Arts & Culture

Network Jews: Max Blum from Happy Endings

Why this anti-Schmidt is better than Joey, even if he does hibernate in the winter Read More

By / July 17, 2012
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If you’re the type of person who likes to compare all your friend-filled sitcoms to Friends, you might want to dismiss Max Blum (Adam Pally) as a classic Joey. The writers of Happy Endings are on to you and have already made that joke, calling him fat Joey. But he’s also gay Joey, funny Joey, and most importantly, Jewish Joey—he’s also just plain better than Joey. Yes the Happy Endings pilot was about as bad as a Jennifer Aniston rom-com (it even starts with a runaway bride—yep, just like Friends), but, if you stuck around, you’d know that the show is truly amahzing.

Happy Endings is a six character ensemble comedy (yep, just like Friends) with four great characters (in addition to Pally, Eliza Coupe and Damon Wayans Jr. play a hilariously eccentric couple and Casey Wilson—who was dismissed from SNL after one season—plays an aggressively single abbreviator) and two not-as-good characters (the runaway bride Elisha Cuthbert and her former fiancé Zachary Knighton haven’t completely found their groove just yet). In a show like this there’s always the schlubby, less successful, but ultimately more entertaining character: that’s Max. He’s done everything from buying a limo and driving around Chicago as an unlicensed tour guide to competing with Coupe’s character Jane to see who would survive longer in the event of a zombie apocalypse. In a recent episode we also learned that Max hibernates for the winter, just like a bear: he won’t shave, he won’t shower, he won’t even speak. You know, normal things.

Since we started with the Friends comparison, we might as well continue with a New Girl one: The mostly jobless, chubby Max is the anti-Schmidt. Instead of wearing trendy running shorts, Max will stage an intervention to get you to stop wearing your deep v-neck. Instead of worrying about his physique, Max will get a tattoo of a taco to ensure free tacos for life. As much as I love Schmidt for his insanity, I’d love making fun of him even more with a friend like Max. Despite that, or perhaps because of that, Emily Nussbaum (who is basically Jewcy’s TV spirit guide) said she would want to be him if she could be any character on TV. (Well, after Leslie Knope from Parks and Recreation, but who doesn’t want to be Amy Poehler?).

No profile of a good Jewish boy would be complete without mentioning his mother, and we do get to meet Max’s parents on their annual visit to Chicago in the first season. The episode, called Mein Coming Out, focuses on Max’s hesitation to come out to his parents. His sexuality is a running joke on the show: the other characters often mock his total lack of “gayness,” asking him if he’s sure he’s gay after a particularly bro-y comment or action (there are many). This conveniently lets the show’s writers remind the audience that not only do they have a black character (and an interracial couple!), but they have a gay Jewish one too. While I’m often tempted to be slightly offended by their not-so-subtle reference to popular stereotypes, somehow, it seems to work. Their poking fun at Max’s sexuality just demonstrates how it is a footnote in his personality, hardly the most obvious (or interesting) thing about him.

Back to the episode—it is, of course, full of all the Yiddishisms a person could want: You got punim, shiksa, even pish. Wilson’s character, Penny, who in the past had posed as Max’s girlfriend, can’t help him out because she has a date. (Completely unrelated to Max, save an excellent end-of-the-episode punch line, Penny date is named Douglas Hitler.) In a state of desperation, Max asks Jane to help him out, later explaining, “My mom is Jewish, if I don’t find someone soon, she’s going to start setting me up with one of her friend’s single daughters … Try going on a six-hour architectural tour with Miriam Schechter’s niece, Chuchel.” (For the record, we’ve never met anyone named “Chuchel,” though we’re rather fond of the name Miriam.) After a series of events, he does ultimately come out to his parents, and on cue his mother tries to set him up with the son of one of her friends.

Sadly the excellent Krav Maga episode (in which Penny develops an alter ego, “Shira Abromovitz”) does not feature any martial arts moves by Max, but does feature a classic Happy Endings-style explanation of Yoni that I feel like sharing: Hebrew for god’s gift, in Sanskrit, means genitals. The show is very invested in this name-dropping brand of Judaism, and Max is an excellent vehicle for sharing them. It’s difficult not to notice the three-letter Hebrew tattoo on Pally’s chest spelling out “Asher,” (something he’s chalked up to as a childhood mistake) and the show runs with it. In response to the earlier-mentioned taco tattoo, Jane, demonstrating her Jewish wisdom, proclaims “Wow, you really don’t want to be buried in a Jewish cemetery” (Urban legend!). At the end of the episode in which he buys the limo, Max presents his rent money with a story about selling his beanie babies and driving Dr. and Mrs. Rosenberg back and forth to shul in time for havdala (“by the way, Jews are actually excellent tippers”).

If that’s not enough to convince you of Max’s glory, I’ll just leave you with this Season 2-ending performance by Mandonna:

Previously on Network Jews:

Seth Cohen, The O.C.’s loveable dork

Hesh Rabkin, Jewish Loan Shark on The Sopranos

Eli Gold, The Good Wife’s Political Operator

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