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My Name Is Mandy Patinkin. You Interrupted My Benefit Show. Prepare to Donate $25,000.

Don’t mess with a Yiddish theater lover

Rachel Shukert
May 27, 2016
Bryan Bedder/Getty Images
Mandy Patinkin speaks at gala honoring Claire Danes in New York City, April 20, 2015. Bryan Bedder/Getty Images
Bryan Bedder/Getty Images
Mandy Patinkin speaks at gala honoring Claire Danes in New York City, April 20, 2015. Bryan Bedder/Getty Images

It seems that Patti LuPone and the infamous picture-taking incident of 2009, when the Gypsy star had a photographer kicked out of the show, may have finally been outclassed—and by one of her dearest friends and closest associated acts: Broadway legend, noted swordsman, and CIA operative Mandy Patinkin.

According to Page Six, Patinkin stopped the special concert he was giving to benefit the National Yiddish Folksbeine Theater this week to chastise a couple attempting to take their seats in the front row about half an hour after he began. “Why are you late?” Patinkin wondered from the stage as the theater filled with Jews—they’d paid a lot of good money to be there so their grandchildren’s Hebrew school class could one day sit through a matinee of The Wise Elders of Chelm in its original language—wished that Patinkin would just get back to singing “Have I Got a Girl For You” from Company in four different octaves (writerly extrapolation, mine).

“You were sending an email?” he continued. (Oh, that newfangled email, always distracting us, keeping us from connecting with real life human beings who are singing the soliloquy from Carousel and aren’t just doing it for their health, you know.) “This hurts me in my soul.”

Patinkin would go on to explain that he couldn’t let this slide, given how deeply he feels about Yiddish culture, and that he would feel a lot better about it if the couple immediately agreed to donate $25,000 to its preservation. And look, I don’t know how much the tickets cost—I’m sure this couple is doing just fine, given the fact that Mandy’s core audience are, well, let’s just say they aren’t exactly Trump supporters, if you get my drift—but that doesn’t mean they’ve got, like, Inigo Montoya money.

This apparent truancy-email flub isn’t exactly the same as, say, being caught innocently smoking a cigarette behind the air conditioners at synagogue, then being told that by throwing your life away so carelessly you are a disgrace to the untold millions who perished in the Holocaust. (It’s also not like this amazing clip from Woody Allen’s Radio Days, for those of you who remember it). But it is as close as you’re going to get as an adult who has important emails to send. After some support from a sympathetic and restless audience, the offending couple got him down to $5000, which Mandy agreed to match, and all was well.

Ooof—so much to unpack here. First: Is this one of those instances where Jews do and say things in front of each other that they would never dream of in mixed company? The answer, I think, is a firm yes. Second: Is Mandy Patinkin truly this exhausting? Again, from all other first hand accounts I’ve ever heard, the answer is yes, although it certainly doesn’t make me love him any less.

But let’s look at the bargaining on display here. That truant couple haggled a person in a position of considerable power down a phenomenal $20,000, a full 80% off his original asking price. I don’t know what they do for a living, but I know that if I was making an offer on something, I’d sure as hell want them in my corner. That’s the kind of preservation of Yiddish culture we can all believe in. Nu?

Rachel Shukert is the author of the memoirs Have You No Shame? and Everything Is Going To Be Great,and the novel Starstruck. She is the creator of the Netflix show The Baby-Sitters Club, and a writer on such series as GLOW and Supergirl. Her Twitter feed is @rachelshukert.