Yesterday, Bruce Jay Friedman turned 90.
He is the author of many important novels, short stories, and screenplays on the American Schlemiel such as Stern (1962), A Mother’s Kisses (1964), “Brasserville Teenager,” The Heartbreak Kid (1972), Stir Crazy (1980), and much else.
One of his children, Drew (who is an amazing caricaturist), wrote this on Facebook yesterday to honor his birthday:
“Happy 90th birthday to our
incredible dad Bruce Jay Friedman.
I just enjoyed a special virtual ZOOM family 90th Birthday party for BJF with his wife Pat, his children and his grandchildren which was touching, fun and funny, and yes, even Milton Berle’s appendage was discussed.”
There is a lot more work to be done researching and writing on Bruce Jay Friedman’s schlemiels which have, in many ways, shaped the reception of the schlemiel in America. His short stories and novels have been translated into many Hollywood productions either directly or indirectly.
The schlemiel – and the American Jew – has come a long way since his first major sketch in Stern in the early 60s. Although masculinity or the urban/rural contrast is not the main contrast for the schlemiel today (save for a great novel like Shalom Auslander’s Hope: A Tragedy), our different approaches to the male schlemiel today still have resonance (as we see in many Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen films or in many TV shows that feature schlemiel characters; from Community to Big Bang Theory).
Happy Birthday Bruce! The schlemiel lives on!