Our own Marnie Macauley whose columns you’ve read here, has many distinctions, aside from her natural “Jewfro”. For one thing, she was a prison administrator (File under: No Job For A Jewish Maidel). For another, she re-invented herself as a writer at the age many people are actually making money at their chosen professions. Then there was the time she removed half a human brain – and put it back -- while she was writing for As the World Turns. She’s also an advice maven as “Ask Sadie” which was syndicated by Tribune Media.
But, of all of her accomplishments, she’s perhaps best known as “The Yiddishe Calendar ‘Qveen’ having written over 10 Jewish-themed calendars, including the award-winning “A Little Joy, A Little Oy” and “The Joy of Jewish Humor” published by Andrews McMeel. Her 2012 boxed Joy of Jewish Humor is out now, and she’s just finished a 2013 boxed calendar of the same name.
So we decided to ask Marnie what it takes to become a Jewish Calendar Qveen.
Q: What makes these calendars different from all other calendars?
Marnie: When I started, Jewish calendars provided of course, dates, art, and specific themes, such as the Holocaust. But humor? Jokes? Anecdotes? Fascinating facts about We Jews? Bupkes. Having written the column, WouldJew Believe, and being a fact-nut, I proposed to my publisher that we try it. Thank God, a few people liked it, besides my relatives and those I paid.
The facts and anecdotes I choose are fascinating and enlightening -- I hope.
Q: As your calendars include facts as well as jokes, how do you choose your material?
Marnie: “I don’t do “trivia.” The difference between “fact” and “trivia” is simple. I ask myself: “Who cares?” If the answer is “nobody” but some meshuggenah who’s into “How many wings would you find on your standard manananggal?” it won’t make the cut. The facts and anecdotes I choose are (hopefully) fascinating, and enlightening, whether I’m writing about The “Kosherization” of America or the Jew who shlepped the ruins of the Colossus of Rhodes and loaded it as junk on 900 camels.
Q: Where do you get your material?
Marnie: I use hundreds of sources – books and online, along with my own material, and others’ with attribution and permission. I doubt there’s a Jewish joke I haven’t heard! Many of my readers – and I love this – challenge me with new jokes. I can now pull a Morey Amsterdam (Buddy Sorrrell from the Dick Van Dyke Show). Give me a topic? Any topic. You’ll get a Jewish joke. My file of jokes, facts, and anecdotes run into the high thousands.
Q: With all that information, how accurate are your facts?
Marnie: 981/2 percent. I verify, verify, verify! One factual “WouldJew Believe” entry often involves 20 pages of research, cross-checking, and re-checking the cross-checking. After a while instinct kicks in. Excellent sources and sites make errors. The remaining 11/2 percent? As a research nut, these haunt me. For example, for years everyone reported that the real name of the late, great Walter Matthau was “Matuschanskayasky!” A few years ago I came across a small item about him that stated Matthau, not wanting to answer questions about his absentee dad, made it up as a joke.
My second Big Mistake was horrifying. I “killed” someone. I reported a famous wit as “dead” by referring to him as “the late.” A reader caught it. Gevalt! How could I do such a brainless thing? I could blame my lousy hearing. But I won’t. I heard part of a news show that did an obit mentioning his last name. Upset about his “passing” I failed to hear it was his wife who had died. Mortified, I called him, quaking and told him I’d mistakenly reported him as “dead.” He listened, then calmly said: “I’ve been called worse.” A witty and gracious gentleman indeed.
Q: Is there any material you won’t use?
Marnie: I loathe hideous two-liners comparing Jewish Mamas to rottweilers, or anything involving “Jewish Princesses.” I also find “dirty” jokes unappealing, along with jokes that overdo the stereotype.
Q: How do you feel about the new “hip” Jewish humor?
Marnie: Well, it could be a generational thing, but I don’t generally find either “Heebster” humor funny, or even comprehensible in some cases.
Q: After all these years do you have a favorite joke and/or story?
Marnie: A few still break me up. One joke that comes to mind is: David received a parrot for his Bar Mitzvah. This parrot had one bad attitude and worse vocabulary. David tried to teach him manners, but the bird just got ruder. Desperate, David put him in the freezer a moment to cool off. He heard squawking, then quiet. Frightened, David quickly opened the freezer. The parrot calmly said: "I'm sorry I offended you. I shall go to synagogue, pray, and modify my behavior.” Before David could ask about this astounding change, the parrot continued, "Sir ... may I ask what did the chicken do?" Maybe it’s the visual … the image of all those Empire frozen chickens in my childhood freezer! The anecdotes I love are those that are surprising, outrageous, and informative.
Q: As your calendars and books are quintessentially Jewish, how do you answer those who say there’s no such a thing, or offended by the label: “Jewish humor?”
Marnie: Two very Jewish comics gave me the “bewildered” stare when I asked them about “Jewish humor.” Odd, as one, in particular, made his early rep. doing Jewish monologues. Yet he had the chutzpah to say there was no difference between say, Sid Caesar and Red Skelton. Ridiculous! Apart from being about Jewish subject matter, Jewish humor has a specific cadence, nuance, and subtlety. A truly evolved Jew, to my thinking, can bask in the glory that is quintessentially Jewish humor and has set trends for other ethnic humor.
Q: While some of your calendars include Holocaust and other serious history, the emphasis is on the light-hearted. What do you think these calendars contribute to you personally, and to your readers?
Marnie: So many Jews are clueless about Judaism as a religion and as a culture. My greatest naches comes from introducing them to a sense of who We Jews are. And humor is a magnificent vehicle to interest and teach. I’ve gotten letters and emails from those who have said their interest has been re-awakened and led them to explore further. On a personal note, old friends have contacted me after years to say they’ve read my calendars and books. I treasure re-uniting with them, and have maintained close relationships with so many people from my past … who remember – and have once again become part of my life. What a remarkable mitzvah!
You can buy Marnie Winston-Macauley’s “The Joy of Jewish Humor 2012 Calendar” online or at fine bookstores.