Arts & Culture

The Most Jewish Episodes Of Julie Klausner’s How Was Your Week Podcast

We talk to Julie about the most Jewish episodes of her wonderful weekly podcast. Read More

By / November 28, 2011
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At the live How Was Your Week a month or so ago, the incomparable Jackée asked Julie Klausner, “why do you always have to make something Jewish out something?“ Julie responded, “It’s sort of my thing.” It is definitely her thing.

While WTF is often an intense look at the Jewish comedian archetype and what it means to comedians as individuals, HWYW is a look at Jews in their natural habitat—talking over a nice spread. A dream WTF guest is someone like Albert Brooks; a dream HWYW guest is your Bubbe (or more specifically, my Bubbe, who is a fan of the podcast).

HWYW started with a tweet from Patton Oswalt, “when is Julie Klausner going to have a podcast,” providing the necessary kick in the ass to get the wheels in motion. When I spoke to Julie recently, she responded, “When I started doing it, I realized that I like doing this podcast more than I like doing absolutely everything. This is by far the most natural extension of who I am…I’m so glad that he embarrassed me publically over a year ago.” So am I. I had the pleasure of speaking to Julie about HWYW’s Ten Most Jewish Episodes:

Episode 1: Julie’s Parents

Like a good Jewish child, Julie doesn’t go one episode without having her parents on. On one hand it is apparent that Julie adores her folks and on the other she thinks their opinions on movies is a bit silly. It is a very Jewish trait to have parents who were once hip to the high arts slowly grow to just love being able to go the movie theater for a nice evening.

Julie said: “That was my first episode and I was still trying to figure out what I wanted the show to be. My intention was to have the first act be a topic and the second act be a conversation with the guest about how their actual week went, which I found out doesn’t always work because sometimes they’d have a boring week. I thought it would be interesting to talk to my parents about the Oscar nominations because they see all of those movies every year. They loved King Speech and I HATED it. I was infuriated that you can have a movie set in WWII without acknowledging the Holocaust. Which I think about all the time. I think every movie should acknowledge the Holocaust. Definitely Jack & Jill. “

Episode 4: Ronna & Beverly

Ronna & Beverly are actresses Jessica Chaffin and Jamie Denbo’s eerily accurate fifty-something Boston-area Jewish mother characters. To push these super Jewish guests to their absolute Jewiest, Julie has the duo rank their five favorite Holocaust movies. Only on HWYW (or Ronna & Beverly’s wonderful podcast) would you get a Jewish mother shouting about wanting to feed the titular boy with striped pajamas hot soup, hot bread, and a hot candy “bahr.”

Julie said: “Yes! I love talking to them in character because you don’t really need to prepare anything. They’re going to steam roll you like my family traditionally does at meals. It’s really comfortable because you’re not going to finish a sentence and you’re going to be suffocated by warmth and laughter and all the other good things that come along with a good Rosh Hashanah meal.”

Episode 5: Joan Rivers

This was a breakthrough episode in many ways. Joan Rivers represented her first “celebrity” guest but that didn’t mean she was going to approach her any differently. She plays “Fuck, Marry, Kill” with her; she asks about how Joan tricked Sir Laurence Olivier and Jack Lemon into attending a dinner party. Julie described their relationship to me as, “she’s been like a Jewish Auntie,” and you can hear it in the interview. The two are noticeably close and share a distinct sensibility.

Julie said: “The doorman will still call her Mrs. Rosenberg. It gives me chills to think of that. You know? That is who she really is. And I can’t say a single bad thing about her. I just adore her. She has so much heart and she’s so brilliant. I’m lucky to be alive at the same time she is, we all are.”

Episode 12: Jackée

Jackée is very not Jewish. She is maybe the least Jewish person every mentioned on this website. So in contrast Julie seems even more Jewish, not unlike Leon’s effect on Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm. Jackée even with the limitations of audio is larger than life and Julie has an endearing adoration towards her. There is some discussion of her long and varied career but mostly it’s Jackée discussing sex with Julie egging her on. You’re not going to see an interview like this anywhere else in the Podiverse—the Nerdist isn’t going to have Jackée on anytime soon to discuss Cylons and wormholes.

Julie said: “Ugh! God. When she showed up it was a relief because she was so completely Jackée. She was like (in her best Jackie impression), “Oooo you’re right next door to Vivien Westwood. You’re going to get me in trouble.” And then she was like, “I got a coconut cake at the bakery, it’s scaaaaandelous.” She said “scaaaandelous” so many times it was wonderful. She really brightens your day; she walks into a room and you’re like “Oh my god, I’m having fun.” It’s an excellent quality.

Episode 15: Ira Glass & Anaheed Alani

Better than any other podcaster, Julie finds uncommon podcast guests (i.e. Jackée, Sally Kellerman) or interviews the more common guest in a way they never have been before. Having Ira play the newlywed game with his wife Anaheed, revealed more about what he’s actually like than any other interview he’s done. Fueled by canned champagne, this is an incredibly loose conversation with a typical non-loose radio personality. Also, it offered a window into the Glass/Alani marriage, where it seems like, regardless of her not being Jewish, there are hints of the quiet Jewish husband with a powerhouse wife stereotype.

Julie said: “Yes! Yes. People appreciated getting to see him in a different light. Girls who have crushes on guys that are Ira’s type, that are, for lack of a better term, nerdy and attractive in that particular way, sent me notes saying it was really nice to know he wasn’t married to a bimbo. That he’s not married to like Ottavia Bourdain [Anthony Bourdain’s wife], whom I’m obsessed with on Twitter. I got e-mails from women saying thank you for showing us that you can be a cool smart guy and could be married to a cool smart woman.”

Episode 27: David Rakoff

This became a surprisingly moving episode for me. I listened to it on the subway the morning of the 10th anniversary of 9/11, with the city on high alert for a terrorist attack. I was sure I was going to meet my maker, sitting on a very uncomfortable seat. Then somewhere in the midst of their discussion of desserts and how awful Rent is, Julie asked David about what he referred to as “defensive pessimism.” As Julie acknowledged this incessant need to mentally prepare for the worst was an incredibly Jewish trait, I started to feel a bit more at ease. In that moment we were just three Jews dealing with our anxieties.

Julie said: “Oh my god. I love David Rakoff. If we were all born 100 years ago, he’d be like the Rabbi of the village in like Anatevka. I was really glad to have the opportunity to talk about food with him because I feel like he has a very perceptive grasp on food and Judaism and Jewishness. Even though, his is a Canadian Jewishness, which is a little bit more stoic and measured and humbled as far as it concerns broadcasting your feelings. That said it’s a joy discussing cake vs. pie and which is the most goyisha type of cake with him.”

Episode 30: Susie Essman, Gabe Delahaye

It’s Rosh Hashanah over at the How Was Your Week Headquarters and Julie spends the first two minutes of this episode railing against the fashions of her own Synagogue: “Step it up Temple Israel.” In honor of the New Year, Julie offers a rare double-Jew episode.

Julie said: “Susie is a great example of what Jewish women are like. I love that she has a natural curl to her hair still. Her personal story is also really interesting, which I think comes along with the Jewishness of having a story along with who you are. It has a conversation; it’s not a removed experience. And she’s incredibly warm and INCREDIBLY good looking and hot and I wish I had her body. Gabe is a Jew with relatives in France, which I think is interesting. French people and Jews, we’ve got some issues. I always felt closer to the Italians, at least as far as carbohydrates are concerned. Whenever I meet straight guys that listen to my podcast, they generally tell me they like the Gabe interview, which is so funny. There is always a balance of well here is a straight guy who has a really funny point of view too—it’s not just the million wonderful gay men I know and love. It’s hard not to have all gay men guests.”

Episode 31: Sandra Bernhard

As can be seen in the bar graph below a large portion of Julie’s guests are strong women, a large portion are Jewish, and a significant portion are Gay; Sandra Bernhard is the only one who is all three. Within the interview’s first few minutes, the conversation drifts from the high holidays to Israel-Palestine to a queen singing “Don’t Want No Short Dick Man.” The end is capitol “J” Jewish, as the two agree that guitars, ponytails, and ethnic yarmulkes have no place in temple. Together they sing “Donna Donna,” which Julie not so lovingly describes as, “the score of me sympathizing with Hitler.

Julie said: “Sandra Bernhard is so spiritual and her Jewishness is such a strong part of her identity. And I love talking about her kugal recipe. Why don’t people like raisins!? Raisins are terrific. Raisins get a bad rap. They’re not chocolate chips, so I know they can be disappointing if you’re eating a cookie but what’s the problem with biting into a kugal and getting a nice raisin in your mouth? I don’t think that’s the worst thing but apparently people feel really strongly about that. Look I’m not here to get people on board with raisins.”


Episode 34: Sarah Silverman

Speaking of kugel, that is how Julie describes the density and texture of her and Sarah’s boobs. They actually go back and forth explaining the nature of Jewish women’s bodies, comparing it to many Jewish foods including chow fun and (of course?) babka.

Julie said: “It was funny, I was watching the Larry Sanders box set at the time and blazing through all of them. She was like nobody anyone had seen before around that time. You’re like, ‘Who the fuck is that?’ And of course she was in everything because you couldn’t stop talking about her. To this day, she is so original and so prolific and so smart and she really is stunningly beautiful and incredibly sexy.”

Episode 38: Gil Ozeri

Julie had warned me ahead of time that this was going to be “the most Jewish ever segment” and it did not disappoint. A debate over the implicit anti-Semitism in Inglorious Basterds is not surprisingly a fantastic jumping off point for ten straight minutes of Jew talk. They touch on the nature of Jewish masculinity and passivism, and the shallowness of how Jewish rage is portrayed. For kicks they also address why they think Israelis are so curt. It’s really the most Jewish ever segment of How Was Your Week.

Julie said: “He and I met in Paul Scheer’s Real Real World Character Improv Class and I find him delicious. Curtis Gwinn told me that Gil had a strong opinion about Inglorious Basterds, a film I really loved, so I thought it would be fun to talk to him. He said that Gil had called it anti-Semitic, and I sort of couldn’t believe it, so we met up in my hotel room and talked about it. Then we got a prostitute and murdered her. We did not! But we tried.”