By Joe Eskenazi
Staff Writer – J, the Jewish News Weekly of Northern California
It wasn’t Rob Tannenbaum and David Fagin’s intention, but the name of their rock ‘n’ roll creation has enabled a sentence that does Gertrude Stein proud: Is Good For the Jews good for the Jews?
Yes, the musical duo is called Good For the Jews. And is it? Well, that depends. Do tunes about having sex in the synagogue lavatory during Sukkot sound good?
Or do they sound great?
“We did a show at the Sixth & I Synagogue in Washington, D.C., earlier this year. And it can be strange to stand up on the bimah and tell a real bawdy joke, but the audience didn’t have a problem with it,” recalled Tannenbaum by phone from New York, where he lives.
Count on more bawdiness during the group’s “Putting the Ha! In Hanukkah” Tour, which hits San Francisco’s Great American Music Hall on Dec. 12 for a show sponsored by Heeb Magazine.
Good For the Jews’ shows now come with a disclaimer: They start with the announcement, “Have a look around, because not all of you are going to be here at the end of the show.
“The joke is, 10 minutes into the show you’d hear the sound of a scraping chair and little orthopedic shoes on the floor,” Tannenbaum said.
“Fortunately, old people move so slowly, they don’t get out of the club until we’ve finished the show.”
Since he started making his public service announcement, fewer people have left. But Tannenbaum still takes pains to note, “This is not Israeli folk-dancing.”
Tannenbaum was formerly a member of the Jewish humor-rock duo What I Like About Jew. Following an acrimonious breakup, he’s touring again in front of wildly enthusiastic crowds — that aren’t entirely Jewish.
“I ask who in the audience isn’t Jewish and usually we get 15 or 20 percent per show. So I say, ‘Well, what the hell are you doing here?'” said Tannenbaum.
“But Jewish culture and Jewish humor have become very pervasive in this country. If you live in an urban area, you will live around Jews and eat bagels on Sunday and watch ‘The Daily Show’ and all the things that turn you into what I call ‘psycho-Semitic.'”
Upcoming tour highlights include tunes such as “Goin’ Down to Boca” (“Goin’ down to Boca, but just for the winter/SPF 30 and 5 o’clock dinner”), “Shiksas are for Practice” and a remake of “Do You Love Me?” from “Fiddler on the Roof” — sung between two men.
And, to answer the burning question all of you must be pondering, did Tannenbaum really have sex in the synagogue john during Sukkot as the song claims?
“That,” he notes, “is between the unobservant young lady and I.”
Good For the Jews will play 8 p.m. Dec. 12 at the Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell St., S.F. Tickets: $20 or $44.95 for reserved dinner seating. Information: www.gamhtickets or (800) 225-2277.