by Laura Weisskopf Bleill
It’s not everyday that a Jewish celebrity makes an appearance in Chambana.
OK, so it wasn’t Chelsea Clinton’s fiance, not that I would know him if he walked past me on the street even about 400 times.
No, this was even better. On Sunday afternoon, those who attended the Jennifer Weiner event at the Champaign Public Library were treated not only to a wonderful opportunity to meet a talented young author, but had the added bonus of watching a comic in action.
No one billed it as such, but Sunday’s appearance was more comedy club than literary salon. It is clear that Jennifer Weiner falls in line with many generations of funny Jewish women.
Jennifer Weiner has long been a role model for me: A newspaper-reporter-turned-fiction-author who writes about Jewish (and non-Jewish) characters and makes jokes that actually work on paper — and make people laugh. A book about a Jewish grandmother and her granddaughters optioned — and actually made — into a movie.
Jennifer didn’t disappoint an adoring crowd, who probably would have laughed out loud if she had only told jokes about — say — childbirth (not funny, not funny at all people). But what made her presentation particularly hilarious — to me — was how *Jewish* it was.
She told stories about her gay mother meeting her life partner at the JCC (Jewish Community Center, the Jewish equivalent to the YMCA found in many metropolitan areas), then asked the Jews in the audience to explain why that was funny to the non-Jews. She dished about some extended family members’ idiosyncrasies, including one in particular who had a penchant for men with prostheses and how she wondered what it was like when she brought someone home for the holidays.
Only, she was talking about our holidays. Not “yours.” How universal; but also personal in a different way.
And when someone asked her if she had considered doing stand-up, she said left the door open, although she made the poignant observation that it is “safer for women to be funny on paper.” She invoked the names of two Jewish comedians who have been there, done that. And the names Joan Rivers and Sarah Silverman got tossed about, as if there was no connection.
Sure there wasn’t.
I didn’t have the opportunity to wait to talk to Jennifer at the book signing after her comedy club presentation. But if I had, I would have told her that I didn’t really buy her latest protagonist, the scorned wife in “Fly Away Home,” as a Jewish woman and mother.
That’s OK, because that’s really not what the book was all about.
And, I bet she would have made a great joke about it.
Laura Weisskopf Bleill, a co-founder of chambanamoms.com, and she hopes that the next Jewish celebrity to visit Chambana will be a nice Jewish boy who is easy on the eyes too. She writes “Being a Jew in C-U,” a column about being a Jewish suburban girl in a cornfield, on Thursdays. You can reach her at email@example.com.