It’s been almost two years since beloved actor and comedian Bob Saget passed away. The “Full House” star felt like our collective TV dad. But he was also irreverently funny and delightfully foul-mouthed in his personal comedy — and very, very Jewish.
A perfect example of that can be found in this video from a 2014 talk at the 92nd Street Y in New York City, with comedian and “Last Week Tonight” host John Oliver.
“Did you go to Hebrew school?” he asks Oliver, who isn’t Jewish and thus replies in the negative. “It’s a really good place to learn to be funny,” Saget says. “That’s where comedy is taught… it’s aleph bet badum bum.”
When the crowd roars with laughter at this very Jewish joke, Saget realizes where he is — in the heart of Jewish New York, in the bastion of Jewish entertainment. “There’s a lot of Jews here, geez,” he remarks emphatically.
He then gets a pretty brilliant idea for a demo that will test just how Jewish his audience is. He asks Oliver if he knows any Hebrew, to which he replies with, “I know a schmultz,” which puts his statement into doubt because that is absolutely not a Hebrew word, and not even a Yiddish one, but some kind of amalgam of schmaltz (delicious rendered chicken fat) and schmutz (as in, you have some schmutz on your face). He then amends his response to “a schmear of Hebrew,” which again, isn’t Hebrew, but is at least a word.
“This is almost like being in High Holiday services,” Saget tells the audience, and then says to Oliver: “I don’t get to do this very much, and it’s gonna be weird…” before beginning his demonstration.
“Barchu et adonai hamevorach,” he chants, doing the prayer the rabbi chants from the pulpit before reading from the Torah. And lo and behold, the crowd then loudly replies with the traditional response, “Baruch adonai le’olam va’ed.”
Oliver is visibly shocked, but anyone who’s ever been to High Holiday services would know exactly what’s going on.
“I feel kind of good I’ve never been around this many [Jews],” Saget says, a statement that would get any non-Jewish person in any other place into a lot of trouble, but as Oliver assuages him, “The 92nd Street Y is a safe space to do that.”
There’s something so special about seeing this prayer, which is part of most synagogue services, being chanted by Saget. And if you’re jonesing for more Jewish celebrities chanting prayers after watching this clip, here’s one of Adam Sandler and Howard Stern reciting the same prayer together. It’s a wonderful moment of Jewish camaraderie and we’re absolutely obsessed with it: