A Lost Tribe: On “Homoschlepien” Schlemiels and a Nutty Professor in Mayim Bialik’s SodaStream Spot

Occasionally, I stumble across a performance of the schlemiel that makes me realize that the schlemiel has a great future.   Mayim Bialik – the star of Big Bang Theory and a darling of millennial culture –  has taken a swing at the schlemiel in a recent mini-film-ad for Soda Stream.  The series is delightful and […]

Alvy Singer’s Bachelorbod and Seth Rogen’s Dadbod: American Schlemiel Embodiments

Woody Allen’s Zelig character showed American audiences that schlemiels come in all sizes, shapes, and colors.  The schlemiel is a chamelon.  His Jewishness – argues Daniel Itzkovitz – demonstrates the fact that the essence of the schlemiel character is non-essence.  The schlemiel is constantly adapting and changing.   And this – argues Itzkovitz, drawing on […]

Sessions as Gump, the Americanized Schlemiel

SNL has been making great use out of the schlemiel character.   Larry David’s portrayal of Bernie Sanders as a schlemiel was wildly popular and just recently, Kate McKinnon has portrayed Jeff Sessions as a variation of the Forrest Gump character.  While David’s interpretation of Sanders is more steeped in the Jewish-American version of the schlemiel […]

Happy Birthday to Schlemiel Theory!

Dear Schlemiel Lovers, On February 18th, Schlemiel Theory turned four years old! I am happy to report that Schlemiel Theory is – today – the most popular blog not only on the Schlemiel but also in the genre of Jewish Philosophy and Literature.   With over 6,000 followers, Schlemiel Theory continues to grow and reach people […]

Why Can’t a Schlemiel be a Mensch?

In his book, Unheroic Conduct: The Rise of Heterosexuality and the Invention of the Jewish Male Daniel Boyarin argues that the Jewish male, throughout the Middle Ages, was more effeminate than masculine.   In contrast to the its masculine gentile counterpart (which Boyarin finds in Rashi’s description of the “knight” and in figurations of the “evil […]

Kotonti! A Note on Freud, Humor, and Tevye

At the outset of Sholem Aleichem’s Tevye the Dairyman, there is a letter – dated 1895 – addressed from Tevye to Sholem Aleichem, the author.    At the top of the page is an expression that is used by Jacob to describe himself: “Kotonti – I am Unworthy.”  The English translation of the word, Kotonti as […]