the schmooze
Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe
Syosset, New York

Everyone is reading "50 Shades of Grey."
I'm no "spynik"--someone who is hooked on spy stories, fictional and real. I'm into "Shtick lit."

"Shtick lit" is a writing genre in which the author undertakes an odd or stuntlike project with the intention of writing about the experience. Jerry Seinfeld popularized this literary subgenre with his 1993 book titled, "Seinlanguage." People magazine called it "a flimsy collection of bits." Ray Romano ("Everything and a Kite"), Paul Reiser's book, "Couplehood," and Alan King's 1964 book, "Help! I'm a Prisoner in a Chinese Bakery" could also be labeled "shtick lit."

Let's look at how these men dealt with the following humorous topics:

SEINFELD: clothing
"I had a leather jacket that got ruined in the rain. Now how does moisture ruin leather? Aren't cows outside a lot of the time?"

REISER: clothing
"Getting dressed is a fascinating little world once you're married. Especially for men. Because upon marriage, you lose the ability to choose clothing by yourself."

"Every age has its anxieties. Who wouldn't want to be twenty again, right? But if you think back, you realize that twenty has its set of problems, too. You still have acne, no one will go out with you, you drive a truck for a mattress company and live in your parents' basement in Queens."

"There definitely seems to be an age gap in the hiring policy at most movie theaters. They never hire anyone between the ages of 15 and 80. So the girl that sells the tickets, she's 10."

SEINFELD: doctors
People love to recommend their doctor to you....He's the best. This guy's the best. There can't be this many "bests." Someone's graduating at the bottom of these classes Where are these doctors?

KING: doctors
"But not all doctors are Schweitzers, Sabins, and Salks...My brother is a doctor. I wouldn't let him cut my nails. When he was fourteen, he was still wetting his bed...Last year he gave me shots for theAsian flu, and the next day I had Asian flu. He never misses."

KING; lawyers/wills
"Me? I've got a lawyer and a will that runs nineteen pages. That's five more pages than the Magna Charta, but it's very important that I cover every eventuality... What he doesn't know is that I've made out a new will. I've bequeathed my wife the key to the safe-deposit box and a Ouija board just in case she has any questions."

"I miss Mom. I miss the worrying, the meals, the Vicks VapoRub. I even miss the way she never quite learned how to use the VCR...VCRs were like Kryptonite to my mother."

"I came from the kind of family where my mother kept an extra roll of toilet paper on the tank in back of the toilet, and it had a little knit hat with a pom-pom on it. ...The toilet paper had a hat, the dog had a sweater, and the couch arms and back had little fabric toupees to protect it."

"I consider myself a master life efficiency expert. For example, when I'm making my bed and I tuck in one side of the sheet, I stay bent over as I walk to tuck in the other side. Why stand up and then bend again? It's a waste of life."

ROMANO: beds
"The only real benefit in getting a smaller bed is that you get credit for cuddling, whether intentional or not. You're not going to get away with that in a big bed. No, no. Once you've gone king, cuddling requires a conscious effort."

ROMANO: weddings/proposals
"Whenever my wife and I argue about this subject, she still brings up the fact that I never told her how good she looked on our wedding day. That's eleven years ago. Apparently there's no statue of limitations on a violation such as that."

KING: weddings/dances
"It [the wedding] was like a three-ring circus. The women danced with the women. A drunken waiter was dancing with himself. ...Someone's nine-year-old kid who thought the Mogen David wine was Kool-Aid passed out on top of the wedding cake.

In the middle of all this pandemonium the band broke into a hora the traditional Jewish folk dance for all festive occasions. What's traditional about it is that the people who are dancing never have the slightest idea what they're doing."

REISER: proposals
"I remember officially proposing. Actually asking this woman to literally, officially, marry me. I couldn't get the words out. I couldn't stop laughing. It felt so dopey. So cliche. 'Asking for her hand in marriage,' I felt like I was in some bad Ronald Colman movie."

KING: father-in-law's blessings
"Getting my father-in-law's blessings to marry his daughter was like getting the Governor of Alabama to give his blessing to a Freedom Bus.

"Will you support my daughter in the manner to which she's accustomed?"

"Sure," I replied. "We're moving in with you."

KING: restaurants/eating
"You ought to see what they serve in these [health-food] places. Nothing is what it's supposed to be. Wheat-germ burgers, soyaberry shortcake. They had flowers on the table. I didn't know if it was a center- piece or my main dish...In a health-food restaurant, if you say 'hey' to a waiter, he brings it"

REISER: cooking/eating
"Then there are things you don't even realize you ate. You're on the run all day, you grab what you can, and at the end of the day you realize--you're a goat. You've eaten whatever you saw, whenever you saw it. And somewhere in your belly lie pathetically odd combinations of foods:

A quarter pound of hummus and some Cracker Jacks. Fifteen pieces of bread and a sour ball....Chicken salad, blueberries, and a Mounds Bar."

SEINFELD: cooking
"I will never understand why they cook on TV. I can't smell it. Can't eat it. Can't taste it. The end of the show they hold it up to the camera. 'Well, here it is. You can't have any. Thanks for watching. Goodbye.'"

ROMANO: cell phone
"I spent a lot of time in my car then. Half of it was just to use the cell phone. I learned the hard way not even to attempt a business call from my house if my two-year-old was in the area.

"Yeah, the fifteenth is good for me. I just need to know where do you . . . thiNK
Did I scare you? Oh . . . didn't know you were eating a cookie."

KING: telephones {how they've changed]
"All the prefixes used to have such lovely sounding names like Evergreen and Whippoorwill and Forsythia and Magnolia. Do you know what my prefix is now? 598!. That's right. I just received a notice that my new number is 598-6015. I can't even remember my wife's birthday so how the hell am I supposed to remember a number like that?"

SEINFELD: I.R.S./taxes
"Even though I.R.S. kind of sounds like Toys 'R' Us, they're not fun people."

ROMANO: driving
"Where I'm from, New York City, the real benefit of driving very late at night is that it's the only time you can find a parking spot."

SEINFELD: driving
"People will kill each other for a parking spot in New York because they think, 'If I don't get this one, I may never get a space. I'll be searching for months until somebody goes out to the Hamptons.'"

REISER: driving
"The only time we're nice on the road is if an ambulance has to get through...Then it's a mad rush for the Ambulance Wake. Everybody wants to get behind that ambulance. 'I saw it first, buddy. I pulled over first, so I get to go ahead of you-- that's how it works.'"

KING: airlines
"On the ground the airlines are geared to a maximum efficiency of three people--the pilot, the co-pilot, and the stewardess. They've got it made. They can always get on the plane. In 10 minutes, the airlines can load 150 hot meals, 4 tons of luggage, 10 tons of freight, 400 little bottles of booze. No problem. It's all automatic. But they still haven't figured out how to get the passengers on board."

ROMANO: conversations on airplanes
"I'm just not a great conversationalist...So what you have to do is cut off all possible avenues of communication. Your best bet is just to walk on the plane wearing headphones, a surgical mask, and looking through a View-Master. I know that'll work, because at home, it's the way I go to bed."

KING: traveling with wife
"I didn't know how lucky I was, because he [agent] never weighed Jeanette's purse. She had enough stuff packed away in there to open a southeast branch of Sears, Roebuck."

REISER: babies
"I saw a kid who had some little dried-up food on his face. (Not since birth, just since lunch, I imagine.) His mother took out a tissue, SPIT on the tissue, and rubbed it into the kid's face. I'm not making this up. This goes on, in communities around the country, on a daily basis."

ROMANO: 2-year-olds
"...I wasn't really that informed about the two-year-old. Oh, I'd read about them, and occasionally I'd see documentaries on the Discovery Channel showing two-year- olds in the wild, where they belong."

KING: children
"While I'm working years off my life expectancy on Saturdays, what do you think those kids are doing? Well, from 6 A.M. to 8 A.M. they're flipping baseball cards. From 8 A.M. to 9 A.M. they're watching the movie Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein and the Wolf Man on television. When I was their age my parents wouldn't permit me to watch horror movies. My own kids see a double feature before breakfast...Saturday afternoons are devoted to physical activity. They stand on the corner and look up and down the street for the Good Humor man."
Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe is also into "anecdotal dotage": that advanced age where all one does is relate stories about "the good old days."


Search for Stories Beginning with the Letter
N O P Q R S T U V W   Y Z
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!

Yiddish Stuff
Jewish Humor
Schmooze News
More Majorie Wolfe
Jewish Stories
All Things Jewish
Jewish Communities of the World
Site Designed and Maintained by
Haruth Communications