Well, it’s been a big week for Irving Berlin.
Berlin, the master songwriter who immigrated to America with his family at the turn of the century to escape pogroms, was named on Tuesday in a national conversation about whether our president knows the lyrics to his song “God Bless America.”
On the very same day, performer Mandy Patinkin invoked Berlin in a very extended joke about the role of Yiddish in American music. This, he did on national television.
To see it is to believe it. Here’s Patinkin with musician Shawn Mendes, actress Lucy Liu, and talkshow host James Corden, holding forth on Yiddish
The best parts about this: 1. Watching Mandy Patinkin trying to avoid going into a reverie about Irving Berlin’s legacy 2. Imagining Mandy Patinkin practicing this bit 3. Mandy Patinkin singing “Stitches” in Yiddish 4. The tortured look of concentration Mandy Patinkin has to assume to sing, even to sing “Stitches” in Yiddish. 5. Celebrities clapping joyfully to the sounds of Yiddish 6. Screaming fans overpowering the sound of Mandy Patinkin singing “Stitches” in Yiddish 7. Imagining Mandy Patinkin pitching James Corden’s producers: “A cool thing might be if I sang a few numbers in Yiddish”
In another priceless moment, Patinkin tells the story of meeting his wife to an attentive Mendes.
“I’m gonna marry you,” he claims he told his future wife on their first date.
“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” she apparently replied. “You’re an actor and a baby and you’re going to get hurt.” (This is how I will now shut down all men who say things I disagree with.)
Patinkin also offered the youthful Mendes thoughtful advice about courtship gifts: “Pick a cheap flower so you can afford it all through your life.”
So, we all learned something. Especially me, who thought Shawn Mendes was the kid from “Modern Family” this entire time:
But the main lesson is take care of your heart and buy the right flowers, or you may find that someone will, in the words of Mendes via Patinkin, “du zeyst mayn blit biz ikh khalesh.”
Jenny Singer is the deputy Lifestyle editor for the Forward. You can reach her at Singer@forward.com or on Twitter @jeanvaljenny