David Javerbaum’s list of accomplishments stretches from Earth all the way to heaven.
He’s won 11 Emmys and two Peabody awards as writer and producer of “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.” While there, he helped author “America (The Book): A Citizen’s Guide to Democracy Inaction” (winner of the Thurber Prize for Humor) and its sequel, “Earth (The Book): A Visitor’s Guide to the Human Race.”
He earned a 12th Emmy writing the lyrics for the opening number of the 65th Tony Awards, “Broadway: It’s Not Just for Gays Anymore”; another Grammy for his original score for “A Colbert Christmas,” and his 13th (and latest, thus far) Emmy for lyrics for the opening and closing numbers of the 66th Tonys.
All this pales in comparison to his current gig. Well, maybe not all. He won the 2005 Ed Kleben Award for Outstanding Lyrics and that comes with a $100,000 purse, so maybe not that one. But all the rest of his awards and accomplishments pale in comparison to his current gig.
David Javerbaum is God’s ghostwriter.
It started four years ago when he co-wrote (with God) “The Last Testament: A Memoir by God.” Then he took over God’s Twitter feed, @TheTweetOfGod. And now he’s brought the Lord to a place where He is desperately needed: Broadway. Their play, “An Act of God,” opened May 28 and runs through August 2, when its star (and God impersonator), Jim Parsons, must return to filming “The Big Bang Theory.” And how ironic is that title?
Javerbaum spoke briefly with the Forward at Studio 54 and followed up on the phone about how he got the job, why he quit “The Daily Show” and his affection for his rabbi at Temple Beth-El in Maplewood, New Jersey.
Curt Schleier: How did you get the gig? Did God come to you? Did you have to audition? Or was it your idea?
David Javerbaum: God liked “The Daily Show” and he knew I was free. He wanted someone to punch things up from a comedic standpoint. He’s not all that funny. If you read the Old Testament, you’ll see he’s not that funny.
Have you had any feedback from Him? Is He happy with your work?
All things considered, He’s happy with the way things are going. He liked the staging and the direction. We’ll have to wait and see what the reviewers say. But if the reviewers say bad things He can send them to hell for eternity.
On that subject, did you have any qualms about taking the job? If He was displeased He would fire you and by fire I mean place you in the fires of hell.
No qualms. It could be over with Him with anybody at any time. I didn’t have a choice. He’s God of the Universe and I have to do what he tells me.
Some people take their God super-seriously. Any negative feedback?
No. I haven’t gotten angry protests up to this point. People for the most part have taken it with good humor, the way it was intended.
For the moment, let’s not talk about you-know-who. Let’s talk about you. Reading your lengthy list of accomplishments, I wasn’t sure whether you were human or some IBM joke-producing robot.
I’m aware that I have a resume that’s exhaustive. But I generally don’t think of myself as a particularly hard worker or a particularly creative force. I really do what I want to do when I want to do it. Short answer: I don’t feel I’m all that prolific. I just have a particular set of skills, to quote Liam Neeson. And I’m lucky.
How did you get “The Daily Show” job and why did you leave?
That’s what I mean by lucky. I had a friend from high school who was the head writer and he hired me. Once I got there, I was there for 11 years, [eventually as] head writer and executive producer. It was a great ride. But I knew if I didn’t leave at that point — despite the fact that it was a great job — I’d never get to see what I could do on my own. I had to take a deep breath, jump off the diving board and see how I landed in the water.
Can you talk a little about your background?
I grew up in [Maplewood], New Jersey. I had this great rabbi, Jehiel Orenstein [at Temple Beth-El]. When I do these interviews I always try to single him out. He did my bar mitzvah and married me. Unfortunately, he died two years ago. We weren’t particularly religious. I was a bar mitzvah and we attended High Holiday services and Seders. I’d say it was particular suburban Judaism, somewhere between Reform and Conservative.
Would you say your humor is Jewish?
Oh, definitely, though what Jewish humor is is open to interpretation. Whatever it is, some of my jokes are explicitly Jewish.
What’s next for you?
I’ve taken a month-long break from my job as producer of “The Late Late Show with James Cordon” to work on the play, so I go back to that. And I hope this play has a longer life with other Gods [than Parsons]. That’s always been the goal.