Mayim Bialik, Ike Barinholtz and Iliza Shlesinger

Nate Bloom blogs on this week's Jews in the News.

Celebrity Jeopardy, Explained; A Joyous Jewish Moment  

The Celebrity Jeopardy Tournament, hosted by MAYIM BIALIK, 47, is broadcast live on Thursdays on ABC at 8PM. (Also available via live streaming or “on-demand” on many channels, like Hulu).  

Sadly, the Tournament website is terrible.  It doesn't make it easy to find out, in advance, when a particular celebrity will appear on the program and it really doesn’t explain how the Tournament is organized. As I write this, even Wikipedia is “confused” and has some wrong info.  

Amazingly, neither the website, nor Wikipedia, say what I finally figured out. The 27 contestants were divided into three groups of 9 players. Two groups of 9 have finished their play. The winners of these two groups, Wil Wheaton (“Star Trek: Next Generation”) and comedic actor IKE BARINHOLTZ, 45 (“The Mindy Project”), will appear in the final championship game.  

Here's what has happened to date with the Jewish celebs (4 out of 27) and what will happen, overall, in the near future.  

The first round (called a "quarterfinal") aired on Sept. 25. Three non-Jewish celebs played. The second round (all new contestants) aired on Oct. 2. Comedian ILIZA SHLESINGER, 39, won. The third round (new contestants) aired on Oct. 7.  Ike Barinholtz won. The Oct. 16 episode was styled a "semi-final" and Barinholtz won. He beat Shlesinger and actress Constance Wu.    

The Oct. 23 and Oct. 30 episodes had "new" non-Jewish contestants. John Michael Higgins (10/23) and Wil Wheaton (10/30) won their rounds. The Nov. 6th episode contestants included “Big Bang Theory” actress MELISSA RAUCH, 42. Actor Joel Kim Booster won. The Nov. 13 episode was another "semi-final". Wil Wheaton won.   

18 players had played a first round as of Nov.13. Then, without warning, the show "went dark" and didn't air any more games until Jan. 5. On Jan. 5, Michael Cera defeated two other (not Jewish) players. The Jan. 12 episode features three new players and none are Jewish.  

The Jan. 19 game has three new players, including comic actor and writer B.J. NOVAK, 43 (“The Office”). The last semi-final game will air on Jan. 26. The "championship" game will air on Feb. 2.  If Novak wins his "group", two Jews will be in the final game.

The champion earns a millon dollars for their favorite charity. First round "losers" receive $30K, for charity. Semi-final "losers" receive $50K, for charity.

As you probably know, JON STEWART, 60, has an interview program on Apple+ entitled “The Problem with Jon Stewart”. You may not know that he has a podcast of the same name. The podcast is filmed and posted on Youtube. The guests are remote but appear on the screen.

I recently came across his Dec 19 show. His guests were Marisa Ressa, a journalist who won the Nobel Peace Prize (2021), for her work defending free expression; MARK CUBAN, 64, the well-known billionaire businessman (“Shark Tank”); and JULIA IOFFE, 40, a prominent journalist (NY Times, Politico, the Atlantic), who was born in Russia and came to the States when she was seven.

The panel began with discussing Elon Musk and his banning of some journalists from Twitter. Ioffe said that many editors would be secretly happy if journalists were banned from Twitter. Ioffe explained that what journalists posted on Twitter often conflicted with their editors’ wish that their newspaper (etc.) be perceived as unbiased. Ioffe colorfully remarked that these journalist Twitter postings gave editors "Shpilkes genechtagazonk".

Shpilkes, of course, is a Yiddish word that means being highly agitated. (The second word I will discuss below).   

When Ioffe issued her Shpilkes line, the camera caught Cuban and Stewart breaking into really loud, joyous laughter. As he was laughing, Cuban said, “I thought my grandparents jumped on and said something”.  

Stewart had the whole panel laughing when he said that Ioffe’s comment was a “beautiful tribute to Hanukkah” (which was just about to start). He then pointed to his face and said "this is a smiling punim" (Yiddish for face). 

Genechtagazonk? Was it a Yiddish word I had never heard of? I looked it up. It is faux-Yiddish. It originated in a “Simpsons” episode in which Krusty the clown, a Jewish character, said that mobsters beat on his body parts, including his "genechtagazonk". It’s unclear what body part he was referring to.   

Bottom line: it is a made-up, Yiddish sounding, slang word whose exact meaning is unclear. Several sources say that many people have incorporated the word into their vocabulary. They almost always use it in a joking way.  Do watch this (filmed) podcast on Youtube. A joyful Jewish moment like this is very rare in mainstream news programs.


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