A Brief Note: Louis CK is Not a Schlemiel

I just want to make a note on my last few posts about Louis CK.  I took a detour from my readings of Irving Howe and Ruth Wisse on the Yiddish writer Sholem Aleichem to look into Louis CK’s relation to what I called the “Jewish Thing.”   Although he is cast in the Louie episode […]

Becoming Jewish – Part VI of Facing Failure: A Levinasian Reading of Bernard Malamud

Unlike any author in Jewish-American or Yiddish literature, Bernard Malamud closely traces the process of a non-Jewish character’s becoming-a-Jew. But what makes Malamud’s treatment so fascinating and thought provoking is the fact that Frank, an Italian-American character who becomes a Jew, is that Frank is inspired to become Jewish by virtue of a schlemiel. His […]

Schlemiels Don’t Adapt: Saul Bellow on Sholem Aleichem’s Characters

Citing the traditional joke about the schlemiel who spills the soup on the schlimazel, Ruth Wisse, in The Schlemiel as Modern Hero, argues that the schlimazel “happens upon mischance” and “has a penchant for lucklessness”(14).  But “the unhappy circumstances remain outside him”(14).  In other words, the schlimazel’s comedy is situational.  The schlemiel, however, is different […]

Outside Llewyn Davis: The Schlemiel in the Coen Brothers Latest Film

After having read J. Hoberman’s film review of Inside Llewyn Davis in Tablet, I was excited to see the latest Coen Brothers film.   What I found most interesting about the review was the fact that Hoberman uses the schlemiel to interpret the Coen Brothers films in general and this film in particular.  But in his […]

Who has the Last Word? Power or Comedy? On Baudelaire’s “A Heroic Death”

In our culture, comedians are cultural icons and, from time to time, they even come to influence public opinion.  Most recently, for instance, Jon Stewart’s parody of Egyptian President Mursi and the jailing of a comedian reached Mursi and caused a stir.  Sara Silverman, Bill Maher, and Stephen Colbert have also looked to use comedy […]