Written by: Adam “ManKorn” Korenman, CC2K Video Games Editor
In the immortal words of Kyle Broflovski, it’s hard to be a Jew on Christmas. Starting from early November until Spring, I am bombarded with every possible form of media related to this holiday. I was trying to get some shopping done before heading home for Thanksgiving, and the muzak in the store was already playing A Very Beiber Christmas. Gone are the banner days of Adam Sandler and his epic ballads about the Festival of Lights. How am I, as a Member of the Tribe, meant to celebrate the rich heritage that is Chanukah?
With comedian/singer/song writer Rachel Bloom, of course.
Suck It, Christmas is a throwback to the good old days of comedy albums, mixing kitchy sketches with catchy tunes in a funny and raunchy trip through the Jewish holiday. The pace rarely lets up, and the music styles are constantly changing. One minute you’re enjoying a sweet serenade, and the next your dancing to some sweet House riffs.
Opening with the Hair-Metal-esque “Happy Epic Chanukah,” Ms. Bloom’s album sets a very distinct tone. This isn’t a klesmer CD full of joy and togetherness. This is a no-holds-barred brawl, grabbing you by the short ones and screaming at you to make your own damned latkes. In the first track, God fights General Zod while delivering presents to all the Jewish boys and girls of the world, taking time to stop for bathroom breaks. It gets crazier from there.
While listening to Suck It, Christmas, yoI was often reminded of the folksy New Zealand duo Flight of the Conchords. Specifically during the technorific “Judaica,” where Rachel travels the world and discovers the influence of Judaism in various knickknacks. The track pairs well with FotC’s own “Fashion is Danger,” a ballad on the peddlers of fine clothing.
The brief sketches, “Minutes from the Elders of Zion,” call up memories of Mel Brooks. The idea of a bickering group of old nebeshes trying to rule over the known world is quite funny, if often a bit dark. Rachel’s comedy has never been known to shy away from harsher topics, and her style is playing hard and fast during these segments, much to her success.
Of course, the gem of the album is the “Santa Baby” riff called “Hanukka Honey.” While some of the jokes may only hit with Jewish audiences, the jingle is infectious and fun. Check out the clean version below, or the NSFW version on YouTube (you dirty kids, you).
I had the opportunity to pick Ms. Bloom’s brain after listening to the CD, which afforded a good opportunity to geek out. As I am not so selfish–at least not during the holidays–I thought I’d share with you what she said.
Rachel, since graduating in 2009 you’ve created several viral videos, released two albums, been featured on Funny or Die, the Onion, Heeb Magazine and Huffington Post, and landed a job on Robot Chicken. Be honest, are you a robot?
No I mean yes I mean I do not understand the question 01010101 404malfunction
“Suck it, Christmas”…an aggressive approach, I must say. How did the album come about?
I was talking to my friend Rebekka Johnson who is a member of the awesome comedy group “The Apple Sisters.” She was talking about how they’re doing an album of comedy Christmas songs (released December 2nd), and it occurred to me that no one has done an album of comedy Chanukah songs since the soundtrack to “Eight Crazy Nights.” So, I combined forces with Jack Dolgen (my frequent collaborator) and Dan Gregor (my boyfriend and a writer for “How I Met Your Mother”). We’re all full-blown Jews but come from somewhat different religious backgrounds, so it was truly a meeting of the minds.
The title was a point of contention for a long time. We tried just straightforward titles (“Happy Epic Chanukah”) and punny titles (Gimmel Shelter), but, at the end of the day, we wanted a title to let people know this wouldn’t be a cutesy album. Anyone who is offended by the title should listen to the album and they’ll realize the songs are pretty self-deprecating. It could also be called, “Suck It, Chanukah!”
In “Happy Epic Hanukah,” you paint the picture of God battling General Zod from Superman. Aside from the similar sounding names, why the matchup?
We were just trying to think of the craziest, most epic thing ever. Dan had the Zod idea from picturing Zod inside the spinning Phantom Zone and realizing how much it looked like a Dreidle, so then we put in the battle with God from there.
Which came first for you: Comedy or Music?
I started out as a musical theater kid, so I guess comedy came first, but in the package of the 1940’s schtick you hear when listening to musicals from the golden age.
Who are your influences for comedy and music?
The first comedian I ever loved was George Carlin. I saw him perform live twice (once in high school, once in college) and I read all his books.
My biggest influence on my work/voice is probably Mel Brooks. When I saw the “Springtime for Hitler” scene in The Producers, it was the first time I realized musical theater could also have hard jokes.
I’d be remiss not to mention “F* Me, Ray Bradbury.” What led to such a strong attraction with one of our Nation’s treasures?
I was reading a lot of Ray Bradbury the summer after I went through a bad breakup, and the fact his books use sci-fi/fantasy settings to explore human emotion made me think, “This is my ideal boyfriend. Someone who is intelligent and thinks about high-concept things but isn’t a sociopathic robot like everyone else I’ve loved.”
If any of your songs were to be covered by a celebrity, which song and which celebrity?
Liza Minnelli doing “I Steal Pets.”
Any words of wisdom for the up-and-coming comedians out there?
Don’t put anything on the Internet until you are 100% confident it’s funny. I know it’s tempting to start doing Internet stuff right away, but live comedy is the best way to cut your teeth and workshop your voice. Stand up, sketch, even having a table read of your spec script – live, human laughter is how you’ll learn.
Check out Rachel Bloom and friends in Suck It, Christmas, now available on Amazon and iTunes!
And check out Rachel Bloom’s album release party tonight at Nerdmelt Theater! Head here for tickets.