Sardonic Jewish humor magazine’s collection brings
to life recognizable self-deprecating tales of youthful indiscretions
Drugs & Gefilte Fish” contributor Andy Borowitz
Contributors to the newly published anthology, “Sex, Drugs & Gefilte Fish: The Heeb Storytelling Collection,” a compilation of stories told at live events sponsored by humor
magazine Heeb in recent years, made their tales come alive at a reading
and signing promoting the book on the Upper East Side October 27.
The ubiquitous humorist Andy Borowitz dropped the most extra material
into the proceedings, actually not even bothering with his piece from
the book about the culture clash of his creating the sitcom “Fresh
Prince of Bel Air,” but rather riffing on his youth growing up in very
non-Jewish Shaker Heights, Ohio.
Borowitz has a Letterman-like sardonic command of an audience, as he
delved into a list of potential first sentences for a novel he’s working
on, inviting them to be his focus group, and asking rhetorically, “you
guys are big book buyers aren’t you? Or at least you’re people who come
to the bookstore, read books, and leave without buying them. Either way,
you come into contact with books.”
From there he launched into the list, a few of which were
grammatically convoluted versions of “they were the best of the times,
they were the worst of times,” along with this gem, “We were a ragtag
team at best, with just a map of a prison and a rusty shovel, but we
were bound together by a common goal -- to free O.J. Simpson!” Of this
he added, “it gets the reader right on your side, right off the bat.”
Stand-up comedian Ophira Eisenberg (see
blog item, 9/29/09) made her story come alive, with
her animated mannerisms, benefiting from the utter oddness of a
one-night stand with a guy who filled his bedroom with Garfield dolls.
New Yorker writer and novelist Ben Greenman presented a conceptual
method of telling his story, making Bigfoot his protagonist, a lovelorn
30-something single guy, with slides behind him of Bigfoot -- except
they were all the same slide and Greenberg had little comments of what
mood or event he imagined was happening when each “picture” was taken.
Oh yeah, and there actually is a book behind all this. “Sex, Drugs &
Gefilte Fish” contains far more than just these three contributors -- in
all, it contains 48 pieces, grouped into categories such as sex, drugs,
work, youth, family and “body & soul.” Not every single piece may
resonate as laugh-out-loud but they are all heartfelt and well-told.
A few of the best come in the “Youth” portion of the anthology,
namely Joshua Neuman’s “We Want Bo Derek,” a recognizable tale of being
at the age where you first hear older kids talking about sex, or at
least sex appeal. Also, Rebecca Addelman gives readers the other side --
being manipulated as a young woman visiting Israel for the first time --
in “Gershon.” And Joey Garfield, in “The Mossad Bought Me Nachos and a
Sprite,” tells a tale of simply being young and stupid, period.
Not to go on and on, but a few other great moments about fumblings
with drugs and sex come in Liz Feldman’s “Grandma Betty,” where she
tells of smoking pot with her dying grandmother -- with the excuse that
it will alleviate her suffering; D.C. Benny, in “Let It Breathe,” talks
about trying to score pot on the down low for his uncle-in-law; and Eric
Weingrad’s “In A Different Light,” where he becomes enamored of his
Hebrew school teacher after accidentally catching her naked during a
kids’ sleepover at her house.
Overall, told in person or if you buy the anthology, the majority of
the tales, to the credit of Heeb Magazine arts editor Shan Liebman who
edited the book, definitely entertain in content, tone and their
elements of surprise.