Why Home Improvement is the Most Popular Least Jewish American Sitcom Ever

Are there any Jews in Home Improvement?  I don’t think so, Tim.

Did you know that May is officially Jewish American Heritage Month?  On April 20th, 2006 (my 25th birthday), President George W. Bush proclaimed that the month of May would be Jewish American Heritage Month from then on.  So this year for the 5th ever Jewish American Heritage month, I’ve decided to highlight America’s least Jewish sitcom ever, in order to contrast just how much Jewish people have affected our cherished American entertainment.

Obviously, the most Jewish American sitcom is Seinfeld.  And Second Place goes to Friends.  But on the opposite side of the spectrum, one might expect the least Jewish American to be an African-American sitcom- like The Cosby Show.  But of course, Lisa Bonet (who played Denise Huxtable) is half Jewish. Coincidentally, she was briefly married to Lenny Kravitz, who is also half Jewish and half black. Even more coincidental is the fact that Lenny Kravitz’s mother is Roxie Roker, who played Helen Willis on the sitcom The Jeffersons, who in the show was married to a white man, just like she was in real life (to a Russian Jew, Lenny’s father).

But other popular African-American sitcoms were still largely created and carried out by Jews.  Like Family Matters: no Jewish actors, but the show’s producers were: Thomas L. Miller and Robert L. Boyett.  Not to mention the fact that Family Matters was a spin-off of Perfect Strangers, a sitcom about two unlikely roommates and cousins, who in real life are Jewish.  So even if none of the actors in a sitcom are Jewish, you still have to consider the producers, the writers, and even the origin of the sitcom.

After much exhaustive research, I have discovered that the most watched yet least Jewish sitcom was definitely Home Improvement (1991-1999). None of the actors were Jewish.  Not Tim Allen (nothing about him is Jewish), not Jonathan Taylor Thomas who played Randy (physically he could almost pass as a Jew), not Taran Noah Smith who played Mark (Jewish sounding first and middle name), not Earl Hindman who played Wilson, nor Richard Karn who played Al.  The main creators/writers were not Jewish.  Home Improvement was not a spin-off of a Jewish influenced show.

There was a close call, however, in the casting of Tim’s Tool Time co-host. Originally, there was no “Al Boreland”, but instead, “Glen”, played by Stephen Tobolowsky, who was definitely Jewish. But his prior commitments caused him to lose out on the role.  Sure there were special guest stars that were Jewish, like Rodney Dangerfield and Penn & Teller (Teller, not Penn, is Jewish).  And Brad’s character briefly dated a character named Jessica Lutz (assumed Jewish because of the last name), though played by non-Jewish actress Michelle Williams. Lastly, one of the executive producers was Jewish; Elliot Shoenman, but he was only there from seasons 4 through 8.

But if it’s that much trouble to point out any Jewish influences on a sitcom as popular as Home Improvement, then I see no way around it: Home Improvement is the most popular least Jewish sitcom ever.  And making that discovery is one of the ways I can help celebrate Jewish American Heritage Month.  I’ll leave it to all the other bloggers to point out the more obvious, influential Jewish Americans like Albert Einstein and Mark Zuckerburg. As for me, I’m here to focus on the petty stuff.

Below are some more exciting and entertaining posts I have written about Jewish entertainers:

Movie Guy, at Your Service: The Social Network (Plus, Which Actors are Jewish)

The Ethnicity of the Cast of The Wonder Years (Plus, Who Did the Voice of Kevin Arnold as an Adult?)

The Ethnic Backgrounds of the Cast of Friends and Seinfeld (Yes, Most of Them are Jewish; Even Matthew Perry)

The Jewish Influence on American Entertainment

Rubik’s Cube Syndrome: Preventing Death by Boredom

So it turns out, there is a such thing as dying of boredom.  Therefore, I always have to be thinking.  Because seriously, there is always a new puzzle to solve.

Being that I’ve been writing for a website since August 2005 and have been averaging around 3 or more new posts a week, I have been routinely asked, “Where do you come up with this stuff?” and “How do you always have something new to write about?”.  The answer, my mind never really shuts off.

Some people’s minds never shut off because they continue to be overwhelmed with all the things they have to get done.  Some constantly worry about all the things they have no control over.  Not me.  I, instead, am constantly entertaining the random thoughts that float up to the surface.  Then I get near a computer.

But if I were to sit down in a therapist’s chair and really let my guard down and spill my guts, the psychiatrist would learn that I have a fear of being bored.  It’s more of an obsession of staying constantly entertained so that I can never enter a second of boredom.

I have these boring dreams sometimes where I realize I am dreaming and tell myself to wake up.  Seconds literally seem like hours in a dream. Usually, if I tell myself in the dream to lift my head off the pillow in real life, it works, and I wake up from the boring dream.

Maybe this is common knowledge, or maybe it’s an epiphany, but boredom is totally motivational.  Popular games and sports, great inventions, and stupid crimes are often born out of boredom.

For me, it all probably started when I was a small kid.  Kids have to do a lot of waiting around.  A couple of the children’s day care centers I attended were torture.  The ones without good, organized activities.  It must have been then that I learned to keep myself entertained under any and at times.  I never realized that until this exact second.

I wasn’t at all surprised last week when I came across this article saying that a new study shows that boredom can be just as dangerous to a person’s health as stress.  It is pretty easy to think of examples of older people who died shortly after they retired.  The first 2 that come to mind:

Paul “Bear” Bryant died on January 25, 1983.  That was 28 days after he retired from coaching the University of Alabama’s football team.  And actor Peter Boyle, who played Raymond’s dad on Everybody Loves Raymond, died the year after the show ended.

And surely we can all think of a senior citizen who died only weeks or months after their aged spouse passed away.  It’s sweet to think about, that one couldn’t go on without the other.  But it’s even more interesting after reading this article:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/35328113/ns/health-heart_health/ns/health-heart_health/

I’m starting to realize that I evidently have a subconscious goal to memorize Wikipedia.  My regurgitation of the knowledge I learn there helps keep me entertained at all times.  Even while I’m being entertained.  Like the ultimate “picture in picture” experience.  Or Pop-Up Video.

For example, Friday night I watched the first 20 minutes of Meet the Fockers when ABC aired it (to whet peoples’ appetites for the next sequel, Little Fockers, which comes out this December).  During the opening credits/first 5 minutes of the movie, I pointed out to my wife all the Jews associated with making the movie:

*Note: If there is a “?” next to the person’s name, it means I am not yet able to verify for a fact if they are Jewish, but based on their name alone, they most likely are.  In other words, Jewish until proven Gentile.

Actors: Ben Stiller (Jewish), Dustin Hoffman (Jewish), Barbara Streisand (Jewish), Blythe Danner (mother of Gwenyth Paltrow, was married to the now deceased Bruce Paltrow, who was Jewish)

Music by: Randy Newman (Jewish)

Directed by: Jane Rosenthal (Jewish?) and Nancy Tenenbaum (Jewish?)

Written by: John Hamburg (Jewish?), Jim Herzfeld (Jewish?), and John Hyman (Jewish?)

Distributed by: Universal Studios- which was founded by Carl Laemmle (Jewish) and Dreamworks- which is headed up by Stephen Spielburg (Jewish), David Geffen (Jewish), and Jeffrey Katzenberg (Jewish?)

And this is interesting because less than 2% of Americans are Jewish.  To get a better idea of what a small number that is, Asian-Americans make up 4% of our nation’s population, and African-Americans represent 12%.

http://wp.me/pxqBU-kY

When I watch a movie, I am constantly seeing numbers and words surrounding each actor.  The actor’s height, hometown, and ethnicity.  I get an enhanced experience.

Recently I watched Hope Floats with my wife and here’s what I saw on the screen as soon as I saw Harry Connick, Jr:

6’ 1”

New Orleans, LA

Half Irish, Half Jewish

That is a glimpse at how my mind works.  And how I see everyday life.  Kinda like those Bing commercials about information overload.  When I hear a noun, my mind instantly pulls up the most notable memory from my own life and combines it with other interesting, random facts about it as well.

Last summer, a guy I graduated high school with named Kenneth Snipes, told me in a facebook wall comment that I could take the word “phone book” and write an interesting post about it.  I’m open to the idea.

In the 5th grade, one of my many favorite TV shows was The Dick Van Dyke Show (via Nick at Nite).  I remember an episode where Buddy (played by Morey Amsterdam, who was Jewish) told some people at a party that he could tell a joke with any word someone gives him.  So a lady said “horse”.  This was his joke:

If everybody in America owned a horse, the nation would be more stabilized.

If Buddy can do it with jokes, then I can do it with my writing.  I take requests.  In the form of a comment, just list a subject that you would like for me to expound on.  If I personally know you, I will attempt to also incorporate a memory I have of you in the writing.

See what my Rubik’s Cube of a brain spits out.  I will turn it into a story that will arguably be interesting and educational.

And one more thing… Now that you’ve read my take on boredom, why not read my perspective on being a dad?  That’s right- parenting from a dad’s point of view.  I have been documenting my thoughts as a dad since the week we found out my wife was pregnant.  I formally invite you now to read my “dad blog” by clicking on the link below:

dad from day one