Bark de Triumph

By Nathaniel Popper

Published December 16, 2005, issue of December 16, 2005.
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With the aid of some high-wattage performers, Jewcy — the hip apparel line that has been slapping kitschy Jewish logos on T-shirts to great economic effect since 2002 — held its first ever Hanukkah benefit last weekend at a nightclub in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood.

Stars of stage and screen took turns exploring their Jewish identities — often with a heap of ironic detachment. “What does it mean to be Jewish?” comedian Eric Drysdale asked at the evening’s outset. “To me, it means blindly mouthing prayers in a language I can never use.” Rachel Dratch of “Saturday Night Live” mused on the holiday season — in verse. “‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ can make your heart melt/But how do they get that [lousy] chocolate in Hanukkah gelt?”

Surprisingly, the evening’s most earnest note was struck by Perry Farrell, former front man of the rock group Jane’s Addiction , who at one point led the audience of about 1,000 in an intimate rendition of the synagogue hymn “Avinu Malkeinu.”

He followed up with his hit “Jane Says,” and during an interlude he told the crowd: “Some people don’t want the Jewish people to live at all. I think this generation is going to say, ‘That’s tough.’ We’re going to push out and push out and show the world that the Jewish people are worth having on this planet. We’re very important people, and I want you all to know that in your hearts.”

The biggest surprise of the night, though, was the discovery that Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, the potty-mouth puppet that got its start on “Late Night With Conan O’Brien,” has Jewish roots. True to his name, Triumph had some choice words for just about everyone in attendance. He asked if anyone had been to an Orthodox synagogue service. After a smattering of applause, he said in his gruff voice: “It’s a beautiful thing seeing all the old men reading all the prayers in Hebrew, at lightning speed. There’s nothing that touches God more than having your love expressed for him when you sound like the guy in the Fed Ex commercial. God’s like, ‘Whoa, whoa, slow down. I know I know all and see all, but Jesus Christ, slow down!’”

Triumph even had some choice words for Natan, the charity for which the event was raising money.

“Supposedly this organization is for empowering young Jews,” he said. “Isn’t there another organization empowering young Jews? It’s called ‘Rich Parents.’”

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