From the Borscht Belt to Seinfeld at the Society of Illustrators

Groucho, Harpo and Chico, by Drew Friedman

There are some lovely art shows in New York this season: Gauguin at MoMA, Bill Cunningham’s Facades at the New-York Historical Society, and the final Whitney Biennial before the museum makes like a New Jersey woman searching for pumps and heads to the Meatpacking District. But as far as we can tell, only one art show exhibits portraits of Joan Rivers and Professor Irwin Corey, and that is Drew Friedman’s Old Jewish Comedians, at the Society of Illustrators. The exhibition draws from Friedman’s mind-blowing Old Jewish Comedians book trilogy, published as part of Fantagraphics’s Blab! series—read an interview with Friedman about his old Jews from The Comics Journal, conducted a few years back by Lowbrow editor Jay Ruttenberg. Alongside Friedman’s original artwork for the books, visitors to the Society of Illustrators can view the artist’s personal collection of ephemera related to the Hebraic funnymen. On second thought, who cares about that hack Gauguin? This is the art show to end all art shows!

The Old Jewish Comedians exhibition is on display until May 3. The best time to drop by, however, is Thursday, April 24, at 7pm, when the Society of Illustrators hosts a related panel, “From the Borscht Belt to Seinfeld: The Evolution of Jewish American Comedy.” Panelists include Friedman himself plus Edward Portnoy (a Yiddish language and literature and specialist, as mandated by his surname); comic actor Larry Storch (F Troop); and sitcom writers Bill Persky (That Girl) and Tom Leopold (Seinfeld). Friedman and Storch will sign copies of Friedman’s Old Jewish Comedians books. Order tickets at societyillustrators.org.

Things Not to Say to the Man I Just Started Dating*

“You probably don’t recognize me with pants on.”

“Did you get all the pictures of everything I ingested today?”

“What do you mean you don’t like being tickled?”

“Want anything from the coffee shop across the street? I’m heading over there to defecate.”

“Let’s role-play True Detective during sex. I’ll mumble a bunch of things and you can ignore them.”

“I’m in the process of lasering all the hair off my body.”

“Do you think your apartment is large enough for us to raise a child?”

“Can we address quiffing real quick?”

“So, should I count you in for all holiday dinners?”

[Post sex] “Way to go, champ.” [Motions for a high-five.] “Up top!” (more…)

Taking Stock

Just what is going on at Lowbrow Reader HQ? Good question! Our book anthology, The Lowbrow Reader Reader, was published by Drag City back in 2012. Sorry to report, we won neither the Pulitzer Prize nor National Book Award—shame on you voting committees, what with your petty unwillingness to accept bribe money! But honestly, only a complete nudnik wouldn’t dig this book. Just check out what the Chicago Tribune, Entertainment Weekly, and the New York Times had to say on the matter.

Still don’t believe us? Ah, hell—just read the book and see for yourself!

And what of the eight issues that preceded The Lowbrow Reader Reader? Most issues sold out long ago, but you can still purchase copies of Lowbrow Reader #1, #3, and #5, via our ordering page.

Yet in the immortal words of Lowbrow friend and contributor Gilbert Rogin, What happens next? Will the heretofore underwhelming 2014 turn itself around and prove the year of further Lowbrow Reader print activities? Will there be a Lowbrow Reader #9? Watch this space! In the meantime, do yourself a favor and purchase a Lowbrow Reader book or back issue today!

Hoodie Styles

West Coast CEO Addressing Shareholders

Menacing Drifter

Undercover Policeman in a Cop Show, Purchasing Drugs

Suburban Dad on the Weekend, Clinging to Long Lost Youth

Fourth Grader, Clinging to Third Grade

Young Brooklynite on a Big Date

Off-Duty Professional Athlete, at Rest by Mammoth TV Set

High-Fiving Twentysomething in Smart Phone Commercial

Standup Comedian, On or Off Stage

Celebrity Pretending to Hide from Paparazzi

Paparazzo Pretending to Hide from Celebrities

Barracuda in the Attic: Kipp Friedman Q&A

My favorite bookstore in the Chicago area was always Bookman’s Alley, a coiling space tucked into an Evanston alley, in the shadow of Northwestern University. It resembled a sleepy intellectual’s living room—the Strand, as if run by WASPs. For years, the store seemed on the brink of closing (and now appears to be shuttered) and whenever I was in town to visit my parents I would stop in, sniffing out bargains. At some point, for reasons unknown, I fell into a routine of buying books by Bruce Jay Friedman while in Bookman’s Alley. This can happen—you buy your Randy Newman LPs at this record shop, David Bowie albums at that one—and over time, I suspect the proprietor took note.

“You know, Bruce Jay Friedman’s son came to the store for an event for his own book,” he told me.

“Ah, yes—Drew Friedman,” I said, speaking of the illustrator. “His work is mind-blowing. Howard Stern claims he is better than Picasso.”

“No,” the store owner said, “Josh Alan Friedman, the writer and musician. He’s great.” Indeed, I had the wrong Friedman. (more…)

Shelley Berman Poetry: Now on CD!

In Lowbrow Reader #7, we proudly published “Curb,” a poem by the veteran comedian, actor, and writer Shelley Berman that details his work portraying Nat David on house favorite Curb Your Enthusiasm. “Curb” reappeared in our book anthology The Lowbrow Reader Reader alongside a second Berman poem, “The Comedian Jim MacGeorge.” Both works were accompanied by lovely illustrations by Mike Reddy.

Shelley Berman has a trail of albums in his wake, including the classic 1959 LP Inside Shelley Berman—the first non-musical recording to win a Grammy Award. Now, the CD-equipped can enjoy Berman’s poetry, too: The new audiobook To Laughter with Questions: Poetry by Shelley Berman features the writer reciting “Curb,” “The Comedian Jim MacGeorge,” and more. The limited-edition, two-CD set comes signed by the poet himself. Order one for yourself, one for your illicit lover, and one for your cuckolded spouse. Check it out at shelleyberman.com!

The Diary of Frank Anne

June 12, 1942

I hope I will be able to confide everything to you, Dear Diary, as I have never been able to confide in anyone, with the exception of Hans, Horst, Franz, Gerhardt, Ludwig, Rolf, and Johan.

June 20, 1942

Writing in a diary is a really strange experience for someone like me. Not only because I’ve never written anything before, but also because it seems to me that later on, neither I nor anyone else will be interested in the musings of a 28-year-old chorus boy.

July 5, 1942

As we were taking a stroll around the neighborhood square, Father began to talk about my going into hiding. I asked him why on earth I would want to.

“Well, Frank,” he replied, “for more than a year, we’ve been bringing your clothes, food and furniture to the Nudelklangs. Gott in Himmel you should get hauled off to one of those camps and have to sleep ten men to a wooden bed in a barrack holding 900 others and be made to line up naked in front of one another for body cavity inspections of all kinds.” (more…)

Mayor Bill de Blasio: The First Eight Days

Honoring his campaign promise, the mayor banishes carriage horses from Central Park. All animals are immediately retired and removed from the city to live out their remaining years in green pastures upstate. Sadly, the drivers have to be euthanized. This development further endears the mayor to animal rights activists.

In a black eye for the stop-and-frisk law, the mayor’s son, Dante, is randomly stopped by police while walking near Gracie Mansion. He is searched in all relevant areas: backpack, pockets, Afro. Across the city, New Yorkers are disappointed and appalled after a police report confirms that Dante was found without a trace of marijuana on his person.

Bowing to his Brooklyn constituency, Mayor de Blasio announces plans to convert the West Side Highway into a bike lane. For some reason, biking advocates still seem incredibly angry.

Mayor de Blasio appoints Bill Thompson, his former rival in the Democratic primary, as Counselor to Mayor. Although everybody agrees that he is the most qualified and competent man for the job, and he is the sole candidate, Thompson somehow manages to come in second place.

In a magazine interview, the mayor reveals that he may be the son of Frank Sinatra.

After a review of the Bloomberg administration’s application process for massive real estate developments finds it to mirror the scrutiny a person goes through in order to obtain a Twitter account, Mayor de Blasio vows to make some slight changes. Hysterical business leaders threaten to take their commercial interests elsewhere, such as New Jersey, giving everybody in the city a well-deserved chuckle.

Controversy engulfs the administration when it is revealed that, since his election, Mayor de Blasio has skipped several shifts working the register at the Park Slope Food Coop. The mayor promises to make up shifts, but finds his membership in the Coop revoked nonetheless.

Mayor de Blasio belatedly apologizes to Michael Bloomberg for offending him with racist television commercials.

Proposals for New Execution Methods in Texas

Texas is running out of execution drugs. But don’t fear! Here are some proposals for new ways the state can kill their prisoners….

-Inform prisoner that it is taco night on death row. Let prisoner get all excited, since tacos are his favorite. Serve prisoner delicious tacos, but in place of usual hot sauce, give him extra, extra, extra spicy hot sauce. When prisoner gulps down his water and desperately asks for a new drink, hand him a cup of ice-cold gasoline. In his next taco, hide a lit match.

-Have the warden dress up as a prisoner who is impersonating the warden. The warden tells a prisoner in need of execution that it is “escape time.” Warden leads prisoner to the warden’s office, which the prisoner thinks has been taken over by other escaping inmates. When prisoner arrives at warden’s office, he is met by a firing squad.

-Tell prisoner that there is new evidence in his case and he is being set free. Have a big ceremony attended by all of his family and friends. Lead prisoner to the jail gate and give him his old belongings. Just as he is about to get his first taste of freedom, tell him, “Oh, wait—we screwed up. You have to go back to death row, but this time in a much less comfortable cell.” As prisoner flops about on the ground from a heart attack, refuse him any help.

-Lead prisoner to execution chamber. Make a big stink about injecting him with “death poison” even though, unbeknownst to him, it is merely his annual flu shot. When serum reaches his veins, turn lights on and off several times, really fast. Have everybody rapidly exit room with the exception of one guard, who is dressed as the Angel of Death. Slowly, this “Grim Reaper” leads prisoner back to his cell through a pitch black prison. The next morning, the prisoner wakes to find his fellow inmates dressed not in their prison uniforms, but as ghosts. Continue this ruse until prisoner dies of natural causes.

“What You Looking At?” A Response

A cherished query of bullies across the globe, the age-old aphorism “What you looking at?” proves as challenging to answer as it is provocative to ask. What follows are a few responses that have been professionally tested on gritty urban streets over a number of years. Please note that although our rebuttals may have tested well in circumventing beatings, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING IS GUARANTEED. Street bullies are like snowflakes: Each one is a unique individual. While they may ask the same question, they’re not necessarily all looking for the same response.

Answer #1

“Nothing.”
(also: “Nothing, man.”)

Human instinct will naturally (more…)