The culminating event at yesterday’s Brooklyn Book Festival was an installment of New York’s popular Happy Ending reading series, and host Amanda Stern started things off on a Jewish note when she told the crowd that she didn’t have a middle name because that’s not traditional for Jewish girls. (It was the first we’ve heard of this one, but lord knows there are obscure customs aplenty). As a child she decided to remedy the situation by dubbing herself Amanda “Michael Jackson” Stern.
Later, the reliably outré writer Jonathan Ames empathized with his childhood tormentors—hey, they couldn’t help themselves from hunting down the only Jew in the neighborhood—before bringing up comedian David Cross who proceeded to bend a depantsed Ames over his knee and administer some paddle blows. Cross then took the stage to debunk claims that he is a self-loathing Jew: “I don’t loathe myself, and I don’t loathe Jews. I just find them both equally annoying.” As for the charge that he can be condescending at times, Cross didn’t deny that his biggest targets are religious folks, to whom he says, “You are living a lie that you will never be able to rewind. I’d say that’s pretty condescending.” This judgment includes ultra-Orthodox Jews: “I find them very rude.” Cross read a selection from his new book I Drink for a Reason entitled “Ask a Rabbi”; although his rabbinical accent was commendable, the faux-advice column didn’t quite have us laughing as loud as his finale, in which he and Ames dropped trou and kissed on stage. Two not-so-nice Jewish boys—what could be sexier?
Hadara Graubart was formerly a writer and editor for Tablet Magazine.