the schmooze
Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe
Syosset, New York

Note:  The Yiddish word meaning “to entertain” or “to amuse” is “farvayln.”

I have a confession to make.  I want to be a comedian—and that’s no joke!  How does one work this out?  (“Vi azoy kumt  men di kats iber dem vaser?”/How does one get the cat over the water?)

For the price of $295 I can attend “Stand-Up University with instructor, Dr. Peter Bales.  Unlike “Trump University,” “Stand-Up University” has had over 700 graduates.  Or, I can read Richard Belzer’s book titled, “How To Be a Stand-Up Comic.”

According to Belzer, “…the number one rule of all stand-up comedy is ‘Thou shalt not steal.’”  But then, Milton Berle made a career out of stealing—he literally did steal everybody else’s material.

I’ll never be Susie Session, who played the foul-mouthed Susie Greene on the HBO series, “Curb Your Enthusiasm (“entuzyazm”).”  Susie’s streetwise vernacular may be perfectly suited for her life in Manhattan…but it’s not my style on Long Island.  The only “f” words I would use are food-related words like “freser,” “fresn,” “forshpayz” (appetizer), “fleysh” (meat), and “farbasyn” (dessert).

I can, however, talk about Miami/Miami Beach and Lake Worth, Florida, because I’ve visited this area many times. I will NEVER repeat what Gabe Kaplan said even though he got huge laughs from the audience:
     “The average age in Miami is deceased.”

Oh, I could tell the story about a patient in a busy South Florida clinic who is hard-of-hearing.

“No, Mr. Cohen, not the HEARSE; I’m sending the NURSE.”

And how about the senior who suffers from “Transcontophobia”—The fear that, while traveling for his company, Business Class will be filled, all the aisle and window seats will be taken, and he’ll be sandwiched in between a whole-life insurance-policy salesman and someone who’s more familiar with Sesame Street than Wall Street.  (Mollie Fermaglich, Corporophobias)

Back to Florida humor:
Have you heard about  the senior who stops into Florida Capital Bank, “where big bank ability meets small bank agility.”  He’s buying a home in one of the many Valencia developments.

He’s told that he has now reached the Seven Dwarfs stage of taking out a mortgage.  When you go into the bank, you’re Bashful.  When you hear that mortgages are still available, you’re Happy.  When you’re told the rate, you’re Grumpy.  And if you accept it, you’re Dopey.

I could be a standup like Scott Blakeman, who shared his experience as a best man:  he got “chuppah elbow.”

I would love to be able to perform like the late Gilda Radner.  Who can forget her memorable characters:
Roseanne Roseannadanna, Baba Wawa, and Rhonda Weiss, the “Jewish American Princess.”

If you recall, she played the character, Emily Litella, an elderly hearing-impaired woman who gave angry and misinformed editorial reviews on “Weekend Update.”

As a retired high school teacher, I could imitate (“nokhmakhn”) Litella, in Radner’s 1979 one-woman show, “Gilda Live.”  Litella took a job as a substitute teacher in Bedford-Stuyvesant, replacing a teacher who had been a victim of a stabbing by one of his students, which put him in the hospital. 

Miss Litella cautioned her new students to be very careful where they put their TOES, as the regular teacher’s “STUBBING” was the third such “STUBBING.”  As Miss Literalla put it, at the school that week alone; and that the “STUBBINGS” must be pretty serious, in order to have put their teacher in the hospital indefinitely.

Nutella appeared 26 times on SNL’s Weekend Update in the late 1970-s.  Gilda Radner (as Litella) would peer through her reading glasses.  During her commentary, we would see that she had misheard and/or misunderstood the subject of the editorial to which she was responding.

Her misheard topics included “saving Soviet JEWELRY [Jewry], “endangered feces” [species], “VIOLINS” on television” [violence], “presidential erections” [elections], and “making Puerto Rico a steak” [state].  About Puerto Rico, she complained, “Next thing you know, they’ll want a baked potato with sour cream!”

And it’s possible for me to sound like comic princess, Michele Balan.  She spoke about aging—something this AARP member knows about:  “I don’t see myself aging. But then once day it’s ‘Do you feel a draft?  Where’s my shawl?”  And ‘decaf espresso’?  It’s like having non-drowsy sleeping pills.  (Source:  The Jewish Week, 7/9/04.)

My sons have said I could NEVER do comic like AARP member, Roseanne Barr.  We all remember when she said, “As a housewife, I feel that if the kids are still alive when my husband gets home from work, then hey, I’ve done my job.”

This “balebosteh” would never say, “Excuse the mess but we live here.”

However, I COULD talk about a “chaiatal hernia”—those “alt” (old) Jewish men in Miami who get hernias from wearing chai’s which are too heavy.

I could imitate my mother, Jeanette Gottlieb, who called one girl on the block a “bumiker” (a tramp) because it was rumored she wore nail polish and sometimes, people said they saw her with lipstick (“lipnshtift”).

My humor would be squeaky clean:  Mama and Papa Gottlieb were entertaining a neighboring couple on the boardwalk in Rockaway Beach.  Mama announced proudly, “Suzie is in the dungarees and loafers stage.” “Yeah,” muttered Papa, “she wears dungarees and dates loafers.”

I can do a whole routine on the Long Island Kosher BBQ Championship in 2013.    Oh, those pickle-eating contests, the concessions for kosher eats, and the various teams with names like “50 Shades of Flayshik.”  Last year’s winner:  M.O.B.—Mavens of Barbecue.

I can share Aviva  Bieier’s letter to the New York Times METRO, May 29, 2006: Dear Diary:
  On a Saturday morning a few weeks ago, I was walking to my synagogue on the Upper West Side when I was approached by a disheveled-looking man who said, “Excuse me, are you observing the Shabbat?”

  A bit wary, and more than a bit confused,I answered in the affirmative, to which he replied, “Oh, then, I won’t ask you for any money,” and walked away.

  Only in New York are the panhandlers multiculturally aware enough to know that Orthodox Jews do not carry money on the Jewish Sabbath.

I can amuse an audience by sharing the fact that in preparation for Yom Kippur (2004) Rabbi Anchelle Perl began distributing free non-leather flip-flops at his Congregation Beth Sholom Chabad in Mineola, N.Y.  Perl got his idea of the flip-flop giveaway from the political debate over which presidential candidate is a “flip-flopper.”

Today I could do an hour-long skit on whether Donald Trump is a flip-flopper or a wily politician.  John Cassidy wrote in The New Yorker, “Over the years, he has reversed his position on many issues, including abortion, gun control, socialized medicine, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Syrian refugees, and Hillary Clinton.”

It would be easy for me to do a routine about “Hair Force One,” and “birth certificates.”  Albert Brooks said, “Donald Trump announces this morning that he will run for president.  His hair will announce on Friday.”

And Sarah Rkein said, “Donald Trump will bring to the presidency what the early leaders of America did:  fake hair.”
Marjorie Wolfe agrees with Scott Blakeman, who said, “As long as there is going to be Jewish family and friends, there’ll be Jewish humor.”


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Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe is the author of
two books:
yiddish for dog and cat loversbook
"Yiddish for Dog & Cat Lovers" and
"Are Yentas, Kibitzers, & Tummlers Weapons of Mass Instruction?  Yiddish
Trivia."  To order a copy, go to her

NU, what are you waiting for?  Order the book!

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