Jews in the News: Andy Samberg, Carl Reiner and Julian Edelman

Samberg, Reiner, Baseball(!), and Edelman

“Palm Springs,” a comedy starring ANDY SAMBERG, 41, got great reviews at the 2020 Sundance Festival. Hulu bought the rights to stream it after a theater opening. But Covid-19 intervened, and it began streaming on Hulu on July 10. Here’s the “Ground Hog Day-like” plot: Nyles (Samberg) and Sarah (Christin Milioti) meet at a wedding and hit it off. The downside is that they are trapped in a time loop and have to live the day of the wedding over and over.  Oscar-nominee JUNE SQUIBB, 90, has a small role as a grandma attending the wedding.

CARL REINER died on June 29, age 98. Every obit described his multi-faceted career (performer, TV and film writer, and film director) and emphasized what a kind, decent man he was. In the interest of brevity, I’ll omit his easily found credits here and just quote a NY Times tribute piece (July 9) that Steve Martin, who made four movies with Reiner, wrote: “But, for me, one of your [Reiner] qualities stands out that is not often cited in the legacies of the famous: decency. All along, it was your decency that infused and invigorated your incredible gifts…[Reiner’s] interaction with people gave me a template of how to be better, nicer, how to lead with kindness...”

The tributes to Reiner reminded me of the tributes that were showered on JACK BENNY (1894-1974) when he died. Like Reiner, his amazing comedic timing helped make him a star for decades. First, 20 years in vaudeville, then radio’s biggest star, followed by a hit TV variety show in the ‘50s and ‘60s. He was universally respected by his peers and constantly referred to as the nicest, most decent person they ever knew. Unlike Reiner, he didn’t write material, but he paid his writers very well and treated them with respect.

Both Benny and Reiner never hid their Jewish background, although Benny was a bit more circumspect about it because being Jewish wasn’t a plus in the 1930s. Both were married to “just” one (Jewish) wife for most of their adult life. Benny’s wife, MARY LIVINGSTONE, born SADYA MARCOWITZ, performed with him. Reiner’s late wife, STELLA, was a cabaret performer and, of course, famous for her cameo in “When Harry Met Sally” as the woman who says, “I’ll have what she’s having.”

They were loved and respected by their children, who all have had fine adult lives (ROB REINER, 73, is the most famous of Carl’s three children. Jack and Mary had one child, JOAN BENNY, now 86, whom they adopted). In 2013, Joan did a video interview with a rabbi (Google Youtube and Joan Benny) in which she said, “How lucky I was to be adopted by them!”  In the interview, it came out that Jack, who wasn’t observant as an adult, did raise millions for Israel Bonds. I know that Rob Reiner was a bar mitzvah. (There are two living Jewish comedic performers who I think follow very much in their footsteps. I’ll write about them next week.)

The special 60-game baseball season begins on July 23. As I write this (July 10) the following Jewish players are on a major league roster: RICHARD BLEIER, 32, relief pitcher, Baltimore Orioles; RYAN BRAUN, 36, right fielder, Milwaukee Brewers; ALEX BREGMAN, 26, third baseman, Houston Astros; MAX FRIED, 26, pitcher (starting), Atlanta Braves; KEVIN PILLAR, 31, right fielder, Boston Red Sox; and ROWDY TELLEZ, 25, designated hitter, Toronto Blue Jays.

Three 2019 major league players aren’t on a roster for the special season: JOC PEDERSON, 27, a hard-hitting Dodgers’ outfielder, is still recovering from a hip injury; ROBERT STOCK, 30, a Philadelphia pitcher. He had a bad year in 2019; and GARRETT STUBBS, 27, a 2019 Astros’ rookie. He’s a back-up catcher and a back-up won’t be needed during a very short season. Also: GABE KAPLER, 44, once a pretty good player, begins his first season managing San Francisco.

Last week. Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson, an African American, posted on Instagram a fictitious anti-Semitic Hitler quote and praised notorious anti-Semite Louis Farakhan. There was an uproar and Jackson apologized and took the posts down. Shortly thereafter, JULIAN EDELMAN, 34, a New England Patriots star receiver, spoke to the press and, while very critical of Jackson’s posts, reached out to him to talk and offered to take him on a tour of the Holocaust museum. In 2019, I wrote a long, laudatory newspaper profile (New Jersey Jewish Standard) of Edelman for the Standard, aimed at clarifying his often mis-reported Jewish ties. You can read it here.


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