Jewish comedians and chaplains lift the spirits of American troops overseas. By Masada Siegel/JointMedia News…
When Jewish comedians Jake Hurwitz and Amir Blumenfeld first found themselves in front of the camera, they were playing characters of the same names in skits they wrote for CollegeHumor, the L.A.-based comedy website where they met.
“We were mortal enemies for the better part of a year, but it blew over and then we became best friends,” Hurwitz, 31, jokes (we think) of their initial interaction. One of the site’s longest-running series, Jake and Amir featured the duo playing out an odd-couple, straight man/funny man dynamic in an office setting. Inspired by their real-life relationship, and the proximity of their desks within the CollegeHumor office, they shot 750 episodes, which were posted weekly, and won a 2010 Webby Award for Comedy Long Form or Series; Ben Schwartz of House of Lies and Parks and Recreation fame was a frequent guest star. The show averages more than 500,000 views per episode.
“We were just writing skits that made us laugh and we started acting in them out of necessity because nobody else would,” Blumenfeld, 33, says.
Growing up near New Haven, Conn., with a Jewish dad and Christian mother, Hurwitz attended Hebrew school but celebrated holidays of both faiths — though he has said that he was influenced by his father’s “Jewish humor.” Blumenfeld was born in Afula, Israel; after moving with his family to Los Angeles when he was 2, he attended Jewish day schools through high school.
In a 2013 article, the comedy website Splitsider referred to the pair as “two of the most popular people on the internet.” Around the same time, they debuted their podcast, If I Were You, inspired in part by NPR’s legendary show Car Talk. Generally running between 30 minutes to an hour in length, it sees the two shed the Jake and Amir caricatures as they provide advice — and quite a bit of banter — as themselves to listener-submitted questions. The pair are bringing a live version of the podcast to the Magic Bag in Ferndale Saturday, Oct. 22.
In order to be included in an episode, the questions “can’t be too long. It can’t be too short [either]. It’s got to be pretty funny, intriguing,” Blumenfeld says.
“We try to first give purely silly advice, goofy advice, make fun of the people who ask the advice in the first place. But then we try not to goof past any questions without legitimately offering some help,” Hurwitz adds.
Topics vary widely: One recent episode was described as covering “mentors, soulmates and cigarettes.” Another spanned “ex-girlfriends, ex-boyfriends and foliage.” Fellow comedians like Lauren Lapkus and various other friends — even Hurwitz’s mother — often join the discussion to keep things interesting. “We have guests on our podcast all the time who can keep up and keep us on our toes,” he says.
“I think it’s just about being comfortable with somebody,” Hurwitz says of his ability to banter so successfully with Blumenfeld. “I’ve been with Amir for so long, we’re like an old happily married couple. I feel comfortable being myself around him. I feel like whatever I say won’t be shot down.”
“We pretty much share the same comedic mind,” Blumenfeld tells us.
“I’m definitely the yin [of the relationship],” Hurwitz claims. “So am I!” Blumenfeld counters.
After a moment of contemplation, Blumenfeld determines Michael Fassbender would play Hurwitz in the movie version of Jake and Amir. Without missing a beat, Hurwitz announces Adam Goldberg as Blumenfeld’s silver-screen counterpart — selections they both approve of (as do we).
In addition to their work together, Blumenfeld made an appearance on comedian Louis C.K’s show, Louie, and played Kumar’s best friend in A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas.
With almost a decade’s worth of work together, the pair cite a handful of notable highlights as stand-outs. This list includes their live tour in Australia last year, shooting the pilot episode of their TruTV series (even though it didn’t get picked up) as well as shooting their Vimeo series Lonely and Horny earlier this year. They’ve also recently released their first half-hour special, Fired, available for online streaming. And last year, the double-yin duo co-founded HeadGum, their own podcasting network.
“We started our own podcast about three years ago and we were just enjoying the podcasting world. We were having a lot of fun and we were getting a big audience that was tuning into the show. We had friends that would tell us that they wished they knew how to start their own podcast but they didn’t have the time, they didn’t have the equipment [or] they didn’t have a good idea for a show. We realized that we could help everybody that we love launch a podcast,” Blumenfeld explains. “We hope to grow [the network], add bigger shows and then hopefully start making video and other content around the podcasts that we’re helping.”
Audiences who attend their live shows are privy to a live version of their If I Were You podcast. “We’re going to get up on stage, hang out with the audience and we’re going to see if we can help some people who are stuck in some sticky situations,” Hurwitz tells us. “If you’re curious enough to hear how I lost my virginity, you’ve got to come to a live show,” he says of a tale telling that has become something of a tradition, with plot twists varying at every event.
To hear about Hurwitz’s first kiss, however — which he received at his bar mitzvah — check out Podcast Episode 234, which just aired last month. *
Jake Hurwitz and Amir Blumenfeld If I Were You Live Podcast appears 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 22, at the Magic Bag in Ferndale. $22-$45. (248) 544-1991; themagicbag.com.
By Reisa Shanaman, Contributing Writer