Israeli communities outside of Israel, and the IAC is becoming an increasingly important focal point for the growing population.

“The IAC mission is to build an active and giving Israeli-American Community throughout the United States in order to strengthen the State of Israel, our next generation, and to provide a bridge to the Jewish-American community,” the group’s website says.

The organization is perhaps most well known locally for its annual Celebrate Israel Festival, a Yom HaAtzmaut event that draws thousands of people every year to Rancho Park in West Los Angeles. 

Kadosh formerly served as the organization’s director of community events and volunteering. In her new position, she will be charged with a range of activities, including developing the local office’s relationship with The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, which she said is developing day by day. 

“We’re working hard to warm up relations with The Federation, and we have had a good collaboration with them over the summer because of the war [in Gaza], the rallies we put on together,” Kadosh said during a phone interview.

She will also be overseeing the “activity, staff, programming [and] fundraising” of the L.A. office, which is the organization’s flagship office — no easy task for the 33-year-old Israeli-American, who said her educational background is in journalism rather than in nonprofit management. 

Finally, Kadosh will develop a local board for the L.A. office, which is currently governed by the group’s national board. While the organization expands nationally — which it is doing with the help of pro-Israel philanthropists Sheldon Adelson, Adam Milstein and others — each city is working on creating its own regional board. 

The national board includes Shawn Evenhaim, Danny Alpert, Milstein, Yossi Rabinovitz, Naty Saidoff, Miriam Shepher, Shoham Nicolet, Tamir Cohen, Rani Ben-David, Rachel N. Davidson and Avi Almozlino.

Kadosh earned a master’s degree from the Columbia University School of Journalism and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern California. 

She is the former editor of the Jewish Journal’s TRIBE magazine and a former staff writer at the Journal. 

Nearly 1,000 people gathered at Warner Center Park in Woodland Hills on Aug. 15 for Shabbat in the Park, in which clergy from 13 synagogues of various denominations led a Shabbat service.

U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) presented a U.S. flag that had been flown over the Capitol to organizers of the event, which included arts and crafts and writing letters to Lone Soldiers serving in the Israel Defense Forces, who have no parents living in Israel. There also was a concert with Sol Tevel featuring Lior Ben-Hur.

U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman, far right, presented a U.S. flag flown over the Capitol to organizers of Shabbat in the Park, where 17 Jewish organizations and synagogues attracted 1,000 people for entertainment and services in Warner Center Park in Woodland Hills on Aug. 15. Accepting the flag were, from left, Bill Kaplan, executive director of the Shalom Institute; Carol Koransky, executive vice president of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles; and Rabbi Jon Hanish of Kol Tikvah in Woodland Hills, who is also chair of the West Valley Rabbinic Task Force.  Photo by Ellen Zuckerman

Overall, 17 Jewish organizations and synagogues were part of the event. Accepting the flag from Sherman were Bill Kaplan, executive director of the Shalom Institute; Carol Koransky, executive vice president of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles; and Rabbi Jon Hanish of Kol Tikvah in Woodland Hills, who also serves as chair of the West Valley Rabbinic Task Force.

“The success of the event was due, in part, to the strong collaboration that has been developed over the years among many Valley synagogues and The Federation Valley Alliance through our participation in the West Valley Rabbinic Task Force, established to strengthen relationships among the rabbis, synagogues and Jewish institutions and develop meaningful programs that deepen Jewish living,” Hanish said.

—Virginia Isaad, Contributing Writer

“Irony Dome,” an evening of comedy hosted by Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) Young Leadership Los Angeles on Aug. 25, featured an all-star lineup and a special appearance by Hollywood producer Judd Apatow as it raised money for Lone Soldiers serving in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

Judd Apatow,  Photo by Amanda Epstein

Held at The Laugh Factory in Hollywood, the event honored Max Steinberg, who grew up in the San Fernando Valley and went on to become a sharpshooter in the IDF. He was killed July 20 when his unit was ambushed in Gaza.

Ari Ryan, chairman and co-founder of FIDF Young Leadership, started the evening with a moving speech emphasizing the importance of soldiers’ well-being and noting that Lone Soldiers are a “special breed of soldier.” Lone Soldiers like Steinberg have no parents living in Israel; “Irony Dome” was held to raise money to provide flights home. The event, which drew about 100 people, raised $5,000. 

“I feel like I was lured in to write a check,” Apatow said as he took the stage. The producer of “Knocked Up” and “Superbad” spoke about Judaism and his love for Jews, among other things.

Whitney Cummings, best known as the creator and star of the NBC sitcom “Whitney” as well as the co-creator of the CBS sitcom “2 Broke Girls,” talked about relationships, life in her 30s and what men like. Other comedians at the event included Brian Scolaro, Taylor Williamson and Alonzo Bodden. Bodden, who is not Jewish but has been to Israel, said he has an “honorary Jew certificate” and that Israel is “so much better than Disneyland.”

Dan Ahdoot, an actor in ABC’s “Super Fun Night” and Disney’s “Kickin’ It,” acted as master of ceremonies. 

— Amanda Epstein, Contributing Writer

Lee Samson memorialized his late wife, Anne, who died in a tragic car collision one year ago, at age 66. He commissioned the creation of two Torahs in her honor; a large Torah was donated to Young Israel of North Beverly Hills (YINBH) and a small Torah will be kept at the Samson residence in Beverly Hills. On Aug. 24, to commemorate Anne’s yahrzeit, the Torahs were completed in a courtyard near YINBH, after which all who were present proceeded to YINBH for a formal dedication.

Among the many notables who attended was Sunny Sasson, executive chairman of The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf; Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center; Philip Kaufler, president of YINBH; and David Suissa, president of the Jewish Journal.

After the ceremony, a 90-minute concert was held at Samson’s residence. Motown musician William Goldstein, one of the artists who performed, said, “This is a very unusual event, especially in the Orthodox community.” Backed by a 24-piece orchestra, Goldstein performed his tribute, “Why Anne?” for an audience of 200 invitees.

“We are really trying to celebrate the fact that we had her for as long as we did,” said Anne’s older brother, Ernest Katz. “Our mother was a Holocaust survivor who died young. And then to lose Anne before her time was another blow. But we keep going, and that’s the story of the Jewish people and that’s why we’re here.”

Anne’s son, Dani Samson, said the event was a culmination of a lot of things, but foremost was remembering his mother. “It’s bittersweet,” he added.

— Tess Cutler, Contributing Writer 

Moving and Shaking highlights events, honors and simchas. Got a tip? Email ryant@jewishjournal.com. 

Calendar Picks and Clicks: May 11–17, 2013



Known as “The Ambassador of the Great American Songbook,” the five-time Grammy-nominated Feinstein covers classics from musical theater as well as the songs of Frank Sinatra and other standards. $40-$85. 8 p.m. California State University, Northridge, Valley Performing Arts Center, 18111 Nordhoff St., Northridge. (818) 677-8800. valleyperformingartscenter.org.



Spring wouldn’t be the same without the nationally renowned annual Mother’s Day program at the Los Angeles Jewish Home. A Sunday morning brunch as well as an afternoon of entertainment and festivities on both Jewish Home campuses honors all mothers. Sun. 10:30 a.m. $25 (12 and older), $10 (ages 5-11). Los Angeles Jewish Home, Grancell Village, 7150 Tampa Ave., Reseda; Eisenberg Village, 18855 Victory Blvd., Reseda. (818) 774-3324. jha.org.



Author Helene Wecker combines elements of Jewish and Arab folk mythology in her buzzed-about debut novel. “The Golem and the Jinni” (Harper) tells the story of two supernatural creatures who arrive separately in New York in 1899 — a golem, who is created out of clay to be her master’s wife, and a jinni, a being of fire trapped in a copper flask for thousands of years, who is released by a tinsmith in Manhattan’s Little Syria. Mon. 7 p.m. Free. Book Soup, 8818 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood. (310) 659-3110. booksoup.com.



The legendary songwriter and composer, whose new memoir, “Anyone Who Had a Heart: My Life and Music,” offers a candid backstage look at show business and his personal struggles, appears in conversation with best-selling author Mitch Albom (“The Time Keeper,” “Tuesdays With Morrie”). Tue. 8-9:15 p.m. $22-$70. Alex Theatre, 216 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale. (818) 243-2539. alextheatre.org.


Made up of middle-aged rockers — including frontman Steve “Lips” Kudlow and drummer Robb Reiner — this Canadian band released more than a dozen albums of loud, distorted and overly masculine rock music to relative obscurity over the course of three decades. In 2008, acclaimed rock doc “Anvil! The Story of Anvil” catapulted the band into the public’s consciousness. Anvil and Kemical Kill open for British speed-metal group Motorhead. All ages. Tue. 8:30 p.m. $40-$46.50. Club Nokia, 800 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles. (213) 765-7000. clubnokia.com.


The Jewish Journal has highlighted 10 ways for Angelenos to celebrate the annual festival marking the giving of the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai. All-night study sessions across the city include the joint Tikkun Leil Shavuot with Temple Beth Am, American Jewish University’s Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies and PicoEgal; IKAR and Jewlicious’ “Revealed and Concealed,” a night of learning and celebration in Pico-Robertson with Rabbis Sharon Brous and Yonah Bookstein; Valley Beth Shalom’s “City of Angeles-Envisioning a New L.A.,” featuring appearances by mayoral candidates Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel and lectures led by Rabbi Ed Feinstein; and Temple Israel of Hollywood’s “Blintzes, Bible, Banter and Borrekas.” Tue.-Wed. Various times, places and prices (most events are free). 



This Writers Block Presents event features two of comedy’s most successful stars sharing the stage. Maron — creator of the podcast “WTF!” and star of the new IFC show “Maron” — talks with Apatow (“The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” “Freaks and Geeks”) about his new memoir, “Attempting Normal,” which charts the ups and downs of his professional and personal life. Wed. 7:30 p.m. $25 (general), $15 (students with ID). Saban Theatre, 8440 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills. (323) 655-0111. writersblocpresents.com.



World-renowned klezmer violinist Yale Strom and famed Pakistani singer-guitarist Salman Ahmad lead this gathering of accomplished musicians from different cultures and religious traditions. Common Chords combines rock, klezmer, jazz, bhangra, Indian, Sufi and qawwali music into a hybrid executed by Ahmad, Strom, vocalist Elizabeth Schwartz, tabla master Samir Chatterjee, bassist Mark Dresser, dhol player Sunny Jain, accordionist Lou Fanucchi and saxophonist and flute player Tripp Sprague. The evening is part of Skirball’s new concert series, “Journeys and Encounters,” featuring collaborations between musicians of diverse genres. Thu. 8 p.m. $35 (general), $30 (members), $25 (full-time students). Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 440-4500. skirball.org.


“STATE 194”

Participant Media’s new documentary from producer Elise Pearlstein (“Food, Inc.”) begins with former Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s plan in 2009 to demonstrate that his people were deserving of United Nations membership. Since then, they’ve made progress, but the political quagmire between Israel, the Palestinians, the United States and other parties — and Fayyad’s recent resignation from office — might destroy the opportunity for peace. Fri. Various times. Laemmle Music Hall 3, 9036 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills. (310) 478-3836. laemmle.com

Dunham doubles up at Globes, Israeli docs’ double Oscar nomination, Sandler’s countless Razzies

The 70th annual Golden Globe Awards kicked off the Hollywood awards season on Sunday, and it was in television that the Jewish people stood tall — notably Lena Dunham, the new queen and unchallenged ruler of television comedy.

Dunham, the creator of “Girls,” brought home two awards — for best actress as Hannah Horvath and for the HBO show itself, which won best comedy.

The Golden Globes are widely seen as a bellwhether for the Academy Awards (doubtful, since “Argo” beat Spielberg's Oscar favorite, “Lincoln”).

In her acceptance speech, a shaken Dunham said, ”This award is for every woman who felt like there wasn’t a space for her. This show has made a space for me.”

In addition, Dunham thanked a man named Chad Lowe. The reason for the random nod? During the 2000 Academy Awards, Lowe's then-wife, Hillary Swank, forgot to thank him as she accepted the best actress award for “Boys Don't Cry.” Dunham, the sweetheart that she is, promised Lowe she would mention him if she ever won an award — and so she did.

Another TV topper was “Homeland,” the Showtime CIA thriller based on the Israeli show “Prisoners of War.” The show won best drama, in addition to best actor for Damian Lewis and best actress for Claire Danes.

Daniel Day-Lewis, who portrays Abraham Lincoln in “Lincoln,” won best actor in a drama.

Oscar nods for Spielberg and Israeli documentaries

A few days prior to the Golden Globes, the nominees for the 85th Academy Awards were announced, and Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” led the way with 12, including for best film and best director. Spielberg is still expected to take both awards despite falling short in the Golden Globes to Ben Affleck of “Argo.”

On the Israeli side, the lack of presence in the Best Foreign Film category was compensated by a heavy presence in the Best Documentary field, with two nominees: “5 Broken Cameras” and “The Gatekeepers.” The former tells the story of a Palestinian farmer who tries to document Israeli settlers building homes and a barrier wall in the West Bank village of Bil’in.

“The Gatekeepers” is a series of interviews with former heads of Israel's counterterrorism agency, the Shin Bet, who describe their role carrying out operations against Palestinians.

“Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane will host the 85th Academy Awards on Feb. 24.

More Razzies expected for Sandler

In addition to celebrating Hollywood's best, the worst of showbiz is also recognized this season with the annual Razzies. As in past years, Adam Sandler is set to clean up, leading the way in nominations for his 2012 film ”That’s My Boy.”

Sandler’s film is nominated for worst picture, worst screen ensemble, worst director and worst screenplay. Sandler, 46, is nominated for worst actor and worst screen couple with Leighton Meester.

Sandler also dominated the Razzies last year for his horrendously unfunny comedy “Jack and Jill.”

This year, the tribe gets another Razzies shot with Barbra Streisand, who was nominated for worst actress for “Guilt Trip.”

Day-Lewis needed coaxing to play Abe

More about Spielberg's “Lincoln.” Ten years ago, when Spielberg was starting to work on his film about the 16th American president, he asked the Jewish actor Daniel Day-Lewis to star as the protagonist. Day-Lewis said no.

On Monday, Spielberg shared the rejection letter for the first time with the crowd at the New York Film Critics Circle Awards.

“It was a real pleasure just to sit and talk with you,” the letter reads. “I listened very carefully to what you had to say about this compelling history, and I’ve since read the script and found it in all the detail in which it describes these monumental events and in the compassionate portraits of all the principal characters, both powerful and moving. I can’t account for how at any given moment I feel the need to explore life as opposed to another, but I do know that I can only do this work if I feel almost as if there is no choice.”

Day-Lewis also writes, “I’m glad you’re making the film, I wish you the strength for it, and I send both my very best wishes and my sincere gratitude to you for having considered me.”

But Spielberg being Spielberg wouldn't take no for an answer. He sent Day-Lewis a second and third version of the script, both of which he declined as well. Spielberg then turned to Tony Kushner, the screenwriter with whom he collaborated for “Munich,” and Day-Lewis finally complied.

With a Golden Globe and possible Oscar, Day-Lewis likely has no regrets.

And then there's Maude

For those who have ever doubted the legitimacy of the acting of Maude Apatow, the daughter of celebrated filmmaker Judd Apatow, here’s reason to confirm you're a fan. In a deleted scene from Apatow’s recent film “This is 40,” Maude demonstrates that she is able to perfectly impersonate all three of the Kardashian sisters, even at the age of 15. First she mocks Khloe, whom she calls the smartest (“Well, out of all of them”) and then nasally mimics her ”Lamaaaaar.”

Maude then moves onto Kourtney, the sister she calls the most responsible, and puts on a typical Valley girl drawl to talk about Scott Disick, who is “so out of control.” Finally, she deadpeans into Kim in a higher pitched voice and whines about not having butt implants.

When Seth met Mindy

If anyone fits the role of a summer love at Jewish camp, it's Seth Rogan. The “Knocked Up” actor is set to guest star as Mindy Kaling’s childhood sweetheart from Jewish camp in Fox’s “The Mindy Project,” the network announced. In an episode titled “The One That Got Away” that is set to air Feb. 19, Mindy will reunite with Rogan’s character, Sam, who was the first boy she ever kissed, and the two will rekindle their romance after reminiscing about all those good times at Jewish camp.

Samberg is back

Like him or not, Andy Samberg is back. The Jewish comedian who left “Saturday Night Live” last year is planning to return to television soon. According to Entertainment Weekly, Fox ordered an untitled pilot about “a diverse group of detectives at a New York precinct.” The project will be executive produced by Dan Goor and Mike Schur of “Parks and Recreation.” This will be Samberg’s second television project since his departure from SNL. Last summer, Samberg starred in the successful British comedy “Cuckoo” as a hippie American who marries a British woman.

For more Jewish entertainment news, visit 6nobacon.com, the illegitimate child of JTA.

Judd Apatow writes episode of ‘The Simpsons’

Comedy filmmaker Judd Apatow revealed that he had once written an episode of “The Simpsons” to Conan O’Brien, who used to be a writer on the show.

“After only five 'Simpsons' episodes aired, I sat down and tried to write one when I was in my early 20s,” Apatow said. “And what it was about was they went to see a hypnotism show and at the hypnotism show, they made Homer think he was the same age at Bart. And then the hypnotist had a heart attack. So now Homer and Bart became best friends and they spent the rest of the show running away because Homer didn’t want responsibility and didn’t want to be brought back to his real age. So I basically copied that for every movie I’ve made since.”

According to Apatow, the producers of “The Simpsons” called him recently to say that his episode was finally going to be produced for next year’s run.

What Judd Apatow finds funny

Judd Apatow, Hollywood’s leading comedy mogul, was running late. “I actually have to leave, because I’m going to therapy to discuss what happened in this interview,” he said wryly in a conversation on his cell phone from somewhere in Los Angeles. “I don’t know if I’d call it psychotherapy,” he said, when asked. “I’m not a psycho.”

The 42-year-old Apatow is by turns wickedly hilarious, self-aware and a rapid-fire wordsmith in conversation; it’s what one might expect from the writer and director of “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” “Knocked Up” and “Funny People” and the producer of other hit raunch-fests-with-heart such as “Superbad” that often reflect his life and career. When the struggling young Jewish comic played by Seth Rogen in “Funny People” recounts how his parents’ bitter divorce forced him to “find the funny,” it could have been Apatow speaking. Hence the therapy sessions. And the content of his new anthology, “I Found This Funny” (McSweeney’s: $25), subtitled “My Favorite Pieces of Humor and Some That May Not Be Funny at All.”

The book — which includes short stories by Raymond Carver and Jonathan Franzen alongside work by Apatow, Jon Stewart and other comedians — benefits 826 National, the nonprofit tutoring, writing and publishing organization for students 6-18 headed by Dave Eggers. On Oct. 29, Apatow will conduct a reading at Book Soup and on Oct. 30 at Skylight Books. On the evening of Oct. 29, he and Eggers will co-host an 826 fundraiser (also his book release celebration) at the Writers Guild Theater, with music and comedy by Apatow’s mentor, Garry Shandling, as well as Randy Newman and others.

The anthology proffers comedy sketches and cartoons as well as poems and stories, but — by Apatow’s own admission — one-third of the book “might be depressing.” It opens with James Agee’s “A Mother’s Tale,” which spotlights life’s absurdities from the perspective of cows headed to the slaughter, and it includes such fare as Philip Roth’s “The Conversion of the Jews,” in which a boy threatens suicide after he is punished for asking theological questions.

“Comedy is usually about obstacles and things going wrong while we attempt to figure life out or try to do good in the face of a dark world,” Apatow explained. “Two incredibly happy, well-adjusted people living a calm life is a fantastic thing, but it’s not something that provides any entertainment for the rest of us. It’s nice to know other people are struggling.It makes you think, ‘I’m not the only onewho feels this way — some people feel even worse,’ ” he said, laughing.

Apatow first read “The Conversion of the Jews” 10 years ago in the midst of “a Philip Roth kick.” He identified with the sensitive boy who turns the tables on dogmatic grown-ups by threatening to jump off his Hebrew- school building. “As an aspiring stand-up comedian at the age of 11, I certainly understood the concept of standing on a roof, flapping your arms, trying to get people’s attention,” he said.

Apatow grew up in Syosset, N.Y., with parents who were supportive of his stand-up ambitions but who eschewed religion. “My parents were atheists, and there was no talk of religion or spirituality whatsoever,” he said. “The only thing my mom and dad ever said was, ‘Nobody ever said life was fair.’ That’s about as spiritual as we got in my house. When I asked to be bar mitzvahed — probably just because I heard my friends were making a lot of money [through bar mitzvah gifts] — they refused to let me go to Hebrew school, but there was no reasoning behind it. They never sat me down and explained their philosophies, which certainly did more damage than they were aware of at the time.

“It left [me] spiritually lost because there was no conversation, pro or con, in terms of religion and spirituality. So other than going to a lot of bar mitzvahs and the occasional Passover dinner, there wasn’t any religion in the house. And that’s a very dark point of view. My parents weren’t agnostic; they never said, ‘I hope there’s something more happening.’ They said, ‘That’s it.’ ”

It was a scary vision of the world: “Terrible,” he said. “And I’ve spent a lot of my life trying to recover from it.”

Apatow’s obsession with comedians was part of that journey: “Comedy is a search for answers,” he explained. “If you’re not provided with any answers in another context, you look to people who have some thoughts about what it all means. … But comedians are very dark people, so you don’t get a lot of light answers.”

In his introduction to “I Found This Funny,” Apatow describes how his adolescent reading consisted first of books on the Marx Brothers, whose anarchic upending of wealthy snobs leveled an unfair social playing field. Besides his comedy hero Steve Martin, he said, he “also enjoyed Lou Costello; he was a big weird nerdy guy who got into trouble while his friend was giving him a hard time and whacking him in the face every once in a while. … I felt that way with my own friends; I was always the smaller one, hanging out with athletes, picked last for the teams, getting bossed around a bit, trying to stand up for myself, usually with terrible results.”

Add to that his parents’ divorce when he was in his early teens, when he went to live with his father while his older brother was sent off to grandparents in California and his younger sister mostly stayed with his mother, who worked at a Southampton comedy club. It was through his mother’s club connections that Apatow was able to meet Shandling and a young Jerry Seinfeld, whom he interviewed for his high school radio station.

“I’m still shocked that I’ve done well,” Apatow said of his adult success. He describes some of his commitment to charity work — which currently includes producing public service announcements for the emergency relief group American Jewish World Service — as “survivor’s guilt”: “There’s a part of me that is never comfortable with the fact that I’ve done well,” he said. “Comedy is driven by your pain, and it’s sort of weird that your pain leads to your job, which leads to being comfortable — and yet you’re never comfortable.”

Apatow’s own contribution to “I Found This Funny” is titled, “How I Got Kicked Out of High School,” a diary of the rise and fall of his television show, the critically lauded but all-too-quickly canceled “Freaks and Geeks.” The story opens as Shandling visits Apatow at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center after Apatow has had back surgery for severe pain caused, in part, by the stress of the demise of “Freaks.”

“Today I found myself wondering if I should create a really smart, hilarious show that just happens to be about hot models,” he wrote in one of the diary entries.

A decade later, Apatow has produced many of the highest-grossing film comedies in Hollywood, but, he said, he’s still evolving his take on things spiritual. He’s read a lot of Buddhist thought; he’s raising his two daughters with the understanding that religion is not necessarily predestined by one’s family history (his wife, the actress Leslie Mann, is not Jewish); and he is “not closed off” to reading more about Judaism.

When pressed now about what his Jewishness means to him, he said, “I don’t know if it’s specific to being Jewish, but there’s a certain neurosis mingled with a certain amount of warmth and instinct to do well by other people. Maybe everyone in the world feels that, but there’s a combination of humor and positive intentions that feels connected that. And a fair amount of pain,” he added, 10 minutes late to his therapy session. “And more guilt than you think is possible to hold in one human shell.”

Teen angst bring laughs film director won’t ‘Forget’

Nicholas Stoller remembers the day he joined the “Jew-Tang Clan,” the creative posse led by comedy wunderkind Judd Apatow (“The 40-year-old Virgin,” “Knocked Up”).

Apatow was interviewing the then-24-year-old writer for a job on his 2000 college sitcom, “Undeclared.”

“I was incredibly nervous,” said Stoller, who directs Apatow Productions’ latest heroic-zhlub-fest, “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.” But he impressed the producer with an idea based on his own college days: “I had a sleepover in a friend’s room, and he put on an Erasure song, and we both cried about our long-distance girlfriends,” Stoller said. “Judd laughed really hard at that.”

“Sarah Marshall” — which stars “Undeclared” alumnus Jason Segal — is an ode to this kind of male blubbering. When sweet slacker Peter Bretter (Segal) is dumped by his TV-star girlfriend, he endeavors to forget his woes by flying off to Hawaii — only to find that he is staying at the same resort where his ex is cavorting with her new beau.

Between misadventures, the distraught Peter bawls everywhere: in public, on the floor curled up in fetal position and on the balcony of his lavish suite, where the romantic sunset in the background only enhances his misery. His howls are so deafening that guests complain about a woman crying too loudly somewhere in the hotel. Inevitably, a new love interest emerges, in the form of a feisty hotel employee (Mila Kunis); the film becomes the kind of raunch-fest with a heart one expects of Apatow et al, who have carved a niche (and created blockbusters) by combining gross-out gags with chick-flick sincerity.

“Jason and I find ‘Pathetic Man’ hilarious,” Stoller said of the inspiration for “Sarah Marshall.” “The idea of a grown man crying is the funniest thing in the world to us. Of course, relationship troubles and breakups can be devastating. But the melodrama is also kind of amusing.”

Stoller is not the first Jew-Tanger to draw on his own neuroses. The New York Times called Apatow’s prot�(c)g�(c)s “a dedicated core of comedy geeks … propelled by social sensibilities that all of them acknowledge are lodged firmly in high school.”

Stoller attended high school at St. Paul’s, a New Hampshire boarding school affiliated with the Episcopal Church. “I had a girlfriend but I didn’t play lacrosse, and I was obsessed with comedy movies, which is a big notch on the nerd board,” he recalls.

“It’s not like anyone burned a cross outside my room,” he adds of being one of the few Jews at school. “But it was hard for me to engage in that very reserved, WASPy ethos. In general, I found that my Jewish friends and I were much more open to talking about our fears and teenage angst. But I’m glad I went to St. Paul’s, because it was the most difficult social situation I’ve ever been in. When I went to Harvard, it was just really easy from there on out.”

Stoller wrote for the Harvard Lampoon and performed in a school improvisational troupe — but did not escape relationship woes. Consider the time a college girlfriend broke up with him, then asked for one last kiss: “I started to tear up in what I imagined was a romantic way, then I started to cry, then I started to cry really hard — and then she left, because it was really weird and awkward,” Stoller said with a laugh. “I spent the next month drunk, which was good.”

Today, Stoller shares a Los Angeles home with his wife, Francesca Delbanco, and their 6-month-old daughter, Penelope. The droll and occasionally self-deprecating director met Delbanco through friends at an informal writers workshop in 2001. (She is the author of a well-received novel, “Ask Me Anything,” about the single life of a struggling actress.)

They were both dating other people at the time, and Delbanco lived in New York, so their first date didn’t take place until the following year. They met up in Big Sur, made each other laugh constantly, and moved in together after two more transcontinental dates. In 2005, they wed in a Jewish ceremony in Los Angeles, where guests included fellow Apatow-niks such as Seth Rogen.

Stoller was hanging around on the set of “Knocked Up” when Segal, his favorite writing partner, mentioned a script about his own experiences as a dumpee. (The actor actually had a girlfriend break up with him while he was naked, which became “Marshall’s” opening sequence.)

“I went to Judd and asked if I could direct the movie — my first — if I helped Jason through the writing process,” Stoller said.

Apatow agreed on the spot.

Now Stoller and Segal have two more projects in the works: a new Muppet film for Disney and an interfaith romance, “The Five Year Engagement,” which will also star Segal.

“The Jewish character is an atheist, but he suddenly becomes very religious when someone suggests a priest officiate at the wedding,” Stoller said.

Apparently Segal’s mother was so shocked by her son’s nudity in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” that she ran into the lobby and sobbed during a preview.

Stoller warned his own parents about the Full Monty: “I said that Jason does show his penis, but it’s not gratuitous,” he said.

The film opens April 18.

‘Sarah Marshall’ trailer

A Musical Odyssey, Comic Con at the Shrine, Two’s Company, Man Ray


Pack a suitcase with excitement and wonder because tonight you will be embarking on “A Musical Odyssey.” Your journey begins in the South Bay and takes you first to hear the symphonic sounds of Jewish klezmer and choral music performed by the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony. Your next musical port of call will include mystical melodies from Spain, Persia, Yemen and Israel performed by the talented and ubiquitous Yuval Ron Ensemble. Featuring vocals by Tehila Lauder and dance by Melanie Kareem, the Ensemble will whisk you away to the Holy Land with their “‘West Bank Story’ Suite,” a compilation of music from the Academy Award-winning short film. Proceeds from this auditory odyssey will benefit the religious school at Congregation Ner Tamid of South Bay.

8-10 p.m. $50, $75. Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center, 1935 Manhattan Beach Blvd., Redondo Beach. (310) 377-3510. ” target=”_blank”>http://jewishjournal.com/geekheeb/.

10 a.m.-5 p.m. $8. Shrine Auditorium Expo Center, 700 W. 32nd St., Los Angeles. (818) 954-8432. ” border = 0 vspace = ‘8’ alt=”Alan Menken”>” target=”_blank”>http://www.alextheatre.com.


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Comedian Lahna Turner’s ” target=”_blank”>http://www.improv.com.


The golden age of screwball comedy in Hollywood began with a handful of Jews in the 1930s — Billy Wilder, Ben Hecht and Sidney Buchman are just a few names synonymous with slapstick. Jon Edelman is bringing back the farcical, the ridiculous and the fast-talking with his wacky post-modern “Screwballs.” Set in a tiny desert inn, the play has a classic screwball plot involving a divorced couple who can’t seem to let go and end up swapping bodies. The result is, as you can imagine, disastrous and hilarious and screwy.

Thu.-Sun., through Dec. 15. $20. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., West Los Angeles. (310) 477-2055.


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Q&A with writer-director Judd Apatow

In Hollywood terms, Judd Apatow is hot. His last two films, “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up,” have been smash hits, and his second comedy this summer, “Superbad,” generated a critical buzz ahead of its Aug. 17 release.

Not bad for a Jewish kid from Syosset, N.Y., who once worked as a comedy club busboy.

Apatow began performing as a stand-up comedian in high school and moved to Los Angeles in 1985 to attend USC film school. Two years later, he dropped out of USC and roomed with Adam Sandler while he honed his act.

Unable to find his own comedic signature, Apatow moved behind the scenes. He went to work writing for “The Ben Stiller Show,” “The Larry Sanders Show” and “Freaks and Geeks” and was brought in to rewrite such films as “The Cable Guy” and Sandler’s “The Wedding Singer.”

After producing the breakout 2004 hit comedy, “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy,” he wrote and directed “40-Year-Old Virgin.”

Apatow has used Judaism as a big theme in his movies. Jews are mentioned numerous times in “Knocked Up” and perennial Apatow favorite, Seth Rogen, plays a Jewish police officer in “Superbad.” Apatow has reunited with Sandler and is currently filming “You Don’t Mess With the Zohan,” which recounts the story of a Mossad agent who fakes his own death to become a hair stylist.

The Journal recently caught up with Apatow to talk about filmmaking, the plethora of Jewish characters in his films and working with his family in “Knocked Up.”

Jewish Journal: Jerry Seinfeld and I went to see your film, “Knocked Up,” together when we were in Oklahoma City, and it actually gave us sort of a renewed faith in comedy. Why do you think it’s so difficult to make a great comedy?

Judd Apatow: It’s hard for me to know. It took me a very long time to be allowed to make comedies. I was a big fan of a lot of the people who are doing well now a long time ago. And there was a lag time between when these people first revealed they were funny and when the studios felt they could carry a movie.

JJ: Did you hear from Seinfeld at all?

JA: I did. He wrote me a very, very nice e-mail. Jerry Seinfeld is the reason why I went into comedy. I was this huge fan of his. When I was in junior high school and high school, I used to go see him at Caroline’s in New York. And he is one of two or three people that I idolized when I first started doing stand-up.

I met him when I was young and interviewed him for a high school radio station. I think I interviewed him twice. I remember after he did the first time, I asked him to do it again. And he said, “Why would I do it again?” And I said, “Well, you did ‘The Tonight Show’ more than once.”

But the fact that he liked it at all means so much to me, because he’s one of the funniest comedy writers of all time. And as I leave my younger days behind, people like Jerry, who are so funny for so long, are the people that you try to be like. Someone who stays fresh forever. As they enter a new phase of life and have children, their work evolves with their life experience.

JJ: You said about his work that you admire how he writes. His dialogue is so honest. Do you think your early days of stand-up sharpened your ear so you could write this type of honest dialogue for this movie?

JA: Well, I’ve seen Jerry’s comedy from being a fan. When I started this movie, I didn’t think of myself as an interesting person with a unique point of view. I was really frustrated, because I thought I really did have one, but I knew that I wasn’t at that point yet.

That’s why I became a writer. I was frustrated at my own inability to figure out who I was. But because I was such a fan of his and watched him the way a sports fan watches Reggie Jackson, I must have hardwired my brain to understand some of those rhythms.

I knew I could know about his act inside and out. I love watching comedy. That’s the real fun, watching your act when I was at the Eastside Comedy Club on Long Island working as a busboy at 16 and 15 years old, seeing somebody great rip the house down.

I mean, to this day, to me there’s nothing more exciting than that. But as I got older after working with Garry Shandling, I realized that in order to really do good work, I would have to turn inward, go to a more of a personal place, and I started that process. Suddenly, people are responding to it. But it took me a long time to kind of have the courage to try to work from that part of me.

JJ: There’s lots of Jewish stuff in “Knocked Up,” and even in the trailer for “Superbad” there’s a Jewish joke. Your main character is Jewish. Any particular reason you chose to go that way with him?

JA: I didn’t make a conscious effort to make him Jewish, although on an unconscious level, I’m sure I was working with some people who I think can portray my feelings or experiences. I did realize that the majority of the male characters were Jewish, and that they all kept referencing it in their improvisation. And I kept writing jokes and references in the script. And it really made me laugh.

At some point, I thought, well, this is something you don’t see in movies a lot, a big bunch of guys, and all of them are Jewish. And they’re proud of it and hilarious about it. It’s just not done. And little scenes, like these guys hang out at their nightclub debating the movie “Munich,” and it really made me laugh.

Don’t ‘knock’ Seth Rogen, the new overweight Canadian Jewish boy leading man

Seth Rogen feigned surprise when a CBS host joked that he did not see the
actor in a Hollywood manual about leading men.

“You didn't see 'overweight Canadian Jewish boy' in there?” the actor

Critics say Rogen is spot-on as the leading man of Judd Apatow's “Knocked
Up,” a slacker-zhlub with a “Jewfro” who impregnates a gorgeous, ambitious
journalist (Katherine Heigl from “Grey's Anatomy”) during a drunken
one-night stand. Thereafter, the slacker struggles to become a mensch —
amid plenty of filthy jokes and kvetching. When Heigl informs him that they
did, indeed, have sex that drunken night (he had been too intoxicated to
remember), his response is a despondent “oy.”

Like Apatow's 2005 hit, “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” “Knocked Up” is a
raunchfest with a heart – in large part due to Rogen's “crudeness mixed with
sweetness,” Time said. Rogen's Jewish persona doesn't hurt either: “There is
a classic clash in film comedy between Jewish guys and non-Jewish women
trying to figure each other out,” Apatow said at a press event. “Whether
it's 'When Harry Met Sally' or 'Annie Hall,' it's always funny to see the
Jews trying to make women happy, and failing.”

Rogen insists he's playing a protagonist who is much like himself, which has
been his preference as an actor. His “Knocked Up” character, Ben Stone, is
also a Jew from Vancouver who loves to imbibe and to watch the naked scenes
from sex-romps such as “Porky's.” (He and his Jewish roommates share an
“Animal House”-style pad where the stoner conversations range from chicks to
Jewish movies). But while Rogen professes to be a slacker — and projects a
laid-back demeanor — his achievements suggest he is anything but.

After entertaining classmates at his Jewish day school and camps for Habonim
Dror, the Labor Zionist youth movement, Rogen took a stand-up comedy
workshop at age 12, he told the Journal in 2001. He made his professional
debut at 13 with jokes about his bar mitzvah, his grandparents and the
Israeli Habonim counselors who allegedly made him march around while toting

At 16, after his second TV audition ever, he landed a role on Apatow's
sitcom, “Freaks and Geeks.” To shoot the show, Rogen moved with his family
to Los Angeles, where his father, Mark, became the assistant director for
the local branch of the Workmen's Circle, a Yiddish cultural organization.
Seth learned about the Mamaloshen in order to emcee fundraisers for the

Three years later, Apatow reportedly hoped to cast Rogen as the star of his
Fox college sitcom, “Undeclared,” but network executives allegedly nixed
that idea because, they said, the actor didn't look like a leading man.
Instead, Apatow gave Rogen a small role in the series as well as a seat in
the writer's room; Rogen was stunned because he knew zilch about sitcom
writing. The closest he had ever come to college life was a 1998 Habonim
trip to Israel, which was “kind of like living in a dorm,” he said.

Rogen likened that sitcom experience to taking a college class with an
extremely tough professor.

“Judd is a good friend, but he's extremely, brutally honest,” Rogen said at
the time. “He'll say, 'this sucks, it's not funny, rewrite it.'”

All that rewriting paid off when Rogen subsequently won Emmy nominations,
writing stints on programs such as “Da Ali G Show” and roles in Apatow
movies such as “The 40-Year-Old Virgin.”

“Virgin” made a star out of another Apatow protege, Steve Carell — and
“Knocked Up” could well do the same for Rogen, critics say. The 25-year-old
is filming his next starring vehicle, the stoner thriller-comedy “The
Pineapple Express.” And in August, Sony will release “Superbad,” the
semi-autobiographical teen flick Rogen penned at 14 with his current writing
partner, Evan Goldberg (the two boys had met — where else? — at a bar

Rogen has another couple movies in the works.

“If things go well for him at the box office, Los Angeles restaurants may
have to deal with an infestation of waiters who are dumpy Canadians with
Jewfros,” Time said.

Knocked Up opens today in Los Angeles.