Sam Hoffman is the author of Old Jews Telling Jokes: 5,000 Years of Funny Bits and Not-So-Kosher Laughs, based on the enormously popular website of the same name (OldJewsTellingJokes.com, which has over 10 million video plays and counting). He has worked with such legends as Woody Allen and has produced, directed, and assistant-directed movies such as The Royal Tenenbaums, School of Rock, Dead Man Walking, Groundhog Day, and Curse of the Jade Scorpion.
Hoffman does a bit of his shtick here with PopMatters 20 Questions.
Old Jews Telling Jokes: 5,000 Years of Funny Bits and Not-So-Kosher Laughs
(Villard; US: Sep 2010)
1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?
Dinner for Schmucks. Have you seen it? I’m still crying.
2. The fictional character most like you?
Farmer McGregor. That Peter Rabbit is a pest.
3. The greatest album, ever?
London Calling by the Clash.
4. Star Trek or Star Wars?
That’s like asking “Brisket or Ham.” It depends on your mood.
5. Your ideal brain food?
The New Yorker. It takes subjects you never imagined would interest you, like traffic in Moscow, and makes them fascinating.
6. You’re proud of this accomplishment, but why?
Old Jews Telling Jokes makes people laugh. But it also preserves a fading element of this culture. I’m proud to be able to do both.
7. You want to be remembered for . .?
Doing the right thing.
8. Of those who’ve come before, the most inspirational are?
People who search for the truth. No matter what their field. Cartier-Bresson. Giacometti. John Lennon. Woody Allen. To name a few.
9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?
10. Your hidden talents . . .?
I’m very handy for a Jew. I can do light plumbing, electrical, spackle. I’m a wizard with double stick tape.
11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?
“Don’t wish your life away.” My dad said that a lot during my childhood. I very rarely do it.
12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?
I don’t want to get all gadgety and superficial, but there are a few products that have come out in the past ten years that have really improved my life. They include the iPod, the GPS car navigation system and the Ped Egg. I’m kidding about the Ped Egg.
13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or…?
Sassoon. Ooh la la.
14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?
Pete Townsend. I’ve idolized him for 25 years. We probably wouldn’t have much to talk about, but I don’t care.
15. Time travel: where, when and why?
I’d like to travel back to five-minutes before I bought the tickets to Dinner for Schmucks.
16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation or Prozac?
Yoga helps a lot. It gets you out of the planning mode and into the being mode. That’s very therapeutic. Massage is great for the hour while you’re having it but it’s a fleeting pleasure. Playing with my children makes me feel great, except when it makes me more stressed.
17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or ...?
My ideal breakfast is coffee, a chocolate croissant and a fresh squeezed orange juice. Hard to imagine a more sublime combination of tastes in the morning.
18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?
I like the city. New York. Montauk in the summer.
I had the good fortune to spend seven months in Rome as Wes Anderson’s assistant director on The Life Aquatic. Rome in the Fall, when all the restaurants smell like truffles, is as good as any place on earth.
19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?
Be strong. Keep at it. Do the things we elected you to do. Don’t stop. And don’t let the noxious buzzing of the gnat Palin and her ilk concern you.
20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?
A screenplay that will incorporate elements of Old Jews Telling Jokes. It will be my first feature as a director.