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

 

After the recent overwhelming success and popularity of The Ethnic Backgrounds of the Cast of LOST, I decided I am among the thousands who are also intrigued by the vast different backgrounds of the actors of all-American TV shows.  Starting with curiosity of my own ethnic background, I soon stumbled into a new hobby/obsession: studying and memorizing the ethnic backgrounds of celebrities.  I am officially claiming to be an ethnic background specialist.  And I’m half serious, half joking when I say that.

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Of course for me, the most fascinating part is always discovering the Jewish actor(s) and writer(s).  Being that there are more than twice as many Asians than there are Jews in America, in theory, for every Jewish actor in a show there would be two Asian actors.  Or, being that Jews make up 1.7% of the American population, for every 100 actors in a show or movie, only two would be Jewish.  But that’s almost never the case.

So with that in mind, I felt the best way to officially start “The Ethnic Backgrounds of the Cast” series is by examining two highly popular Jewish sitcoms.  Whereas most sitcoms have at least one Jewish actor as part of the cast who plays a plain ole’ American mutt, both Friends and Seinfeld featured Jewish actors who occasionally incorporated their “Jewishness” into their  characters and the culture of the show itself.

To keep from being confusing, unless specifically stated, “English” simply means the actor is American but of English descent.  Same thing with “Scottish”, “Irish”, etc.  However, if the actor was actually born in England and is not an American, I will specifically state they were born in England, or whatever country they were raised in.

If the actor is Jewish, and I know what country their family moved to America from, I will say “descended from” or “of (ex: German) descent”.  In other words, each actor is American born, unless otherwise stated with the phrase “born in”.

Friends:

David Schwimmer (Jewish, descended from Germany) as “Ross Geller” (Jewish)

Courtney Cox-Arquette (English, though she is married to David Arquette, who is Jewish, she did not convert) as “Monica Geller (Jewish)

Jennifer Aniston (half Greek, quarter Italian, quarter Scottish) as “Rachel Green” (American)

Lisa Kudrow (Jewish, descended from Russia) as “Phoebe Buffay” (French)

Matthew Perry (half Canadian-English, half Jewish) as Chandler Bing (Scottish)

Matt LeBlanc (French, Italian, Dutch, Irish) as “Joey Tribbiani” (15/16 Italian, 1/16 Portuguese)

Elliot Gould (Jewish) as “Jack Geller” (Jewish)

Christina Pickles (English, born in England) as “Judy Geller” (Jewish)

James Michael Tyler (English) as “Gunther” (Dutch)

Hank Azaria (Jewish, descended from Greece) as “David the Scientist”, Phoebe’s on-again-off-again boyfriend (American)

Paul Rudd (Jewish, descended from England) as “Mike Hannigan” (Irish)

Created by David Crane (English) and Marta Kauffman (Jewish, descended from Germany)

Seinfeld:

Jerry Seinfeld (Jewish, of Polish, Ukrainian, and Syrian descent) as “Jerry Seinfeld” (Jewish)

Jason Alexander (Jewish, of German descent) as “George Costanza” (half Italian, half Jewish)

Michael Richards (half Italian, half English) as “Cosmo Kramer” (Jewish)

Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Jewish, of French descent) as “Elaine Benes” (Czech)

Created by Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David (Jewish)

And if you’re interested in taking a DNA test like I did to find out if you might have Jewish DNA, here’s the link to MyHeritage.

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Bad Things, Man

There are a lot of “bad things” you can do and be, and for the most part, people will overlook it. Ironically, one of the few things I have found that our American society finds unforgivable and unacceptable is someone who is judgmental of others. Atlanta Braves pitcher John Rocker is a prime example. He had notable talent and a great career going for him. Then he opened his mouth.

In a 2000 interview with Sports Illustrated he revealed himself to be a racist, sexist, and “homophobe” by comments he made in just one paragraph. It cost him his career. Think of all the crimes that athletes have committed and walked away with just a slap on the wrist. But it was a judgmental mindset, regardless of his athletic ability, that cursed him.

Seinfeld star Michael Richards (“Kramer”) officially ruined his career in 2006 when he lost control of an audience at a comedy club while doing a stand-up routine, then began shouting racial slurs at the people he believed to be causing the disruption, in a desperate and pitiful attempt to gain control. This was captured on a cell phone, uploaded to YouTube, and the rest is history. His career will never survive this, despite his many public apologies.

John Rocker and Michael Richards are easy targets though. The annoying thing about it is every person alive today is judgmental of others, no matter how small the degree. There is a natural tendency to create somewhat of a list of degrees regarding “bad people”, or at least “people I’m better than”. Not that anyone wants to or means to consider ourselves better than other people, but the truth is, it happens everyday.

I realize there are several degrees of separation between gossiping about co-workers and being an open bigot, but where is the line drawn? Both examples involve a person publicly assessing either the private matters or character of another person. Both involve a person making an call that another person is somehow sub-par. At what point is it no longer innocent and harmless to judge another person?

The highly successful sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond had an episode in which the twin sons befriended a kid at school whose dad was a sanitation worker (a “garbage man”). The comedy of the episode was when Raymond’s wife acted uneasy when the “Garbage Man Dad” visited the household to pick up his son. The episode showed that secretly she looked down on garbage men, compared to other occupations like writers or high school teachers. Like the way people look at a truck driver differently than compared to a doctor, though both men work hard to support their families.

Many reality shows totally play on the concept of enticing its viewers to come back each week to watch how stupid a person is going to be. I think that’s why Dennis Rodman stayed as long as he did on The Apprentice: Donald Trump knew that viewers were annoyed by Dennis and would keep watching in hopes he would be fired on that episode. Maybe it’s the satisfaction in knowing that though we’re not perfect, or at least we’re not as messed up as “that person”.

I remember the pastor of my church, Mike Glenn, saying how when he meets a new person out on the golf course and Mike is asked what does for a living, the demeanor and vocabulary of the other person often changes instantly. Whereas the first 30 minutes of the game they revealed their true selves to Mike, anything after that was a different version.

To some degree, he must feel frustrated that he is seen as “the holy man”, the one others have to straighten up around. I’m sure to some degree he must be tired of being judged- so many people can’t see past his profession. But why do people react that way to the pastor of one of the biggest churches of the biggest city in Tennessee?

Maybe because they’re afraid they will be judged. What a paradox. In fear of being judged, they judge the pastor. They assume he looks down on them because they’re not “tight with Jesus”. The ultimate irony of it is that he doesn’t care that they just dropped the “f-bomb”. He genuinely just wants to be their friend.

People forget that Jesus was friends with prostitutes, beggars, and plenty of other people who had no future. From what I’ve heard, one of the biggest issues that atheists have with Christians is that at some point or many points in their lives, they had an experience where a Christian was judgmental towards them.

I think it’s weird that God leaves it up to faulty human beings that mess up everyday like everyone else (and also struggle with being judgmental) to show the rest of the world the love of God. If a person could be made perfect the moment they became a Christian, it would be much easier for non-believers to believe. But instead God chooses to use instruments that are often out of tune to play the music.

Sometimes when I’m driving home from work I get behind this car with a bumper sticker that says “Jesus, save me from your followers!” I’m always irritated at first when I see it. But I can relate. I wish Jesus would save me from myself sometimes.