Saturday, November 22, 2014
Walking carefully between the line of offensive and funny, Mendy Pellin has begun trying to show the world that an observant culture is “natural fodder for funny.” In a period he titles, “Hasidic Spring”, Pellin has noticed that the youths of the Hasid culture have begun to embrace social media, like Facebook and Twitter.
One of his most famous video productions is “Talk Yiddish to Me,” a parody of Jason Derulo’s “Talk Dirty.” In the Yiddish version, Mendy Pellin is dressed fully in Hasidic garb and has an enormous gold chain while surrounded by sidekicks. In lieu of the flashy cars often visible in rap videos, Pellin used a minivan. Rather than rapping about “booty,” he raps about “bubbe” (Grandma).
Mendy Pellin is under a particular burden. Religious comics have unique pressures that most comedians don’t have to deal with. It can be difficult to walk the line of being funny, and completely offending an entire culture, especially when they are his own culture. He was raised Hasidic in Brooklyn, studying Hebrew and Yiddish until he was 10, when he finally learned English. His hero Jewish comics are Jerry Seinfield and Jackie Mason.
Mendy Pellin is the co-founder of Jewbellish, his name for using comedy to “embellish” the image of observant Jews. He aims to bring the Old World in to the modern. In 2008, he appeared on Jay Leno’s “Tonight Show.”
Mendy Pellin’s partner, Jeff Ruddes, is the founder of J Brand, a fashion company known for its high-end super skinny tight jeans. He believes that Pellin can ultimately break the barriers that keep Hasidism “uncool.” Together, Pellin and Ruddes are figuring out ways of making the garb cooler. One idea they are toying with is a half yarmulke, which requires the wearer buy 2 sides and zip them together. Pellin feels it plays well on Jewish affinity for “half offs.”
However, not everyone laughs about Pellin and his humor. Rabbi David Niederman, leader of the Williamsburg Satmar Hasidic sect, feels that, while he means well, Mendy Pellin is mostly offensive. Niederman says that praying and swaying is a part of his religion, tradition, and he feels as if he is being mocked. However, he does give the comedian credit for trying to bridge the observant and secular worlds. And according to Modi Rosenfield, a New York Comedian, Orthodox Jewish comics are few and far between. He says that there are lots of Jewish comedians, but “only a few religious comedians.” It can be difficult to work in both the Jewish and secular worlds.
Currently, Mendy Pellin is working on developing his Hasidic parodies of music and TV. He is working on a Jewish comedy news program. He says that he “loves taking a stereotype, embellishing it and then breaking it. There is a certain percentage of people who can’t take a joke. Here I am making fun of the stereotype, rather than feeding into it.”
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