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Conan O’Brien Says ‘Israelis Are The Best Looking People’

The last thing Israel needs is another over-confident white man who burns easily bopping about, trying to fix things. We don’t even know what to do with the Jared Kushner we have. Nevertheless, Conan O’Brien, entertainment’s most irrationally successful ginger, took it upon himself to visit Israel earlier this summer. The episode drops tonight during erev Rosh Hashanah, suggesting right off the bat that Conan O’Brien may not be the man to handle extremely sensitive cultural issues.

In advance of the episode, a nearly 9-minute long preview for #ConanIsrael was released today. And even to the hardened, longterm believer that Conan O’Brien typifies male mediocrity, this video is everything. Let’s dive in to the madness:

Poorly Informed Christian Gives Unsurprisingly Bad History Of Israel

“To understand today’s Israel and the surrounding territories, you have to understand its history,” Conan begins his Israel episode. What follows is a brief history that goes from ancient Judea to modern day Israel, but sounds like it’s being recited by a Taglit tour guide who got hit in the head by falling debris at Masada. He lists the conquerors of Israel in order, minus the Assyrians, Persians, and Hasmoneans. Essentially it only takes him 30 seconds of Jewish history to destroy Chanukah. (And people claim there’s a war on Christmas!) And if Conan needs someone to explain why Cyrus the Great of Persia’s letter is vital to Jewish history I can think of 599 Rabbis off the top of my head who love to rant about it.

Conan Gives Fairly Accurate Account Of All Of The Conflicts and Peoples of Israel

Reform Israelis are represented by a Dodgers hat, Druze, Bedouins, and the Ba’hai people are mentioned, and Bar Rafaeli stands alone.

Conan Stalks The Streets Of Tel Aviv Screaming, “Mazel Tov!”

He begins on a boulevard in Tel Aviv, telling three young men, “You are Israelis.” You can tell they really are Israeli because they all have patchy facial hair and two are wearing custom-made t-shirts with crude, hand-drawn cartoons on them.

Conan Experiences What I Will Call “Exhaustion From Overexposure to Israeli Sex Appeal”

Despite prior knowledge of Bar Rafaeli, Conan suffers from the typical American response to Israeli genetics — instant sexual overstimulation followed by intense, unfocused emotions. “I’m talking to handsome Israeli man number 3,652 of the day,” he says, with the telltale mix of awe and confusion. “What is it with you people? It’s the best-looking people I’ve seen anywhere.”

Conan Begs Random Israelis To Be Attracted To Him
BEEN THERE, BABE. Conan asks one half of a scarily good-looking Tel Aviv couple if she would be attracted to him if she saw him on the street. She laughs, confused by the question.

Conan Shoves Parve-y Looking Tin Foil Pan Of Cake In His Mouth And Shouts, “I Love This Country”

Conan Starts To Resent Israeli Beauty, Begins Bullying Older Men To Regain Confidence
Once again, we have all been there. Conan mocks an older Israeli man’s chest hair, clearly beginning to feel better about himself. Faced with a post-IDF lifeguard named Shai in a cut-up t-shirt, Conan screams into a megaphone, “All Israeli men wearing speedos, please leave the beach.”

Conan O’Brien Stands In A Tel Aviv Lifeguard Station, Doing A Duet With An Israeli Elvis Impersonator
Conan gives into the charm, horror, and bizarreness of life in Israel as we all ultimately do. The episode ends with a surreal meeting of minds and vocal parts — Conan, an elderly Israeli Elvis impersonator, Baywatch-looking Israeli lifeguards, and the crowds of the Tel Aviv beach singing, “Can’t Help Falling In Love With You.”

Israel. Conan. Elvis impersonators over the age of forty. You really can’t help falling in love.

Jenny Singer is a writer for the Forward. You can reach her at Singer@forward.com or on Twitter @jeanvaljenny

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Rob Reiner And Morgan Freeman Are Going To Save Us All From Russia

It was a cool, crisp autumn day nearly one year ago when I became impervious to shock. A tape of Donald Trump bragging about sexual assault had just been leaked, leaving no doubt in my mind that he had just blown any and all hope of becoming the leader of the Free Land. There were plenty of reasons prior to this leak that might have given us hope, but none so crude, none so revealing of Trump’s character — or lack thereof.

It was in the days following this breaking bit of news when it became quickly apparent that Trump’s followers would excuse him for reducing women to a single part, a part over which they deserved no control.

“Grab ‘em by the pussy,” he said, and they forgave him without even demanding the guise of a sincere apology.

Nothing since has been able to penetrate my fortress of hopelessness.

That’s not to say I have no hope of winning against the force that is Trump and his politics of bigotry so much as it is to say that I can’t imagine a scenario — a scandal, a catastrophe, video proof he murdered an innocent civilian — in which those who have supported and continue to support President Donald J. Trump will be lost to him.

Enter InvestigateRussia.org, a nonpartisan committee dedicated to “help[ing] Americans recognize and understand the gravity of Russia’s continuing attacks on our democracy.” Launched by Director Rob Reiner and counting among its members actor Morgan Freeman and The Atlantic’s David Frum, the committee will serve as a one-stop shop for all breaking news about the investigation into Russia’s interference with the 2016 election.

This is 2017. We are living inside an elaborate conspiracy theory that is becoming more and more real every single day. It has fallen to the director of “The Princess Bride” and the star of “The Shawshank Redemption” to beg people to emerge from their state of numbness and reckon with the imminent demise of American democracy.

Please enjoy this completely nonfictitious video of Morgan Freeman warning the United States of America that we are engaged in a war with Russia — one in which their most dangerous weapon may be sitting at the head of the Oval Office right this very moment. Or at least playing golf somewhere nearby.

Becky Scott is the editor of The Schmooze. Follow her on Twitter, @arr_scott

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Ivanka Trump Doesn’t Know What The Word ‘Otherwise’ Means

Yesterday, Ivanka Trump found time in her busy schedule of explaining how she has no obligation to be moral and her work helping to end equal pay efforts, to throw subtle shade at her baby nephew.

Listen: not everyone likes cuddling. But you can just pretend to get a phone call and then sneak out quietly! You can fake an emergency. You can say “here’s lookin’ at you, kid,” do finger guns, and leave. You don’t have to take to the internet.

Is criticizing this photo catty?

Yes.

Is it as catty as helping your father become president of the United States of America on your platform of women’s rights and then taking away women’s rights?

No.

Yes, Ivanka looks beautiful like if Bambi had an Instagram and a formfitting blouse.

Yes, the baby she’s holding is cute enough to heal the wounds that threaten to turn septic and leave America a rotting corpse.

Yes, she appears to have commissioned a full-scale reproduction of Versailles to have this photo taken in, and that speaks of her commitment to aesthetics.

But still, essentially, she is doing this to that baby:

Shanah tovah to Ivanka, baby Luke, and everyone at the Whitehouse. May it be a sweet, meaningful, and otherwise healthcare-accessible year.

Jenny Singer is a writer for the Forward. You can reach her at Singer@forward.com or on Twitter @jeanvaljenny

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The Meyerowitz Family Trailer Is As Jewish As The Name Implies

The trailer for what shapes up to be one of Netflix’s most Jewish original productions just dropped. A family-oriented dramedy, Noah Baumbach’s “The Meyerowitz Stories” chronicles the struggles of Harold Meyerowitz seeking to reconnect with his family. The film stars Dustin Hoffman as the Meyerowitz patriarch, Ben Stiller as his well-to-do son, Adam Sandler as his less successful son (art clearly imitating real life here), Emma Thompson as Hoffman’s wife, and Elizabeth Marvel and Grace Van Patten as the two daughters. That one sentence contains six (!) consecutive Jewish names and even a double Jewish suffix for good measure.

Though a common premise, the glittering cast promises to make a story about a dysfunctional family as entertaining and argumentative as your Rosh Hashanah dinner surely will be. Within the two and half minute trailer, Dustin Hoffman wonders whether a $35 salmon at a restaurant comes with fellatio, Emma Thompson drunkenly laments the Italian practice of deep-frying birds (???), and Ben Stiller and Adam Sandler get in a fight, presumably to settle the debate over who was the ’90s greatest young Jewish comedian (which never really was a debate).

“The Meyerowitz Stories” will be released on Netflix and in select theaters October 13. Check out the trailer below.

Steven Davidson is an editorial fellow at the Forward.

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Escaping The Present, Jerry Seinfeld Returns To His Past

For Jerry Seinfeld’s new Netflix special, “Jerry Before Seinfeld,” Seinfeld performs at The Comic Strip, the Manhattan comedy club where he got his start 40 years ago. Throughout the special, Seinfeld delivers a vintage performance. Whether discussing how Cookie Crisp cereal sadly revealed the farce of sugary breakfast foods (“It’s not like cookies. It is cookies”), or just observations on being a grown-up (“Adulthood is the ability to be totally bored and remain standing“), Jerry’s zingers on the absurdities of daily life are as amusing as they were 40 years ago.

But who was he 40 years ago? “Jerry Before Seinfeld” attempts to answer this question by interspersing his stand up routine with interviews and footage depicting his exceedingly normal childhood in New York, as he framed it, and his early years in comedy. Seinfeld transports you back to a “little Jerry,” offering the same lamentations we saw years later on TV: ‘that’s a shame.’ But that’s all we get about his personal history — his shtick. There’s nothing deeper, no grander message, Jerry insists — he’s just a funny guy.

Though it fails to reveal much about Seinfeld’s story or persona, these formative experiences do tell a lot about the comedian Seinfeld became — in particular, why his humor was once so revolutionary, and why it today may feel out of place.

“Being obsessed with comedy felt really liberating because it didn’t have to do with the real world,” he says of his childhood. “A Mad Magazine, you start reading — these people don’t respect anything. This exploded my head!”

Ever since, Seinfeld has played the cheerfully cynical spectator to routine behavior — but stripping humor of all temporal context becomes a statement within itself. As a famous stand up comic during the 80s, when Nancy Reagan told kids to “Just Say No,” and as an award-winning showrunner during the halcyon post-Cold War ‘90s, Seinfeld’s amoral, postmodern comedy dropped a junior mint in the open spleen of the mainstream moralists — a fundamental departure from the Leave It To Beaver sitcom template.

Though his approach hasn’t changed, the context outside the comedy club has. At one point during his routine, Seinfeld pokes fun at men’s obsessions with “building, fixing, doing things,” which draw them in hordes to a new Phillips drill like testosterone-fueled zombies. Seinfeld’s greatest skill is his ability to point out the trivial rituals we all unwittingly partake in and perpetuate. In this case, his aloof viewpoint can easily be a window into grander issues like gender norms and toxic masculinity. Though he identifies the symptoms, however, Seinfeld doesn’t care to ever make a serious diagnosis himself. He’s in it for the laughs — nothing else.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, inherently. In his recollections, Seinfeld emphasizes comedy as a form of escapism. Surely, there are viewers who want to take an hour-long break from our crazy modern world to discuss elderly retirement in Florida (“My parents didn’t want to go to Florida; they were getting old, that’s the law…”) or how arrogant magicians must be (“I come on, I fool you, you feel stupid, show’s over”). But a brand of humor that once detached itself from an illusory standard of morality is now ignoring a profound immorality that has replaced Nancy Reagan in her stead.

And so, though an offspring of another turbulent time — 1970s New York City — Seinfeld’s escapism now sometimes translates as tone-deaf and privileged. Considering the rather inoffensive nature of his humor, some may have been surprised when he spoke out against “PC culture” on college campuses. But as Seinfeld’s performance shows, it’s not the ability to skewer college students on these issues that he seeks, but the choice to just not care.

However, Seinfeld’s platform ensures that there is no neutral perch to poke fun at everyone else from. But how can his uncompromising apathy navigate those contemporary waters? The one allusion Seinfeld makes to Trump is revealing:

In a vacuum, this bit is funny, if somewhat recycled. But when referencing a president of such outrageously insufficient mental and emotional fitness for the job, Seinfeld’s comment reduces our terrifying situation into a false moral equivalency. Seinfeld’s amorality 25 years ago revealed the hypocrisy of pervading mores; today, that same humor obscures it.

Seinfeld’s guiding philosophy now comes in direct conflict with our era’s signature social ideas of intersectionality and white privilege. At certain points, he riffs on whether stun guns can be scaled to “taken aback” guns, as well as declaring that “if there were no flowers, Earth would be populated by men and lesbians” because “women are with men to get flowers.” Perhaps most tellingly, Seinfeld says of police custody:

Again, Seinfeld’s observations hint at something much deeper, and he doesn’t spare the gory details of police apprehension, but his indifference renders him a mere bystander. Meanwhile, that ‘inevitably’ crazy President also “jokes” about why the police are so nice to dip suspect’s heads. As endearing as Seinfeld naturally is, the Age of Trump is so saturated in context that attempting to escape it becomes a disservice to those who can’t.

“I can talk to all of you, but I can’t talk to many of you,” Jerry gleefully tells the crowd at a distance. That statement epitomizes the particular humor Jerry Seinfeld has cultivated to its seeming apex — anyone can relate, but not to resonate. The special fails to really answer the question of who was Jerry before Seinfeld, the comedic genius, and I don’t think he really minds. There’s no wizard behind the curtain — Jerry is who he’s always been. For better or for worse, Seinfeld greets the inescapable passage of time the only way he knows how: with a shrug of the shoulder.

Steven Davidson is an editorial fellow at the Forward. You can contact him at davidson@forward.com or follow him on Twitter @sdavidson169

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