Jesus and Hollywood: What’s the Difference between Acting and Actually Doing, Especially as a Christian? (Pondering Profanity, Sexuality, and Violence)

 

 

Seems like a strange pair, but we born-again Christians love our movies and TV just as much as everyone else.  But where do we draw the line?

One of my favorite TV shows during 4th and 5th grade was surprisingly The Dick Van Dyke Show as it was featured in syndication on Nick at Nite.  It was while watching that show (I was around 9 or 10) that it occurred to me, “Dick Van Dyke is kissing Mary Tyler Moore, but in real life, they may both be married to someone else who has to watch them kiss another person.”  To me, that would just be too weird… and wrong.  As much I fantasize about being an actor in a flash-sideways version of my life in some alternate path I could have chosen for myself a decade ago, I have to acknowledge that as a born-again Christian, there would be an exhaustive list of limitations for me as a legitimate actor.  (Granted, Kirk Cameron got around the “have to kiss another woman” dilemma when he used his own wife as a stand-in at the end of the movie Fireproof.)

That’s not to say that there aren’t born-again Christians who act in mainstream media.  For example, there’s the often-mistaken-as-a-Jew-but-actually-just-Welsh-American actor Zachary Levi, who is the protagonist of the hit show Chuck.  He has been outspoken about his relationship with Jesus Christ.  Click here to see what he said in one of his interviews with Relevant magazine.  I am fascinated by his Hollywood success and his commitment to his faith.  I would love to ask him about this very topic today; specifically this question, “As a Christian, what won’t you do in a role?”  (Zachary Levi, if you’re reading this, feel free to comment and help me out.  Thanks.)

Where does a Christian draw the line when it comes to acting?  I would say kissing another person on stage is harmless except when either or both of them is married.  And what about “love scenes” (scenes that involve sexual activity, with or without nudity)? What about profanity? Are there any words you just shouldn’t say?  Personally, I could easily curse on camera before I could say, “oh my God”; because to use God’s name in vain is breaking one of the Ten Commandments, while cursing is simply a fading taboo of shifting rules set by the expectations of culture.  To me, there are plenty far more destructive ways that words can be used that go against the Kingdom of God, like gossip, malicious sarcasm, and belittling.

Here’s where it gets really tricky.  If you think it’s wrong to curse in a role or play a character who has premarital sex, how is that so different from playing a character who is a murderer?  At least by playing a killer, you’re truly just pretending to play a character who is obviously in the wrong.  But by being filmed semi-nude under covers in a bed, you’re sending a subconscious message that sex between two consenting adults doesn’t necessarily have any spiritual concerns attached to it.

So in theory, in 1983, as a born-again Christian, if given the opportunity to have Al Pacino’s lead role in Scarface, would I, should I, could I?  For it’s time, the movie Scarface contained more profanity than any other film in history.  It was originally rated NC-17 for its violent content.  But in the end, (sorry if you haven’t seen the movie but you’ve had 28 years to see it so I feel okay about giving away the ending) all of Scarface’s sins find him out.  It’s obvious that his life of violent crime led to his own demise and in the end, it wasn’t worth it. Does that mean that this movie teaches its viewers not to waste their lives in a mob, getting  involved with violence and cocaine?  In theory, yes.  In theory, it has positive, redeeming value because in the end, crime doesn’t pay.

That’s something I’ve observed about Christian culture.  It seems most Christians are okay with a character doing obviously un-Christian things if in the end they repent: Unlike the character of Stacy Hamilton, played by Jewish actress Jennifer Jason Leigh in the 1982 movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High, who decides to have an abortion and seemingly goes on to live a completely normal life, never regretting her decision.  I contrast that to the song “Red Ragtop” by Tim McGraw, whether the 20 year-old protagonist gets his 18 year-old girlfriend pregnant and together they decide to have an abortion.

However, by the end of the song, though it’s not explicitly stated, the melancholy mood and subtle lyrics of the song itself convey the message “we can’t undo what we’ve done or beat ourselves up over it, but we do regret and it’s definitely a sad thing that happened”.  Rightly assuming that Country music fans are mostly Christians (simple demographics), they helped the song rise to the #2 position on the Country charts.

Entertain this thought: Ask yourself privately, as a Christian, whether or not you would play the role of a character in a play, musical, TV show, or movie who would do any of the following things:

-use minor profanity

-use stronger profanity including racial or gender slurs, up to the “f-word”

-use God’s name in vain, whether it’s by saying “oh my God” or “G.D.”

-play a character who has premarital sex and never encounters any real negative consequences

-play a gay character who never actually kisses another actor

-play a gay character who does kiss another person of the same gender

-play a heterosexual character who jokingly kisses a person of the same gender on the lips, which happens quite often on Saturday Night Live

-play a serial killer and rapist, though no explicit violence is ever shown on screen and who never curses or participates in any pre-material sexual relationship

-play a serial killer and rapist, though no explicit violence is ever shown on screen and but does participate in some premarital sex and who does some cursing

-play a serial killer and rapist, though no explicit violence is ever shown on screen and but does participate in some premarital sex and who does some cursing, but at the end accepts Jesus Christ as their Savior and from that point on lives a life in accordance to the teachings of Jesus

How is it any more wrong to play a homosexual actor than it is to play heterosexual actor who has premarital sex?  Though both situations are perceived much differently by the general population, when it comes to my understanding of the Bible’s teaching of righteousness, I don’t see how one is any different or worse than the other.  The way I understand it, Jesus died for all sin.  Sin is sin is sin.  No matter what kind it is, it separates us from God and causes every single one of us to need His grace.

Where do you draw the line as a Christian actor? Obviously to be involved in straight-up porno-graphy is out of the question for any sincere Christian.  But there are so many millionths of the scale to get to that extreme.  On the much slighter end of the scale is a man with his shirt off showing off his six-pack while he rides a horse bareback.  Further down the scale is that same man passionately kissing a woman while in a hot tub, both in their swimsuits.  Next is the same man and woman acting out a love scene in bed and though they are actually naked, they aren’t acting having sex underneath the blankets which strategically cover up certain parts of their bodies.

I remind myself that outside the culture of conservative Christianity, in reality the rest of the world behaves its own way regardless of our censorship.  To imagine a real life group of people who in their everyday lives never cursed or had premarital sex (outside of the conservative Christian world) is to me, simply unbelievable.  Taking away the elements of entertainment that are unChristian-like either makes the TV show or movie either A) unrealistic or B) a Christian movie like Facing the Giants.

I also remind myself that the Bible itself is full of violence, premarital sex, rape, and murder. There is homosexuality.  There are concubines.  There are instances were people cursed (like when Peter denied Christ).  The King James Version of the Bible even contains the words “piss” and “ass”.  If the entire Bible were made into an epic movie, could born-again Christians play every role?

But some point, acting is no longer simply just acting.  It’s doing.  So here’s my final thought about all this.  In some technical, annoying way, are we as conservative, born-again Christians actually hypocrites for being spectators of popular entertainment?

Imagine this: Instead of the majority of the cast of Friends and Seinfeld being Jewish, instead they were all born-again Christians.  Because of their faith-based convictions, none of them were willing to use any profanity or be involved in any situations that involved premarital sex.  I know how beloved these two sitcoms are among the majority of Christians I know.  But imagine a world where Ross Geller saying “We were on a break!” meant nothing to us.

Two Questions for You about This Today:

A) As much as we Christians love our sitcoms and movies, would they truly exist if we didn’t support them with our viewership because we ourselves wouldn’t be willing to play those roles the same way?

B) Where would you personally draw the line in regards to what you would or would not do for an acting role, hypothetically speaking, if you were an actor?

I sincerely would love to hear feedback from you, the invisible reader, on either or both of these proposed questions, by leaving a comment below.  You don’t have to leave your name; you can easily remain anonymous if you wish.

If you’re not a conservative, born-again Christian, still free to answer as well… and please know how aware I am that the content of this entire post probably seems a bit… out there.  For all I know, you may find it either laughable or offensive that we believe premarital sex is wrong or that kissing someone’s spouse is both weird and taboo.  But what good is a religion that has no backbone or reasonable standards, despite how counter-culture those limitations may be? Thanks for reading despite the culture shock of it.

The Replay Value of People

People will come and go, but which ones are worth bringing back out of the archives?

There are some movies I watch nearly once a month like I Love You, Man and they never get old, and they’re just as funny as the last time I watched them.  There are other movies like Deliverance, for which I got all I needed with just one viewing.  The same could be said about TV shows: Seinfeld and Friends reruns are much easier to watch for the 6th and 7th time; as for American Idol, for obvious reasons, not so much.  When it comes to “replay value”, people are the same way.

We live and work and play and hang out with some people for years, then, all of the sudden, they are no longer a part of our lives- we graduate high school or college, they decide to work somewhere else, etc.  And after they leave, when we randomly think of them, we are left with an aftertaste of what they meant to us, as a whole.  Generally positive or generally negative.  Either worth the time and effort to catch back up with, or not.

Out of the dozens of contacts in my cell phone, I only regularly talk to a handful or so.  Out of the nearly 800 facebook friends I’ve collected since March 2005, I only regularly talk to a few dozen.  Out of the people I used to work with, there is only one or two that I still keep in contact with.  By subconscious default, we ask ourselves, “Does this person have enough significance in my life to bother with talking to again, past just the ‘hi, how are you’ line?”

We make time for the people we care about, not excuses.  And I know that just as I have left certain people of my past, in the past, I am aware that there are those who view me as “non-replayable” as well.  Like when an old college friend announces that they’re coming to Nashville next weekend on their facebook status, then I send them a private message inviting them to lunch or dinner over the weekend, they ignore my message, spend the weekend in Nashville, then once they return to their hometown, announce as their facebook status, “Had a great weekend in Nashville!”

And then I say to myself, “I get it.  I’m not replayable in their life.  Noted.”  I don’t take it personally.  I may not be worth their time or effort, but I have confidence that I am worth other people’s.

Figuring out who is at all replayable in your life is kind of like going through your closet to decide which clothes you should keep and which ones you should give away.  If you won’t wear that shirt in the next year at least once, you probably won’t ever wear it.  Same thing with people in your life.  If you wouldn’t answer or return their call, or if you would never make an effort to contact them again in the future, if you don’t even find their facebook statuses to be amusing, it’s safe to say you’re just not that into them: They don’t have replay value in your life.

How Race and Religion are Connected and Why Isaac and Ishmael are behind It All

This is me in a video I made for you, which explains all this in a 5 and a half minute video, in case you prefer that over reading the 1378 word blog post below it, which I wrote 7 years ago.

Meet your great-grandfather Isaac.  Or Ishmael.  Or maybe even both…

How do you determine who ethnically is a “white person” and who is not?  Are Jews considered to be white?  What about Greeks and Italians?  And though Central and South Americans typically have tan skin, why is it there something about them still seems sort of white, as opposed to a person from India or China? These are some of the “side effect” questions that will be answered as I explain my theory on the origin of race and religion.

No, this theory doesn’t start with Adam and Eve.  Nor does it start with Noah and his family repopulating the world after the Great Flood.  It starts 20 generations after Adam, and 10 generations after Noah, with Abraham (the father of the Jewish and the Arab people), being promised by God that he would have a son in his old age.  After waiting and having no sign of this coming true, Abraham’s wife Sarah convinced him to sleep with their Egyptian maidservant Hagar, in order to have a son to carry on the family lineage.  At age 86, Abraham goes with his wife’s plan (like the way Adam ate the fruit after Eve convinced him to) and has a son with his maidservant- the son is named Ishmael.  However, 13 years later Abraham’s wife Sarah gets pregnant with a son, as God promised, and this son is named Isaac.

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Abraham eventually sends away his maidservant Hagar and his son Ishmael into the wilderness (Genesis 21:14), and raises Isaac his as true first-born son.  Today, thousands of years later, it is through Ishmael that Arabs and Muslims link their heritage through.  Accordingly, Jews and Christians trace through heritage back to Isaac.  Now we are in the meat of my theory.

As generations passed and both families migrated from their Middle Eastern homelands, the descendants of Ishmael moved south and east- to Africa, Asia, and America (becoming the Native American Indians in North America and the Aztec Indians in Central and South America).  In fact, the angel of the Lord told Hagar that Ishmael “will live east of all his brothers” (Genesis 16:12).  Meanwhile the descendants of Isaac moved north and west- to Europe, Russia, and eventually to America (killing off, running off, or marrying the Native American Indians).

Notice how today the countries that are represented by the descendants of Ishmael are generally practice religions that do not involve the Judeo-Christian God (worshipped by Christians, Catholics, and Jews) but instead are tied Hinduism, Animism, Taoism, Buddhism, Communism (Atheism) and Islam.  And of course the descendants of Isaac are matched to the Christianized nations: For example, Scotland is mainly Protestant, Ireland is mainly Catholic, and England is mainly Anglican (Presbyterian).

Almost 2,000 years ago thanks the Apostle Paul’s missionary journeys to preach Christ where the Jews had already settled (in Europe, specifically the Mediterranean areas) and also the birth of Christianity as a whole, the countries that were already familiar with the Judeo-Christian God were basically the first to get introduced to Jesus as the Messiah.  As far as all the Ishmael-descended areas, like modern day Africa and Asia that were less familiar or not familiar at all with Christianity, they were not and have not typically been as generally open and accepting to “our God” as Isaac’s descendants.

The Ishmaelese Middle East

Ishmaelese Africa

Ishmaelese Asia

I do believe that whether or not a nation (or individual person) is a descendent of Isaac has much to do with their religion, race, and culture.  However, there are obviously exceptions.  One of them is Russia, which had been mainly Christian up until the point of its embrace of Communism.  Another exception is African-Americans, whom most identify with Christianity, as opposed to most Africans living in Africa.

And then there’s the “half breed” nations that make up Central and South America.  For the most part, their blood is mixed of Indigenous Americans (Native American, Aztec, etc.) who migrated from Asia through modern day Alaska, and European lineage from those who “discovered” America.  So in essence, the inhabitants of modern day Central and South America are half Isaackian, half-Ishmaelese; though they have accepted the religious beliefs of Isaac’s descendants (largely Catholic).  Read more about this here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indigenous_peoples_of_the_Americas

Yes, I did just now make up and use the words Isaackian (to describe the descendants of Isaac who are prone to believe in the Judeo-Christian God) and Ishmaelese (to describe the descendants of Ishmael who typically do not).  And now that you hopefully understand what those terms represent, I will begin using them frequently.

What started much of this thought process was when I recently began “Climbing the Family Tree” and realized that so many of my ancestors had last names that are Jewish (Schell, Klaar, Ullman, Wiseman, Vite) yet there is no solid proof that I actually am- only family rumors and tradition.  If I assume that none of the people in my family tree were Jewish, well, still, I have Jewish names in my family tree.  So that got me thinking, Jewish people and “white people” are essentially the same thing, coming from the same common ancestors.  Whereas someone who is Japanese (Ishmaelese) wouldn’t have last names in their family tree that would resemble a Jewish last name.

So going back to one of the questions I asked in the beginning, are Jewish people considered to be white?  Yes.  Though their homeland is Israel and though they are a Middle Eastern people group, they blend in with us Americans so well.  And that’s part of my fascination with pointing out which celebrities are Jewish.  Half the casts of Friends and Seinfeld are Jewish (The Ethnic Backgrounds of the Cast of Friends and Seinfeld) as well as The Wonder Years (The Ethnicity of the Cast of The Wonder Years), but the fact that most of us don’t know which ones are or aren’t shows that despite most of us being a mix of European blood, those Middle Eastern descended Jews are still our cousins.

Of course ultimately, it doesn’t matter which of us descended from Isaac or Ishmael or how much blood we have of either (I’m around 12.5% Ishmaelese); it just predicts the tone of our skin and our traditional religion, according to my theory.  By no means do I see the Isaackians as superior to Ishmaelese for the fact that I myself worship the Judeo-Christian God.  But what I do recognize is what God himself proclaimed to Abraham regarding Isaac and Ishmael:

But God said, “No, but Sarah your wife will bear you a son and you shall call his name Isaac, and I will establish my everlasting covenant for his descendants after him,” (Genesis 17:19).

“As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold I will bless him, and make him fruitful and multiply him exceedingly.  He shall become the father of 12 princes, and I will make him a great nation,” (Genesis 17:20).

What’s most important from those verses I just quoted is that God promised to establish his covenant through the line of Isaac.  In other words, the savior of the world would come in the form of a Jew.  Not to mention that the Isaackians coincidently would hold the responsibility of sharing their God with the Ismaelese- that’s why Christian missionaries exist.  That’s why Christianity is now the largest religion of the Ishmaelese country of South Korea, for example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Korea#Religion

We all have the same great-grandparents at the tops of our family trees.  I try to imagine how different the world would be if Abraham wouldn’t have had a son with Hagar, if he just would have waited another 13 years for his own wife to become pregnant.  But he jumped the gun and changed the course of history (for him, it was the future) forever.  Though if he didn’t, I wouldn’t exist, being that my grandmother is Mexican.  Not only would I have not written this and you wouldn’t have read it, but there wouldn’t have been any of this to write about.

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jewish

Readers’ Expectations 6: Smoking Muppets, Legal Personalities, and Scottish Seinfeld

Typically, I publish a new post from the Readers’ Expectations series about once a month, after I’ve collected a handful of absurd searches people typed into Google to find Scenic Route Snapshots.  But within the past week, I’ve already met my quota.  So after only a week since the fifth installment, here’s #6:

“smoking Muppets mccarthy”- The only way I could see this happening is in a public service announcement with the McCarthy dummy smoking a cigar next to Kermit the Frog who has a worried look on his face, caption reads: “If you smoke, I’ll croak!”

“why saunas are awkward”- You know, I can’t really see how a public sauna could be awkward, other than the fact that only a loosely wrapped towel around your waist is the only thing keeping complete strangers from seeing your Netherlands, and keeping you from seeing theirs.

“why it’s so hard to meet single women”- A few clues: Stars Wars t-shirt tucked into black sweatpants, neon slap bracelet, Aviator glasses, horrible mustache, Doritos-stained fingertips.

“legal personalities”- It’s so hard today to live in a society where so many personalities are currently outlawed.   Like “outgoing”, “positive”, “friendly”, and “optimistic”.  Things have never been the since ever since the Soviets took over.  I mean…what I meant to say was… Communism is the only way!

“my public dreams”- The only way to outdo a reality show these days is to publicly display a person’s dreams on national television.  Participants are hooked up to a special device that broadcasts their dreams for everyone to see on a giant monitor, including the The Naked in Public Dream.  From James Cameron, director of Avatar, coming this Fall on Fox: “Your Worst Nightmare”.

“Seinfeld Scottish”- Growing up in a hometown that officially had no Jewish households, I clearly understood that Jerry Seinfeld is Jewish, not Scottish.  I’m trying to imagine Jerry Seinfeld in a kilt, playing the bagpipes, saying, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that, brothah…”

How to Wear Dress Pants, If You’re a Guy: Don’t Wear Them With Sneakers and Avoid Khakis

Despite what you heard, don’t wear khakis.  Just because these men’s pants are classic, it doesn’t mean they’re timeless.  In fact, they’re starting to represent a dull and generic image for men’s attire.

Some articles of clothing go with anything, like Chuck Taylor’s.  Then there are specimens like Hawaiian shirts, that arguably go with anything simply because they clash with everything, technically meaning they go with everything.  And then there are khaki pants, which truly look good with anything they’re paired with, in theory.

But not for me.  I’m very particular when it comes to wearing khakis:

1)     They’re the same color as my legs, so I kinda feel like I’m not wearing pants at all.

2)     Because of their good reputation (“you can’t go wrong with khaki’s”) and popularity, they are a bit boring by now.  It’s assumed that a man automatically looks better because he’s wearing tan pants.  I say, not creative enough.  Deduct one point unless worn in moderation.

3)     Despite popular belief, they don’t truly look good with anything.

What has put these thoughts in my head?  Surely just random observances over the last twelve years:

1)     In high school, every Friday the football coach had all the football players wear khaki pants, a white dress shirt, and preferably a tie.  But  many of them wore running shoes.  It came across as predictable and forced to me (which it indeed was).  You want to look nice?  At least change the shoes.

2)     In the movie 40 Year-Old Virgin, Andy (the lead character played by Steve Carell) wears khaki pants in almost every seen.  His attire is most noticeably awful when he first goes to the night club wearing a yellow polo and khakis.  Nerdy, man.  Nerdy.  Same thing in Sideways with Miles (played by Paul Giamatti).

3)     In the past 15 years, khakis and polo shirts have become the official uniform for employees of places like Best Buy.  So now khakis are starting to represent a dull, generic work uniform.

Instead of khakis, try this. Note: Black shoes with black pants. Not brown shoes.

Khakis have become part of a stereotyped outfit of an outdated man from the year 2000: Khaki pants, faded polo shirt, cell phone holder on belt.

Noted, there is a difference between what a man wears to work and what he wears to every other public events.  I know for myself, I don’t care that much what my coworkers see my wearing as long as I don’t look like a slouch.  So yes, I do resort to polo shirts and once every week or two, I’ll wear khakis.

But for many, work isn’t as a professional environment as we often pretend for it to be.  I don’t take as good of care on the clothes I wear day in and day out to work.  Who cares if they’re faded or a little wrinkled?

Bottom line: For a man to truly dress nicely, and appear to be modern yet not trying too hard, he should simply try doing so sans khaki pants.

How?  Charcoal colored pants.  Dark brown pants.  Slate (very dark blue/gray) pants.  But not tan.  Heck, even dark jeans can look better than khakis when done right.

P.S.  If you must resort to wearing khaki pants in an attempt to look nice, do not be temped to wear a navy blazer or jacket with it.  That’s for CEO’s who are 61 years old and don’t realize that it’s no longer cool.  Wearing a navy jacket with khaki pants is for guys still wearing Levi’s jeans similar to Jerry Seinfeld in 1994.

And one more thing… Now that you’ve read my take on pants, 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

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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no soup for you

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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pretzels

 

Show Me That Smile Again, Don’t Waste Another Minute on Your Cryin’

There’s no around it.  We  lived through a couple of decades of gathering around the fake wood grain Zenith TV on shag carpet to watch what we knew as the American sitcom.

Laugh tracks.  Freeze frames to conclude the episode.  Inspirational advice during the 23rd minute of the episode accompanied with soft and cheesy keyboard music (made famous by Danny Tanner and Uncle Jesse).  Annoying catch phrases like “Did I do that?”  And most importantly and best of all, their wonderful theme songs that are so just you just want to cry, which featured a few seconds of footage from each main character for that season as the show came on.

That was 1977 through 1997.  Two solid decades of pure delight.

But these days, what do we consider to be the 30 minute sitcom?  The Office.  30 Rock.  There are others, but certainly the list doesn’t go on like it did in the days of Mr. Belvedere.

Now the theme songs don’t have words.  And we have to figure out on our own when to laugh.  And typically there’s no moral lesson to learn.  Just ironic humor.  By the 28th minute of the episode, the characters are not necessarily any better off than they were when the plot was introduced at minute 3.

But those good feelin’ sitcoms of the 1970’s, ‘80’s, and ‘90’s can never be revived.  Because we as an American audience have outgrown them. We couldn’t take The Office seriously if there were laugh tracks and if at the end of every episode Michael Scott gave Jim a heart-to-heart talk about what it takes to be a good leader.

Our preference of comedy has evolved from lighthearted insults and sight gags to dry humor stolen from the British.

Speaking of irony though, we live a double standard.  What we will not accept in modern comedy, we still accept in reruns that come on in the evenings right before our new shows.  Shows like Friends and Seinfeld which followed much of the old-school traits of sitcoms, though they weren’t family sitcoms.

We differientiate:  It’s 6pm and laugh-track infused Friends is on.  Something in our subconcious says, “It’s okay, that was the ’90’s.”  Then a few hours later 30 Rock is on and we hold it to a different standard.  We’re more sophisticated than we were at dinner.  Because we have to be clever enough to get the jokes of our dead-pan humor queen Tina Fey.

What caused us to change what we accept as humor?  The dynamics of the modern family.

Something that has a lot to do with explaining why classic family sitcoms have disappeared from cable TV is The Disney Channel, which is now included with basic cable.  But when we were younger, it cost extra every month.  So back then ABC, NBC, and CBS had to make sure the majority of their comedies were family sitcoms. 

Now, kids can watch their corny shows like iCarly in their own bedrooms while their parents watch something cooler in the living room.  Man, I miss Tony Danza.