Tzimished, Fachottered, and Tzebulbet Am I

Overweight Sensation: The Life and Comedy of Allan Sherman, by Mark Cohen – I’m a fan of Sherman’s song parodies, but I can’t say I really knew that much about his life, aside from bits and pieces I picked up from the Internet. The impression I get is that he was somewhat of a hedonist, overindulging in food, drink, smoking, and sex. Yeah, despite the prudish attitude he shows in some of his songs, he apparently had a lot of affairs and participated in orgies. It appears that he also had a somewhat disturbing tendency to fetishize childhood. The book mentions both his good and bad points, how he was a comic genius who had a way with words and a knack for entertaining, yet could also be self-destructive and full of himself. Sherman could apparently write his parodies very quickly, working well under pressure. He was good at schmoozing, but bad with money, and had a lot of ups and downs in terms of his fame and finances. He was a big star in his day, but is now mostly just remembered for “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh!” Coming from a childhood in which he moved around a lot, born to parents who were reticent about their Jewishness, he took comfort in his extended family and embraced American Jewish culture, helping to bring it into the mainstream. His humor is compared to that of other Jewish comedians whose careers started around the same time, like Mel Brooks, Lenny Bruce, and Woody Allen. Having died of a heart attack in 1973, shortly before his forty-ninth birthday, I guess you could say he lived fast and died young. It’s a shame that the funniest people often seem to be depressed, but I think humor is often a way of dealing with stress and uncertainty.

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