Which Role Do You Play in Your Family?

As I a guy who doesn’t know anything about cars or building stuff, or even computers, or how to really fix anything, or sports (golf included), or politics, or business (investments and stock market crap), there aren’t seemingly many important roles left for me as a man in a family. 

Sure, I can tell you which actors from Saved by the Bell are Jewish and which songs were hits in 1983 and how tall Albert Einstein was and I can solve a Rubik’s Cube in less than five minutes every time, but how does that fill any kind of necessary void in family dynamics?

I am a walking Wikipedia with an unforgettable memory of life events, sometimes nearing borderline Asperger’s.  So by default, what is my role in my family of six?  And to see the full picture, what are the roles of each member of my family? (My parents, my sister, her husband, and my wife.)

Me: The storyteller, the writer, the historian, and the event planner.  What drives me are memories.  Good memories take place because of events.  So I enjoy planning the family’s activities. 

I tend to be the one in the family that decides what we will do with our time when we’re all together.  And if I didn’t have an agenda for everyone to follow, it’s possible we would all just sit around and do nothing.  It’s possible we wouldn’t know where to go to eat, and end up settling for something mediocre like Outback or Chili’s. 

But I take the responsibility on myself for the six of us to decide where those memories (including potential funny stories and inside jokes) will take place.  And because “life happens” around food and entertainment and going to new places, my niche is being the one to set the backdrop for those events.

My role doesn’t fall into any of the typical manly stereotypes; I am the Montgomery Moose, the Desmond Hume, the John Cusack, the Pat Sajak.  The host, the MC of the evening, the narrator, the journalist of past, present, and future.  I just can’t fix anything.

My wife: The organized one, the teacher, the nurturer, the listener.

My dad: The mechanic, the electrician, the carpenter.

My mom: The financial expert, the chef, the encourager, the conversationalist.

My sister: The interior decorator, the helper, the initiator.

Her husband: The computer whiz, the tech expert, the sports enthusiast. 

Not that anyone can limit the talents and capabilities of their own family members down to just a few roles.  Because family members are not just stereotypes or TV characters.  They’re family.

What brought all this to mind is by watching the wonderfully crafted sitcom/drama Parenthood.  I love the dynamics of the family and how they all interact.  It hit me that the members of my family all have specific roles like the characters on that show.  And also, it seems the entertainment world is oversaturated with superheroes. 

I just wanted to know what my “superpowers” are.  Now I know. 

(And in case you’re still curious, Screech and Jessie were played Jewish actors, on the show Saved by the Bell.)

Would you, the random or regular reader, be willing to share with me your role and your family members’ roles in your family by leaving a comment below?  This isn’t a clever marketing ploy to boost my numbers or make this post seem more interesting.  I am just truly interested in this topic and want to know what other random family roles are out there. 

The Jewish Influence on American Entertainment

As we all know, the Jewish race has been persecuted throughout history. And that it is a complete understatement. While that is not news to anyone, there is an amazing fact that peripherally I always knew, but it wasn’t until this week it become obvious. An earth-shaking discovery like the ending of The Sixth Sense.

The discovery is that there was a major redemption for the Jewish people once they reached America. A people group that for so long had been cursed by the rest of the world now suddenly started to become famous and funny. The bottom line: It is dang near impossible to find a sitcom without a Jew.

Sure, there are the obvious Jewish sitcoms like Seinfeld and Friends. But then you find out that Bob Saget is Jewish and suddenly the head of the Full House-hold is not simply an all-American guy. And while so much emphasis was placed on how Italian that Tony Danza was on “Who’s the Boss?”, no one noticed the whole time that Judith “Light” Licht (“Angela Bower”) was Jewish. And all those Saturday mornings and weekday afternoons watching Saved by the Bell, sure enough both Jessie and Screech turned out to be Jewish too.

Below is a “tip of the iceberg” list of successful sitcoms and their Jewish member(s):

Growing Pains: Jeremy Miller (Ben Seaver)
Friends: Lisa Kudrow, David Schwimmer, Paul Rudd (Mike, Phoebe’s husband)
Mad About You: Paul Reiser, Helen Hunt
Seinfeld: Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfess
Taxi: Andy Kauffman, Judd Hirsch
Roseanne: Roseanne Barr, Sara Gilbert
Happy Days: Henry Winkler (The Fonz)
Everybody Loves Raymond: Doris Roberts, Brad “Garrett” Gerstenfeld
Three’s Company: Norman Fell (Mr. Roper)
Blossom: Mayim Bialik
Scrubs: Zack Braff
King of Queens: Jerry Stiller
Cheers: Rhea Pelman (Carla Tortelli)
All in the Family: Rob Reiner (Meathead)
The Wonder Years: Fred Savage (Kevin Arnold), Josh Saviano (Paul Pfeiffer)
The Cosby Show: Lisa Bonnet

Step By Step: Stacy Keenan

The Golden Girls: Bea Arthur, Estelle Getty

The Three Stooges: all of them

So I did manage to find a few exceptions. I felt proud of myself for that accomplishment. Until I realized who was the executive producer of those shows:

Step by Step, Family Matters: Miller-Boyett (consisting of Thomas L. Miller, who was Jewish)
The Simpsons: James L. Brooks (Jewish)
The Brady Bunch, Gilligan’s Island: Sherman Schwartz (Jewish)

In fact, the more I researched, the more I realized that basically all the original pioneer studios of Hollywood were started by Jewish people: Warner Bros., Paramount Pictures, Columbia Pictures, Samuel Goldwyn, and Universal MGM. So even if you don’t see a Jewish person on the screen, there is one behind the scenes, pulling the strings. Once I realized that the American sitcom is consumed by Jewish people, I basically just accepted the fact that Jews are the backbone to American entertainment as we know it:

Jerry Springer, Barbara Walters, Howie Mandel, Chelsea Handler, Joan Rivers, Bill Mayer, Jon Stewart, Mel Blanc, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Whoopi Goldberg, Seth Green, Paula Abdul, Rob Schneider, Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Jon Lovitz, Max Weinberg, Paul Shaffer, Paul Reuben (Pee Wee Herman), Natalie Portman, David Copperfield, Mel Brooks, Robert Downey, Jr., Bette Midler, Lenny Kravitz (who ironically married Lisa Bonet, who is also half Jewish, half African-American), Simon and Garfunkel, Bob Dylan, Pink, Billy Joel, Lisa Loeb, Harry Connick, Jr., Sasha Baron Coen (“Borat”), Harold Ramis (the nerdy Ghostbuster), Jon Lovitz, Jack Black, Billy Crystal, Rachel Bilson, Barbara Streisand, Corey Haim, Corey Feldman, Kirk Douglas, Rick Moranis, Zac Effron, Jeremy Piven, Seth Green, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Billy Joel, Joaquin Phoenix, Elizabeth Taylor, Jake Gyllenhaul, Mandy Moore, Richard Dreyfuss, Ben Stiller, Jeff Goldbloom, Rodney Dangerfield, Sammy Davis, Jr., Woody Allen, Jack Albertson (Grandpa from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), Mel Blanc, Gilbert Gottfried, Pete Yorn, Kiss members Gene Simmons (Chaim Wetz) and Paul Stanley (Stanley Eisen), the 4 main organizers of the original Woodstock, the man who owned the farm for Woodstock, the producer and sound mixer for Woodstock, Mark Zuckerberg (the creator of facebook), George Burns, Neil Diamond, and Stephen Speilberg.

Not to mention the most relevant movie director/writer/producer of this decade, Judd Apatow, who is responsible for Freaks and Geeks, Anchorman, The 40 Year Old Virgin, Talladega Nights, Superbad, Knocked Up, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Step Brothers, and Pineapple Express. Which sky-rocketed the careers of Paul Rudd, Jason Segal, and Seth Rogan, who are all Jewish.

So what? A lot of Jewish people work in entertainment.

But  Jews make up only 1.7% of the US population. There’s not that sort of massive representation from any other minority (or majority, for that matter). Asians make up 4.4% of the country’s population. How many Asian-American actors can you name? Compare that to Jewish actors.

It’s a given that if a person is successful in the American entertainment industry, then that person is beating the odds. In a market that’s so hard to crack, with such a high pay-off for those who do, Jewish people are the most successful.

I have a theory. The Bible has a reoccurring theme that the Jews are God’s chosen people. Jesus was born as a Jew. He preached to the Jews before he preached to any other people group. His followers and disciples did the same thing after Jesus died, came back and ascended to Heaven. The Bible also talks about the Jews being given a second chance to believe in Jesus at the end of the world.

America is basically the only country I know of that has openly accepted the Jews. We took them in from whatever country they were escaping from at the time, whether it was Germany, Russia, Poland, and gave them a new start. We knew, to some degree, what it was like to be religiously persecuted and that’s why we escaped the forced religion of England. We accepted the Jewish people when throughout the history of the world, no one else really has.

Definitely I realize that the economy is shaky and the future is unclear, but America is still the most powerful and most influential country in the world. This country has been blessed with not only abundant natural resources (which ultimately have a whole lot to do with a country’s economy) but also a general mindset of its people to work together and get the job done.

While I do believe a lot of that blessing is because, as a whole, we have always been a Christian nation, I can’t deny the importance in the role we play in regards to God’s chosen people. There are currently 5,393,000 Jews living in Israel, which is their homeland. And there are currently 5,275,000 Jews living in the United States. I did the math: We only have 118,000 less Jews living here than live in Israel. And because those are educated estimates, it’s very possible there are actually more Jews living in America than in Israel. In a way, it’s like America is becoming another Israel. (For the record, France has the 3rd largest number of Jews with just 490,00. So it’s apparent, the majority of Jewish people live Israel and America.)

Obviously God has blessed the Jewish people in America, in so many ways. And obviously God has blessed America in so many ways. Is that a coincidence? I have a tendency to over-think things, but really, what are the chances?