Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Stephen Colbert: welcome to the tribe

Stephen Colbert recently revealed that he’d participated in the Genographic Project, which involves sending a swab of saliva in order to discover your DNA haplogroup and track your ancestry way back before Comedy Central or even Jack Benny. Colbert learned there’s a strong (75%) likelihood he’s Jewish.

Without sticking anything into his mouth, give or take a Hebrew national hot dog, I could have told him he seems Jewish. He’s irreverent, funny, smart and political. Those traits are found in people who aren’t Jewish and may not be as conclusive as DNA, but they’re a fairly reliable barometer. Another factor is Stephens are apt to be Jewish. If you’re tempted to cite Stephen Foster, go dig up his saliva and see what comes back. Foster might have once been Fishman, changed by someone who said, "Fishman is too Jewish". It was, no doubt, the same person who urged him to retitle "Old Folks at Home" to "Swanee River" with probably the same rationale. Steves are another story. Steves hop on motorcycles and are not necessarily Jewish.

Now that Colbert has outed himself on national TV, his life will never be as uncomplicated. I’m sure his mother has already taken to calling more frequently. It won't be long before those guys who run the Brooklyn yeshivas (Hebrew schools for you Steves) get his home number and call during dinner to ask for a contribution to the building or scholarship fund. The Colbert kids have probably already been invited on a Birthright trip to Israel. Stephen will be asked to speak at fund raisers by every organization that recruits Stephens – from Peace Now to Taysachs Disease. However many free nights and tuxedos you have, Stephen, they won’t be enough. I hope you like salmon, the entree of choice at every kosher event. I've often imagined a school of salmon as they spot the fishermen coming for them with one saying, "Oh no, it's another UJA fund raiser!"

If Steve needs additional mentoring on dealing with this sudden and surprising Jewish identity, he should have his people get in touch with Madeline Albright.

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