Jews in the News: Iliza Shlesinger, Mark Blum and Joseph Gordon Levitt

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Comedian ILIZA SHLESINGER, 37, has had four Netflix specials since 2013. They have all featured her doing a stand-up set. “Iliza Shlesinger Sketch Show”, her 5th Netflix project, is something different. It is a six-episode, half-hour series with a supporting cast of comic actors. The official description says: “From the mind of Iliza Shlesinger comes a secret world filled with absurd characters, insight into the female experience, and irreverent yet poignant social commentary.” (Began streaming on Wednesday, April 1).

“Broke,” a sit-com, starts on CBS on Thursday, April 2, at 9:30 PM.  The series stars Jamie Camil as Javier, a spoiled but likeable guy who is financially cut-off by his wealthy father. Javier and his wife, Elizabeth (NATASHA LEGGERO, 45), have to move-in with Jackie (Pauley Perrette), Elizabeth’s estranged sister. Jackie, a single mother who owns a bar, is not thrilled about taking them in. Leggero is still best known as a stand-up comedian. She converted to Judaism not long before she married comedian MOSHE KASHER, now 40, in 2015. In 2018, they couple had their first child, a girl.

The ABC hit series “Modern Family” will come to an end on Wednesday, April 8. The last two episodes of the series will be preceded by an hour-long documentary (8PM) about the show. The first of the two last episodes (starts at 9PM) was co-written by and directed by STEVE LEVITAN, 57. He was the co-creator of “Modern Family”.  ELIZABETH BANKS, 46, guest stars in the first (final) episode as Sal, a recurring “wild woman” character.

 Rosie’s Viral Virus Special

On March 22, Rosie O’Donnell did a live three-hour special to raise money for the Actors’ Fund, a charity that provides emergency funds for members of the entertainment community. O’Donnell did brief remote interviews with about 40 celebrities. You can watch the whole special on Youtube (enter the Youtube channel name—broadwaycom—in the search box). Many of the interviews have been individually posted for easy viewing on Youtube (same channel).  Jewish highlights of the show include composer Andrew Lloyd Webber singing “Happy Birthday” to composer STEPHEN SONDHEIM and Sondheim singing “Happy Birthday” back to Webber as Sondheim washed his hands for the recommended 20 seconds (a big clock, visible near Sondheim, ticked off the seconds). March 22 was Webber’s 72nd birthday and Sondheim’s 90th birthday; IDINA MENZEL, 48 (“Frozen”), talked from her kitchen, noting that she was "going a bit bonkers”. It was a very personal interview that you’d never see on a regular talk show; composer ALAN MENKEN, 70 (“Lion King,” “Beauty & the Beast”) played a medley of his hits on his home piano; SARAH JESSICA PARKER, 55, and hubbie MATTHEW BRODERICK, 58, were charming as they talked about family and career stuff (they were about to open in a Broadway revival of “Plaza Suite” when Broadway theaters shut down).

Sad News and Maybe a Cheer-Up

As I write this (Mar. 26), the news has just broke that MARK BLUM, 69, a busy character actor, has died from complications from coronavirus. I will write more about him next week. On Mar. 21, DAVID BRYAN (born David Bryan Rashbaum), who plays keyboards and writes songs for the band Bon Jovi, announced that he had tested positive for coronavirus. Bryan was inducted in the Rock Hall of Fame in 2018 as a member of Bon Jovi. Blum and Bryan both grew-up in New Jersey.

The cheery side: while surfing Youtube, I noticed that were several popular channels that featured “actors who can sing.” It’s a pleasurable kick to discover that a performer that you only know for their acting chops can really croon. I made a list of ten Jewish actors who can really sing. I didn’t include performers, like BETTE MIDLER, who first became known as singers, and only later became actors. Simply enter the person’s name and the word “singing” in the Youtube search engine and you will find at least two videos of the person singing. Here are the first two, the rest next week: (1) BRENT SPINER, 71, best known as “Data” on “Star Trek: Next Generation,” has a fine, sweet voice. In his videos, he sings “standards” he recorded for a 1991 album; (2) JOSEPH GORDON LEVITT, 39, made the difficult transition from a child TV actor (“3rd Rock from the Sun”) to a well-known film actor in adult parts (“500 Days of Summer”). You can see him singing, quite competently, in many genres.



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