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March 30, 2005 Media&Society 2005 THE NEW YORK OBSERVER, L.P.
Purim Poseurs

“What’s Purim?” asked Rob Corddry, the baby-headed correspondent of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, early Thursday morning. A mere 12 hours later, Mr. Corddry found himself transplanted from the screen underneath your cable box to a stage of roughly similar proportions underneath an Upper West Side temple performing in a Purim spiel.

The spiel, a re-enactment of the Old Testament story in which Queen Esther heroically saves the Semitic people from certain death at the hands of the evil Haman, was organized by the writer Rob Kutner, another Daily Show staffer.

Mr. Corddry, who describes himself as Jewish “by injection,” had been briefed prior to the affair by his wife Sandy who is, presumably, Jewish by a more traditional method. She made a special point to warn him of the customary booing of Haman, considering that Mr. Corddry is used to the genial applause and self-satisfied laughter from the studio audience of The Daily Show.

The event, a fund-raiser for Hazon, a Jewish environmental organization, was standing room only. The audience, who shelled out $15 for admission, was also generous with its response. The actor who played Haman, Seth Herzog, received one of the biggest laughs of the night during a quick change as he transformed from the evil Haman into a similarly natured Paris Hilton employing little more than a blackout and a pair of break-away pants.

The audience was as wildly costumed as they were easily pleased. Resplendent in a royal blue skirt and matching jacket, Nigel Savage, who runs Hazon, described Purim as a sort of “Jewish Mardi Gras.” While Mr. Savage gave his welcoming speech, Mr. Corddry noticed two audience members dressed as enormous catsup and mustard bottles, “Is there time to hug them?” he wondered aloud.

The show was comprised of sketches based on familiar television programs such as: “Desperate Matriarchs,” “Pimp My Steed” and “The Semitophobic Life.” The funniest sketch of the evening, however, was the parody of Lost called “Farloyrn Gegangen,” penned by Rob Kutner with the assistance of Eddy Portnoy. This sketch, performed entirely in Yiddish, achieved comedic mileage because of, rather than despite the fact, that none of the actors understood a word of what they were saying.

“Who needs a beer?” cried Rabbi Mark Ankcorn, esteemed leader of the congregation, as the show wrapped. Decked out completely in the gear of English football club Arsenal, from his cleats to his Arsenal yarmulke, the young blond rabbi distributed Mike’s Hard Lemonade and He’brews to the well-deserving cast.

Mr. Corddry, when asked if he would return to perform in the spiel again next year, replied, “Oh, yeah, sure,” then paused, “I’m really busy next year though.”

—Raquel Hecker

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This column ran on page 3 in the 4/4/2005 edition of The New York Observer.

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