Saturday Night Live had a bit last Saturday where they mentioned Jewish alienation from Israel. Actress Vanessa Bayer has a character called Jacob the Bar Mitzvah Boy, a selfconscious wanna-be grownup. Jacob gives a Passover speech and at the end thanks a list of people who’ve helped him, and it’s all personal till he gets to “my uncle Simon even though my dad says he is so blinded by his devotion to Israel that he ignores all reason.” The line got a pretty good laugh. At 2:40 in the video below, next to comic/writer Michael Che.
SNL is parsimonious about its Israel humor. You’ll recall that in 2013 when Chuck Hagel had his hearing to be Defense Secretary, SNL prepared a sketch called Fellating the Donkey, in which a senator challenged Hagel, would you be willing to fellate a donkey for Israel. That bit did not air, though it was published online, and the Anti-Defamation League went apesh*t about it.
Vanessa Bayer is Jewish and knows the territory. The Forward found the Vanessa Bayer sketch delightful though it didn’t mention the Israel bit. Here is Bayer telling Rolling Stone about that character four years ago.
The town I grew up in was at least fifty percent Jewish, so every weekend in the 7th grade, we went to Bar and Bat Mitzvahs. It’s kind of based on that…
When I started doing standup in college, I just started doing that character. My first year on the show, one of the writers wrote me into a sketch where I played a Bar Mitzvah boy and I got to do it, which was so cool. . . but the whole thing started in my standup. I felt like I had seen that boy so much, and it’s so fun to play that little awkward boy who likes to tell dad-style jokes.
It’s one of my favorite characters. It just seems very familiar. It’s so funny that a little boy that age has to be so formal for an entire weekend.
In our world, which is a little mirror of Middle East that can fit in a spoon, this counts as a big victory. No, it’s not very much. But such is American culture.
Thanks to Annie Robbins and Russell Khater, for the spot.