September 11: Look What My Husband Got Me For His Birthday

Comedian and Philadelphia Jewish Voice contributor Steve Hofstetter, whose birthday is today, decided to use the day for something serious. He made a video discouraging his 8 million social media people from birthday wishes, instead asking for donations to a cancer org that helped his wife during a difficult time.

King Davids of Comedy in NYC

Tired of Chinese food and a movie on Christmas Eve? Try some of the top Jewish comics in the business as the King Davids of Comedy take the stage. Our mensches present their hilarious schtick as the great tradition of Jewish comedians continues at the brand new Laughing Devil Comedy Club. Shows are hosted by Philadelphia Jewish Voice writer Steve Hofstetter from the Late Late Show and lineup is TBA – though past guests have included Jeff Garlin, Sarah Silverman, and more.

More after the jump.

Shows:

Click on desired showtime and use Promo Code: PJVOICE

One-third of ticket price will be donated to support the Philadelphia Jewish Voice if you use the Promo Code: PJVOICE .

Don’t Be Embarrassed to Meet Online

— by Steve Hofstetter

It’s not embarrassing to meet a girl online. It’s embarrassing to meet a girl at a bar. Imagine knowing the only reason you have a girlfriend is because you met her when she was drunk and now she feels trapped. Tell that story to your 8-year-old son one day.

“How did you and mommy meet?”

“Well son, it was dollar shot night. Your mother looked so beautiful as the neon “Pabst Blue Ribbon” sign hit her while she was dancing on the bar. I got her to come down with a few shots of Jack Daniels, we went back to her place, one thing led to another, and that’s why your name is Jack.”

More after the jump.
“Where do babies come from?”

“Spring break.”

A friend of mine said that dating on-line stopped being lame the first time a guy scored, because a guy can justify anything if it leads to women. But despite that and a study that says 17% of all couples meet online, there’s still a stigma attached to internet love. That same study only lists “work/school” and “friend or family member” as greater hook up potential. And many of the people who said one of those two were probably lying and really met online.

Whenever I hear a non-specific origin story about a couple, I assume they’re hiding an online love affair. Couples that meet through a friend will almost always volunteer the friend’s name. Couples that say “oh, friend of a friend” – well that friend’s name is probably Mark Zuckerberg.

I’m not just defending online dating because I met my wife on JDate — I had been using the internet to meet women since I was 15. As a high school kid tired of being ignored, I turned to Compuserve chat rooms to meet girls. I met one of my first “girlfriends” that way. And by “girlfriend” I mean “someone who I talked to on the phone for a month and never kissed.”

Compuserve was a few bucks per minute and existed before you could choose your own email address, so mine was twice as long as my phone number. But the principle that got 15-year-old me past (and to spend hundreds of dollars of my parents’ money) is also what drew me to JDate.

“But mom, I didn’t realize it was still connected!”

Simply put, I wanted to meet someone who could skip past the superficial and actually get to know me. Of course, I wanted that person to be hot, too.

“Captain irony, your table is ready.”

Hot and not superficial are rare characteristics for one person to share, but they were both on my checklist. I wanted a match to have many, many characteristics, some of which I couldn’t discover if I was just approaching people in the offline world. Part of why people get so excited when they meet someone they think could be the one is the astronomical odds of doing so. Even if you meet someone at a bar, and even if you hit it off with that person, and even if you’re slick enough to get to the point in the conversation where you exchange numbers, there are still dozens of levels of compatibility that you haven’t even broached.

Online dating has tons of advantages over in-person meeting. First, everyone there is there for the same reason you are – to meet someone. A LOT of people at a bar are married and out with friends, just got out of serious relationships, or aren’t even interested in people of your gender. More importantly, you’re able to narrow down your matches before even speaking to any of them online, which you don’t have time to do at a bar. Online dating is much more methodical and scientific than offline.

And that’s where the stigma comes from – because there’s no cool factor. Online, you’ll never have a crazy origin of how you just bumped into each other, or how animal magnetism forced you to say hi. There’s just no story involving anyone who would eventually be played in a terrible romantic comedy by Kathryn Heigl and Hugh Grant.

I prefer using a more intelligent method to meet people, so I have never found anything wrong with using the web. But for anyone still worried that meeting their soul mate on a website might somehow reflect poorly on them, I offer this metaphor.

Let’s say you were offered a choice – a hundred million dollars to be an exec at Facebook or $5 an hour plus tips to work at a bar. Wouldn’t you happily tell everyone you made your millions online?

Me too.

Steve Hofstetter is an internationally touring comedian who has been on VH1, ESPN, Comedy Central, and many more. To book him at your next event, visit SteveHofstetter.com. This column was originally published on jdate.com.

The Jewish Gene Pool


— by Steve Hofstetter

Compatibility is typically measured in likes and dislikes, general station in life, and temperament. But maybe its time people started measuring it in health, too.

Whether you believe in common interests or opposites attracting, we’ve always measured a relationship by preferred hobbies. I once had a girl break up with me because she liked to go hiking and I’m not outdoorsy, and she liked a glass of wine with dinner and I don’t drink. When she ended things, I suggested that I’d build her a bar in the woods. What was she going to do, break up with me twice?

Station in life is also important. We first notice the awkwardness in high school – seniors dating freshmen are both sketchy and annoyed. When you’re worried about college, you don’t want to be dating someone still wearing braces. Later in life there’s more of an impact. If you have kids from a previous marriage, the last thing you want to do is find a wonderful companion who is still in their party phase. Unless you’re Casey Anthony.

And of course there’s temperament – the potential success of a couple can often be measured by how they argue. Every couple argues eventually. So if you’re both people who fight hard and make up, or both people who casually debate, that could work. But if one of you loves conflict and the other avoids it, your relationship will end quicker then a typical boxing match – and with one of you knocked out, too.

Through all this, something I’d never considered before is genetic compatibility. Sure, someone who wants biological kids needs to be able to get pregnant and someone who loves fitness should avoid dating a partner with a glandular problem. But if the J in JDating is important to you, you should also consider genetics.

More after the jump.
I’ve watched enough House and Gray’s Anatomy to know about Tay-Sachs, which is carried by 1 in 30 Ashkenazi Jews. 1 in 25 of us carry Cystic Fibrosis, and 1 in 12 carry Gaucher Disease. There’s Niemann-Pick, Bloom’s Syndrome, even something called Maple Syrup Urine Disease. Yes, that’s real – though it sounds like something off a Wikipedia page.

We survived the holocaust, pogroms, exiles, and general Anti-Semitism, and our own genes are trying to kill us off. No wonder resilience is in our nature. The good news is that, despite the carrier frequency of these diseases, the actual occurrences are much smaller. For example, the probability of one Tay-Sachs carrier mating with another and then passing both mutations to a child is less than 1%.

But one thing I learned about recently that effects more Ashkenazi women than any of these is the BRCA mutation. Basically put, it’s a recently discovered genetic mutation that causes breast cancer in up to 85% of women who carry it, as well giving them up to a 50% chance of ovarian cancer. And while the rest of the population has a 1 in 300 chance of carrying this mutation, Ashkenazi Jews are 1 in 40.

What do we do with that knowledge? Well, science has given us a few options. What is known about BRCA mutations is fairly new, and due to a controversial patent on the testing, new knowledge isn’t coming out as quickly as it could. But we do know that the mutation can avoid being passed on to children. We do know that extensive surveillance can catch cancer early enough to prevent it from being fatal. And we do know that a prophylactic surgery can take a patient’s chance of developing cancer down to 2%.

While everyone’s route is their own individual decision, and as a man I can’t possibly understand what the psychological effects are, I do think it would be ignorant for those with a history of cancer in the family to risk passing that gene on to their children simply out of fear. That controversial patent also makes BRCA testing prohibitively expensive, unless you have a history of cancer in the family and decent insurance. Then it costs a few hundred bucks in co-pay to make sure you’re not sentencing your kids to cancer.

So what does all this mean for dating? I don’t recommend you lead with any of it. “I like long walks on the beach, Woody Allen movies, and avoiding debilitating diseases.” But it would be helpful for you to know this information about yourself before a relationship gets to the serious phase.

You know – the serious phase where you start finding out how you two fight. I don’t recommend that for first dates, either.

Steve Hofstetter is an internationally touring comedian who has been on VH1, ESPN, Comedy Central, and many more. To book him at your next event, visit SteveHofstetter.com. This column was originally published on jdate.com.

Memories of Past Passovers

— Steve Hofstetter

This year my wife and I will be spending one seder at her mother’s and one at my mother’s, but in the future, we may be starting our own Passover traditions. And I admit, I am completely lost.

I began thinking about the Passovers I knew growing up, and how the holiday was the same every year. There’d be an occasional change in which random elderly cousin coughed a lot in the last seat, but from five to fifteen years old, I had twenty identical seders.

It would be unfair of me to expect that the seders my wife and I might throw in the future will involve just my traditions and not hers. So to help me think about which I’d like to keep (and entertain a few readers simultaneously), I wanted to recount the memories that most say Passover to me. I’d bet at least a few of these will remind you of your childhood, and help you determine what you’d like to keep, should you ever JDate your way to your own family.

More after the jump.
The holiday started with my mother spending hours cleaning the oven while listening to ads for Schmerling’s chocolate. We never bought any Schmerling’s, but I still remember the theme song. Maybe we never bought any because we always associated Schmerling’s with the smell of Easy Off.

What we did buy was lots of other candy. Our staples were ring jells, lollicones, those sugar covered fruit jellies that were in the shape of tiny pieces of watermelon, and a truck load of marshmallows. Passover was the only time of year where it was easy to find kosher marshmallows, so we bought every kind we could. My favorites were the chocolate covered pink bumpy marshmallows. The white ones were an acceptable substitute, but the pink ones were the real thing.

Preparing, we’d help my mother clean for as long as we had to before one of us came up with an excuse for why they shouldn’t clean. My mother would only fall for this briefly before we were right back scrubbing away. Perhaps my most important future Passover tradition will be a maid.

We’d know the seder was getting close when the cabinets and the fridge were all covered in paper, and my father finished making the charoset. My sister usually helped, mainly to sneak some wine.

As the seder approached, we distributed the Maxwell House haggadot, where the transliterated Hebrew was spelled out as if everyone had a Brooklyn accent. These haggadot are the tradition I miss the most, as my mother switched brands when I was in college. Part of what I miss is our teasing every time my mother would change the “He” and the “Him” to gender-neutral terms.

One of my sisters would speed read, my brother would keep us all on task of whose turn it was, I would substitute words to see if anyone was really listening, and my other sister would insist on reading in Hebrew, even though her Hebrew was as fluent as Moses’ English.

We also decided which child was which of the four sons, and were happy to play our parts, despite our mother’s constant protest that we were all the good child. That’s right, “child” and not “son.” Even the four sons had to be gender-neutral.

As the youngest, the four questions always fell on me – so I did my best to get through them with as few breaths as possible. We used celery for karpas, which led to my father making the same joke every year about how “it sounded like a Doritos factory.” To this day, I am sure my father never took a tour of a Doritos factory.

The meal was constant – egg soup, chicken soup (I guess the egg did come before the chicken), gefilte fish, salad with my mother’s Passover dressing, Dr. Brown’s everything, and then some sort of giant meat dish none of us had room for. The main thing that varied was who would find the afikomen, and how they would tease the others that missed out.

That was our main dynamic. My brother, one sister, and I cracking jokes, my father trying to join in, our elderly relatives watching quietly (except while coughing), my mother telling us to be more respectful, and my other sister echoing my mother. My parents are now divorced, three of the kids are married, and my sister can finally read fluent Hebrew, but my Passover memories are frozen in 1994. Though it’s been 17 years since we’ve all had a seder together, it’s hard for me to see Passover any other way.

I’m glad my wife and I are splitting our uncomfortable confusion equally this year. In the future, we will probably take a few traditions from each side to create our own holiday. And as long as that includes the pink bumpy marshmallows, I’m okay with that.

Steve Hofstetter is an internationally touring comedian who has been on VH1, ESPN, Comedy Central., and many more. To book him at your next event, visit SteveHofstetter.com.

Reaching Out Across the Aisle


Steve Hofstetter

For a group of people that constantly complain how often we’re excluded, Jews should really get better at including other people.

I’ve seen it happen at seders. I’ve seen it happen at Shabbat dinners. And now I’ve seen it happen at my own wedding. Yes, I am married now – thank you JDate.

For thousands of years, there’s been a focus on education in Jewish families. We send our children to the best schools, and encourage them to get the jobs that require very little menial labor. While other cultures might be proud of any honest living, you’ll rarely hear a Jewish mother bragging about her son, the factory foreman.

Which leads to the unfortunate side effect: thinking that everyone should be as educated as we are. A common attitude among Jews is, “if you can’t keep up, it’s your fault for not knowing how.”

More after the jump.
A Jewish wedding is fairly different from a Christian wedding, in the way that a fish is fairly different from a ham sandwich. Both appealing to different people, but they don’t easily go together (unless you’re watching Semi-Homemade Cooking with Sandra Lee). But it’s not just the food – the main difference between the ways Jews and Christians get hitched is the use of foreign language.

Jews at Christian weddings might get spooked at the whole Jesus aspect of things, but there’s very little done outside the native language of the bride and groom. But a Christian and a Jewish wedding could be lost in Hebrew for several minutes at a time. It’s no 40 years of wandering in the desert, but several minutes is a long time to leave one of your own guests confused.

We were careful to explain the traditions in our wedding program, and our rabbi was good enough to describe what he was doing in an inclusive way, without being overly preachy or obnoxious. And yes, that happens – I once saw a rabbi at a bat mitzvah call for the destruction of all Arab nations. If you were at that bat mitzvah, you would have agreed that the real enemy is Miley Cyrus. Which sounds eerily like wily Cyprus. But, I digress.

Our wedding ceremony was great – it was actually during our wedding reception that we accidentally got exclusionary. We’d put benchers on each table, figuring that those who wanted to bench would, and those who didn’t would keep chatting. What we didn’t figure on was those of us benching being loud enough to confuse and interrupt those who were not.

After realizing this about three minutes in, I stood up and said “Quick explanation. This is the Jewish version of grace, we just say it after the meal. Thank you non-Jews for your patience – we’ll be done in a few minutes.” That would have been extremely rude to do at someone else’s wedding, but the groom is allowed a bit of leeway.

You might say, “But Steve, I will never have that problem. I live in a Jewish neighborhood, and I only associate with other Jews.” First, you’re lying – there are non-Jews everywhere, so unless you’re racist, you are friends with some of them. Second, unless your Jewish friends grew up in the same Hebrew school, Yeshiva, camp, synagogue, and family, your knowledge base is different from them, too.  Third, stop talking, I can’t actually hear you.

We’ve all been to a seder where one person insists on reading more than everyone else, or just more in Hebrew. We’ve all be to a Shabbat dinner where someone insists on singing more than everyone else, or just more loudly. And we’ve all been to a Jewish wedding where we see something that makes perfect sense to the bride and groom confused us based on our own knowledge.

The pride we take in our education often manifests itself as showing off, and while done with noble intention, can exclude non-Jews, or Jews without the same level of education. Remember, they came to celebrate with us, not watch us celebrate without them.


There is a fine line between keeping tradition and keeping those who are not in the know at arms length. There was a moment at my wedding during the horah where I impulsively grabbed two of my Jewish friends from college to form a circle. One of our non-Jewish friends ran over as well, and we all danced together. Instead of at arms length, we were suddenly arm in arm.

I’m glad he had the presence of mind to include himself. I only wish that I had thought of it first.

Steve Hofstetter is an internationally touring comedian who has been on VH1, ESPN, and Comedy Central. To find out how to book him at your next event, visit SteveHofstetter.com. This column was originally published on JDate.com.

The Jew and The American Tough Guy

Steve Hofstetter

If you haven’t been watching HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, you’re missing out on something rare. A Jew portrayed on camera as a tough guy.

The stereotypical Jewish character on television is not usually one we can be proud of. From Woody Allen’s nebbish and neurotic to Mrs. Seinfeld’s overbearing and oblivious, the Jews might have a reputation as scholarly, but never sexy. This must be what it Italians feel like watching Jersey Shore.

More after the jump.
The coolest Jew in television history was a young Henry Winkler – he could get any girl he wanted, start a jukebox by hitting it, and even jump over a shark white not getting his leather jacket wet. Of course, the character he played was Italian. No one would believe all that could be done by Arthur Fonzewitz.

But Boardwalk Empire is a bit different. If you’re unfamiliar, the series chronicles the based-on-a-true-story of bootleggers and gangs during prohibition, with the three main factions being the Irish in Atlantic City, the Italians in Chicago, and the Jews in New York. That’s right – the Jews.

According to the show (and history), while Al Capone was just getting his feet wet in Chicago, the most powerful boss in the country was Arnold Rothstein. Best known as the man charged with fixing the 1919 World Series, Rothstein is portrayed by the show as a handsome and rich tactician. And while his rival gangs are quick to anger and too power hungry to see the big picture, Rothstein is even-tempered and the smartest one of the bunch.

My favorite scene was when Rothstein was hiring three small-time gangsters to transport his money, and to be sure of their loyalty, made them each sign life insurance policies with Rothstein as their beneficiary. Brilliant. Cold-blooded and terrifying, but brilliant. Rothstein is the enemy of the show’s main character, but I still find myself rooting for him.

Also getting some camera time is Meir Lansky. The modern world was briefly introduced to Lansky in “Bugsy” and again in the made for TV movie “Lansky.” But despite helping start Las Vegas, Lansky is not a common household name. I always knew who Lansky was, because he’s the man who taught my father’s father to play pool. In a strange coincidence, my grandmother on my mother’s side met Bugsy Siegel a few times. If the Jewish mob still existed, I’d probably be pretty connected. Being involved in USY, having worked at Camp Ramah, and being on the JDate.com billboard doesn’t quite carry the same cache.

But I’m not rooting for Rothstein and Lansky because of my family’s passing acquaintance. I’m rooting for them because part of me is proud to watch Jews be gangsters, instead of just their accountants. Thank you, “Carlito’s Way.”

When “The Passion of the Christ” came out, a lot of Jewish groups protested the film, saying that its depiction of Jews as Christ killers was anti-Semetic. I had a slightly different view.

See, Jews have never been seen as an intimidating people. Maybe this is one we should start taking credit for. If someone is going to say we killed Christ, why not let them say it? Sure, we got him. And Kirk Cameron is next.

An aside, the best part of Mel Gibson’s legal troubles is that no self-respecting Jewish lawyer will represent him. Hey Mel, I bet you’d like to be friends with a few Jews right now, huh?

I know that the vast majority of Jews in the 1920s were not like Arnold Rothstein, Bugsy Siegel, or Meir Lansky. Even Rothstein’s right-hand man in the show is Italian. But it is nice to see a few of us actually portrayed as tough guys. I’m not encouraging criminal behavior, but it’s nice to see we aren’t all Uncle Leo.

While I am enjoying Boardwalk Empire, I am glad that Jews eventually went legit. I can’t imagine how lame Goodfellas would have been if Joe Pesci was replaced by Jackie Mason. And reality TV wouldn’t have worked either. “Growing Up Goldberg” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

I do, however, try to break the shlubby stereotype whenever possible.

After joking that I was going to get my friend a lousy Christmas present, he joked that I shouldn’t even be celebrating Christmas since I killed his savior.

“Sure,” I said. “What do you think I’m celebrating?”

Steve Hofstetter is an internationally touring comedian who has been on VH1, ESPN, and Comedy Central. To find out how to book him at your next event, visit SteveHofstetter.com. This column was originally published on jdate.com.

Silent One Day Sale, Holy One Day Sale

— Steve Hofstetter

I imagine it’s much more difficult to be a Jew on Christmas than it is to be a Christian on Hanukah. You don’t find many Hanukah specials about families getting stranded in an airport learning the true meaning of the menorah.

But if there were lots of Hanukah specials, I’d be just as annoyed as I am at those about Christmas. I finally realized that I do not dislike most Christmas specials because they are about a holiday I do not celebrate – I dislike them because they’re really, really cheesy.

I love the original Grinch cartoon. The Peanuts specials are always fun, and Seinfeld’s Festivus episode is a classic. A number of sit-coms have simply had funny events happen at Christmas parties, which is fine considering that the holiday is a part of our country’s pop culture. But the shows that have people changing their lives based on the true meaning of Christmas really exasperate me.
I am a very spiritual person, and I have never changed my life based on the true meaning of a holiday. And let’s just say that learning the true meaning of a holiday, sans bastardization, was actually possible. Would we want that lesson to come from ABC Family?

Any holiday is okay in small doses, but TV networks go absolutely nuts on Christmas. I am pretty patriotic, and generally a big fan of the whole America thing. But I wouldn’t be able to accept a bunch of sitcoms telling me the true meaning of July 4th. Imagine the final two weeks of every June filled with TV characters ending episodes with an arm-in-arm chorus of “My Country Tis of Thee.” Which they couldn’t do because no one knows the second verse.

There are several sitcoms that have two Christmas episodes. Sure, most sitcoms are already ridiculous, but how long are they trying to celebrate this holiday? I know about the supposed “Twelve days of Christmas” thing, but I don’t know anyone who actually celebrates the holiday for more than a day and a half. I bet someone in religion marketing noticed that Hanukah has eight days, and decided that something had to be done to compete. “They have eight days? Well, we can have twelve!” But if you’re going go 150% on the Jews, you have to keep it up across the board. Every Yom Kippur, Jews don’t eat for 25 hours. If you can go 37.5, I’ll give you 12 days of Christmas. Until then, forget about your golden rings and admit that Christmas is a one-day event.

I wonder if any Christian kid actually enjoys all of the Christmas sitcoms. I doubt that there are any 19-year-olds watching TV during winter break saying, “you know, I completely missed the point of this holiday. Come on, everybody – let’s go caroling!”

TV execs should realize that the way Christmas is portrayed on the majority of their shows is not how it’s celebrated in a majority of the country. First of all, more than half the marriages in America end in divorce, which destroys the notion of the large family meal with everyone accounted for. Right there, you’ve already entered minority territory. Then there’s the realization that not everyone is Christian (gasp!), and many of us spend Christmas surfing JDate. Some of the people who are Christian don’t have a dozen relatives that want to come over for dinner. And most importantly, a lot of people out there don’t get along well enough with their extended family to do anything but hurl insults and mashed potatoes.

In a rush to beat each other to the holiday punch (ba-dum!), TV networks have been airing Christmas episodes earlier and earlier. It used to be the week before Christmas. Then it was two weeks before Christmas. Now, they air the first week of December. Pretty soon, Christmas specials will start so early that they’ll air during the Christmas prior. And the year in between will just be one continuous commercial.

Uncle Jesse can tell DJ all he wants about how Christmas is about love and selflessness and family, but not until after Macy’s tells you about their one-day sale. There is a certain irony to running all those sale ads during the heartwarming story of a family learning about the wise men. The only wise men here are the ones in the ad department.

Christmas TV teaches you that you should give. And to help, it also directs you to the nearest store. Driving up profits in the retail sector is the true meaning of Christmas sitcoms, and that’s something I discovered without the help of a snowed-in airport.

Learning this true meaning has made me all warm and fuzzy inside. Come on everyone – let’s carol. How does that Macy’s jingle go?

Steve Hofstetter is an internationally touring comedian who has been VH1, ESPN, and Comedy Central. To find out how to book him at your next event, visit SteveHofstetter.com. This column was originally published on jdate.com.

The Lows of the High Holidays

As a kid, I always knew where to be for the high holidays. I would be in my seat in synagogue, with an occasional respite for “bathroom” breaks that devolved into 20 minute games of freeze tag. I know, lying to my parents is wrong. But it gave me something to repent for.
Now that I’m an adult (physically, anyway), the choice is much harder. My parents are now divorced, giving me two options. Plus I’m engaged, adding a third. I’d consider a fourth option of spending the day with no parents at all, but we are SUPPOSED to suffer on Yom Kippur.

Before every parent (especially my own) gets mad at me, remember that you said the same things about your parents. It’s Jewish tradition. Like the youngest child reading the four questions on Passover or everyone on Jdate having a picture taken of themselves at a deceptively perfect angle, it is what we do. It is our right to complain about the burden of our parents, almost as much as it is their right to guilt trip us that they don’t complain about the burden of their children. It’s a great system.

I recognize that I am blessed to have parents and soon-to-be in-laws that want to see me, let alone who live within 45 minutes of me. But it creates the unfortunate reality of picking one while insulting the others. And the choice is not easy.

I went to my mom’s synagogue when I was in high school, so there are a bunch of people I am happy to see, mixed with a number of ancient people who claim to remember me from when I was 17 but offer no substantiating proof.

“I don’t remember you being this tall!”

In fairness, they also don’t remember my name, or what they had for dinner the day before.

I went to my dad’s synagogue until my Bar Mitzvah, making the memory loss among those who remember me even more prevalent. Like my mom’s shul, it’s a mixed bag. Some people I love catching up with. For others, there’s a reason we stopped keeping in touch the day I became a man.

I have been to my fiance’s synagogue a few times, so I don’t know anyone there. Which is still doesn’t prevent the inevitable uncomfortable moment, since all they know about me is what I do for a living.

“So, you’re the comedian?”

“Yes.”

“Tell me a joke.”

“But it’s Yom Kippur.”

“Come on, just one!”

“Okay. Two Jews walk into a bathroom, and have a galatically awkward conversation at a urinal. Stop me if you’ve heard this one.”

Between the three days of holiday, we can spend one day with each parental unit. But then my fiancĂ© is spending two of the three with my parents instead of hers, and someone gets stuck with the somber Yom Kippur instead of the joyous Rosh Hashannah. Yom Kippur may be the most important day of the year, but it’s also the day when I complain the most. I spend 24 and a half hours hungry, followed by two hours complaining about my usual impatience-induced food coma. See? I’m only physically an adult.

My solution is going to have to be to alternate years. One year we’ll spend it with her parents. One year we’ll alternating between my parents. And I guess we’ll have to alternate who gets Rosh Hashannah, and who spends a day with Captain Complainer. The complicated nature of this is frustrating – I feel like I’m a baseball team planning which ridiculous and over commercialized jerseys to wear on alternate Sundays. (Which is something they should atone for).

So mom, dad, other mom, other dad – know that wherever we spend the holidays, we do wish we lived in a world where we could see everyone all the time. But since that’s not the case, you’ll just have to except us being wandering Jews. That, too, is Jewish tradition.

And for those who will predictably ask me to tell them a joke, here is my favorite synagogue-friendly street joke. I don’t know where this joke originated, and I can’t take credit for it, but feel free to enjoy.

An aging rabbi has begun doubting the existence of God. As a test, he fakes an illness to sneak out of Rosh Hashannah services, and goes golfing. On his first swing, he gets a hole in one.

Dropping to his knees, the rabbi says, “God, I have been waiting forty years to get a hole in one. And now it comes on Rosh Hashannah, and after I lied to my family and friends. I would suspect that if you did exist, you’d have punished me.”

“I did,” God answers. “Who are you going to tell?”

Steve Hofstetter is an internationally touring comedian who has been VH1, ESPN, and Comedy Central. To find out how to book him at your next event, visit SteveHofstetter.com. This column was originally published on jdate.com.

Finding Jews in Rural America

— Steve Hofstetter

We have always gravitated towards large metro areas. Perhaps it’s because we’re a communal people. Perhaps it’s for the availability of good Chinese food. Whatever the reason, we’re city dwellers. Which means there’s an awful lot of America without any Jews.
The New York metro area has two million Jews, more than everywhere but Tel Aviv. But it’s a big drop after that. LA has 650,000. Philly, DC, Chicago, Boston, and San Francisco each have about a quarter million. A few more American cities have 50,000-100,000. But when you get down to the top 40 American cities, we’re talking less than 10,000 in a metro area.

I can just imagine someone on JDate in Pierre, South Dakota, messaging the same two people over and over again. There are only 295 Jews in the whole state – I’m guessing their answer to JDate’s “Will you relocate?” question is a resounding yes.

As a standup comic, I am constantly touring – so I get a chance to see parts of the country most people only dream about. Assuming their dreams are incredibly boring. I recently played a comedy club in Mason City, Illinois. I don’t know how they have a comedy club – they don’t even have a McDonald’s. I also don’t know how they get to be called a city. Mason Rest Stop, maybe. Incidentally, Mason City’s Jewish population is me, whenever I perform there.

Something that’s always been tough for me is being Jewish on the road. I learned very quickly to ask if everything I order is made it with bacon. Salad, steak, even pizza has come with bacon without the menu saying so. In certain parts of the country, they use bacon like Jews use salt. I’m actually shocked that powdered bacon isn’t available in a jar at the table. Most days I have to pretend I’m allergic to pork for any waitress to take me seriously. You try explaining kosher in Wichita.

I try to use the stage to spread love for the Jews, both with positive Jewish humor, and by simply being a Jewish guy the crowd likes. I am often the first Jew a lot of people meet, which is a ridiculous responsibility. To counteract prevalent stereotypes, I have to make sure to tip well, avoid klezmer music, and never eat the blood of Christian babies. Or bacon.

There was one time when I purposefully didn’t talk about being Jewish on stage. Before a show at a small bar in Muskogee, Oklahoma, my friends and I were confronted by what we thought were just local yokels. As they talked our annoyed ears off more and more, yokel turned into racist, and racist turned into two card-carrying members of the Ku Klux Klan. That’s right – they had ID cards. I believe they kept them right next to their Bed Bath and Beyond rewards cards. All those sheets can get expensive.

An aside – while doing research for this column, I checked out the KKK’s website – it looks like it was made by an 8th grader in 1997. Apparently, they hate black people, Jews, and HTML.

No one in the bar knew who I was, so my friends and I swapped positions on the show. I went on first and did ten ad-libbed minutes about growing up a patriotic, Christian American. I am proud to be Jewish, sure – but I am also proud of the Jewish people’s inherent ability to survive. That night, it was my turn.

I happily returned to Manhattan in one piece. I’m not saying we’re immune to anti-Semitism in New York; At some point Mel Gibson will star in an Oliver Stone movie here. But I do recognize that I am spoiled by just how easy it is for New Yorkers to find everything from a synagogue to a Kosher Deli to a Jewish wife.

I am continually impressed by the resolve of Jews in smaller cities, where it’s not as easy to be Jewish. So for those of you who don’t have the luxury of an apartment complex littered with mezuzahs, stay strong. And make sure to check if they put bacon on your ice cream.

Steve Hofstetter is an internationally touring comedian who has been VH1, ESPN, and Comedy Central. To find out how to book him at your next event, visit SteveHofstetter.com. This column was originally published on jdate.com.