Jewish comics celebrate Purim

Monday, March 9, 2009

After playing their second song during a concert, Rob Tannenbaum ’83 and David Fagin typically hear a chair scraping the floor, followed by an older person getting up and a “pair of little orthopedic shoes walking out the door,” Tannenbaum said.

It’s perhaps no surprise that the comedic rock duo “Good for the Jews,” which takes pride in its irreverent and unconventional Jewish music, makes some elderly audience members uncomfortable. But the two artists are unlikely to encounter any disgruntled listeners at their performance at Brown/RISD Hillel tonight.

“What we try to do is radicalize Jewish music,” Tannenbaum said. They “want to be able to make Jewish music that isn’t just for old-people-Florida.”

Tannenbaum and Fagin are “unorthodox Jews,” the former says, adding that the age of audience members often affects how they respond to the duo’s jokes.

The group’s best-known song, which is about Passover and called “They Tried to Kill Us (We Survived, Let’s Eat),” epitomizes their humor. Later today, Providence’s younger crowd will be able to enjoy their “Sarah-Silverman-meets-Adam-Sandler crazy songs,” said Megan Nesbitt, executive director of Hillel.

The group will play songs about Passover, having a bar mitzvah and what Tannenbaum calls the “genuine experiences” of being “privileged, assimilated Jews in a part of the world where our safety is no longer threatened.”

Both Nesbitt and Tannenbaum had been planning this performance since last spring, but they were waiting for the right time. The upcoming celebration of Purim seemed like the perfect occasion for the duo to play at Brown, Tannenbaum says.

“Purim is pure celebration, and we are encouraged to eat, drink, to be festive,” he says. “The more people drink, the funnier we seem.”

Since the duo’s performance is part of the Purim celebration and is “thematically relevant,” Hillel funded the show, which is free and open to the public, using the holiday’s budget, Nesbitt said.

“I hope that people will have a really good time with its crazy humor,” Nesbitt said.

Though Tannenbaum graduated from Brown some years ago, he told The Herald that in terms of humor and maturity, “as far as I’m concerned, I graduated in ’04.”

At Brown, he concentrated in English and was also an active member of WBRU.

Tannenbaum, who jokingly said that had there been a concentration in WBRU, he would have gotten it, added that he loves the University and is looking forward to his show.

“I feel like this is the homecoming performance,” he said. “I genuinely expect that this is one of the most significant shows I’ll ever get to play, and I’m wild with


The show will begin at 9 p.m. tonight, with doors opening half an hour in advance.

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