Thursday, March 14, 2013

RIP Allan Gould

A Guest Eulogy/Plug by G.A.

As a child, I was enthralled by my copy of The Unorthodox Book of Jewish Records & Lists by Allan Gould and Danny Siegel. For those who are not familiar with this book, or who are unwilling to fork out the $0.01 plus shipping it currently sells for, it is a spoof containing such items as “The Greatest One-Liner Guilt Trips Laid on a Jewish Child by his Mother,” “The Largest Matza Ball in History,” and “Famous Jewish Mountain Climbers” (Answer: None—A man could get killed!). I was too young to articulate what satire or parody was, or to situate this work in the canon of Jewish humor  but it was crystal clear to me that this dog-eared book (signed by Mr. Gould, no less!) was a work of utter genius. So many of the mechanics that make funny funny—recurring jokes, inside humor  send-ups, irreverence—were being executed with subject matter that belonged to me, and I slept with this book next to my bed.

Years passed, the book was misplaced, and I recently spotted a copy on my wife’s parents’ bookshelf. This one was signed by the other author, and I took this as a sign that I should immediately steal the book, which I did. In the intervening years, I had become a fan and amateur practitioner of humour (i.e. too shy to talk to girls), read Israel Davidson’s Parody in Jewish Literature (1907) cover to cover, and passed by Allan Gould’s house about a hundred times, wanting to knock on the door, express my appreciation, and have him marvel at my wit and collaborate with me on a series of screenplays that would take us to the Academy Awards, where we would leave a trail of laughter and admiration down the red carpet (he lives on my walk to Shul; I am not a stalker).

I never knocked on that door, and Allan passed away suddenly of a brain aneurysm at 68. In tribute to him, I dedicate my twitter feed (, reproduced below. People sometimes characterize rain at funerals as the heavens crying, but any inclement weather on February 22nd was no doubt the result of the belly-laughs of a thousand angels.

ASKAN [ass-can] (n): Community activist tasked with ensuring that Rabbinical leaders meet annual ban quotas.

GET (n): Divorce document purchased by wife’s parents from husband following dissolution of marriage.

HECHSHER (n): Rabbinic certification that a bottle of spring water is Kosher, Parve, and may be consumed on Passover.

HISHTADLUS (n): Effort, esp. in the context of earning a living. Includes tax fraud, but not post-secondary education. See PARSHAS HAMAN.

KEFIRA (n): Position taken by Orthodox sect other than one's own.

KEZAYIS (n): Unit of measurement ranging in size from a large olive (when consuming Karpas) to a small watermelon (when consuming Matza).

MEKUBAL (n): Kabbalist; Mystic. Capable of foreseeing/influencing the future, yet mysteriously unable to use such gift to self-finance.

MIDRASH (n): Non-literal genre of Biblical exegesis which employs parable and metaphor for homiletic effect; cf. MEDRISH.

MEDRISH (n): Series of miraculous but true tales passed down through an unbroken chain of 2nd grade Rebbis and Parsha sheet illustrators.

PIDYON SHVUYIM (n): The utilization of scarce community resources for the purpose of keeping Orthodox felons on the streets.

PRITZUS (n): Lit. immodesty; One of the primary causes of natural disasters, most cancers, and other assorted misfortune. See also TOEVAH.

REB (n): Orthodox Jewish male above the age of nine.

SHEITEL (n): $3000 strawberry blonde hairpiece employed by Orthodox women to preserve short matted hair for their husbands' sole viewing.

TEHILIM (n): Compilation of Jewish techno and pop lyrics circa 930 BCE.

YESHUA (n): On-demand divine intervention granted in exchange for charitable donation in multiple of 18. See KUPAT HAIR.
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