By Mordechai Schmutter
Guess where I went last Sunday!
I went to an Uncle Moishy concert! AAAAAAAAAAAAAH!
I’m sorry, I don’t know what came over me. I think every time someone says Uncle Moishy’s name (Uncle Moishy) you’re supposed to scream like that. That’s what all the kids at the concert were doing. (To be fair, though, some of them were crying because the lights were out.) But I think that this article would be more fun if, every time I mention Uncle Moishy, you (the reader) would go, “AAAAAAAAAAAAAH!” Unless you’re reading this on the subway.
In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past 31 years, Uncle Moishy is a very popular figure in the world of kosher kids’ entertainment, and is responsible for many of the beloved children’s songs that we all grew up on. He probably has a real name, but everyone knows him as “Uncle Moishy” (except for his kids, who call him “Uncle Totty”). He wears a shirt with “Uncle Moishy” on it in big letters, so he has an easier time finding it in the laundry, and his hat has a huge white mem on the front so he can leave it on a hook in shul on Shabbos morning, and no one will accidentally walk off with it.
“Excuse me, I believe that’s my hat.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. Can’t you see the big mem?”
“Oh. I thought this was my hat with a giant mem.”
But Uncle Moishy wouldn’t get upset, because he’s a warm and upbeat person, and he has an amount of patience that most of us cannot achieve without serious medication. (To illustrate my point, I ran this article by him before publication, and he was okay with it.)
I decided to go to the concert primarily because it was local, but also because my kids absolutely love Uncle Moishy songs, and are always asking us to play his albums. They ask us at home, in the car, around town—basically, all day long . . .
And we will never never never eat milk and meat together, so join us, and sing the kosher song.
See? We can’t get these beloved songs out of our heads.
Uncle Moishy bills himself as “everyone’s favorite uncle.” And not the one who shows up with a bunch of funny-looking cousins that you have to sit with at weddings despite their being an entirely inappropriate age for you. Well actually, he is that uncle, sort of. For example, he comes with a bunch of colorful costumed mascots who, at various points in the show, run out into the audience and try to navigate, with no peripheral vision, through a maze of excited kids running into their midsections at top speed. It usually isn’t long before they silently retreat to the stage.
He also brought along his Mitzvah Men. I don’t know why, but I’d been under the impression that the Mitzvah Men are those walking mitzvos that seem to follow him around in all his publicity photos, such as the pushka and the mezuzah. But it turns out that the Mitzvah Men are actually the guys in the background who play musical instruments. Who knew?
I wonder how that works, though. When they’re filling out forms, and they get to the part where it says “Occupation,” do they write, “Mitzvah Man”? Does Uncle Moishy put ads in the paper?
WANTED: Mitzvah Man. Must have experience doing mitzvos. Some musical experience preferred.
In addition, Uncle Moishy brought along a warm-up comedian/clown named “Cousin Nachum.” I assume this guy was supposed to be his son, but I’m not sure, because I couldn’t really follow the plot with all the screaming that was going on. Nachum’s job was to juggle, make jokes, and fall down a lot. (The falling down bits were a big hit with the kids. I think my column would be a lot more successful with kids in the 2–7 age range if I found a way to incorporate falling down.)
Also, sometimes Nachum would drop something, such as his hat or his nose (in the field of kids’ comedy, it helps to have a detachable nose), and whenever that happened, there were kids who were convinced that he dropped it by accident, and started screaming at him about it en masse, which is the polite thing to do when someone gets up on a stage and his nose falls off. I mean, if your boss started giving an important speech with a little bit of lunch stuck to his face, isn’t that what you and your coworkers would do—start screaming, “There’s food on your face! There’s food on your face!” until he notices? No wonder kids have stage fright.
But yeah, I understand that maybe I was not the target audience for the show. There are a lot of places that parents go so their kids will have a good time. You’re there for the kids. It’s like when people tell me, “My wife and kids love your articles. They read them all the time.”
You can admit that you read them. I won’t judge you.
I learned this a couple of years ago, when I took my kids to a safety fair, which also featured a clown/magic show. Obviously, the show was geared to the kids, so the adults graciously stood in the back of the room and let all the kids sit on the floor in front. But then someone had the genius idea to give out balloons with long strings, and with a mass of about 20 rows of children sitting on the floor, all the balloons lined up directly in the parents’ line of vision. We could only see the clowns when they fell on the floor, which, thankfully, happened a lot. It must be the shoes.
So these shows are definitely not for the parents. But on that note, I need to say that I strongly favor some kind of corporal punishment for whoever invented that thing that entertainers do at kids’ performances, where the guy on stage asks a question, and the kids all answer, and then the guy, in an attempt to make the parents feel like they’re getting a longer show, says, “I can’t heeeeear you!” And the kids always believe him! No matter how many times he says it. So I think we should track down the original “I can’t hear you” guy, put him in a room full of kids, stand on the stage, and keep saying, “I can’t heeeeear you!” over and over again until the noise is enough to send dogs into hiding. Or else we can just lock him in a mascot suit and let him stumble around in the dark with no peripheral vision while enthusiastic kids run into his midsection.
Nevertheless, Uncle Moishy and Cousin Nachum tried to stick in some lines that the adults could appreciate, most of which revolved around the premise that the adults didn’t really want to be there.
But it’s only because of less-than-positive past experiences. For example, whenever I go to one of these shows, I end up sitting right in front of the noisiest kids in the room, and right behind an abnormally tall child who, sadly, was never taught how to sit down. Did his parents pay for a seat? They didn’t get their money’s worth.
And this time, I was sitting right behind a child who spent most of the concert facing the back of the room. It was very disconcerting. “Look!” I said, pointing toward the stage.” It’s Uncle Moishy!”
“I know!” the kid said. And he kept on staring at me.
I also had a child sitting next to me—one of mine, actually—who felt the need to explain every joke to me, his humor-impaired father, right after it happened. “He didn’t really trip,” my son said. “He fell on purpose.”
“I see,” I said.
“Now he dropped his hat.”
“I saw!” I said. “Look, you don’t have to tell me. Tell it to the kid who’s staring at us.”
But all in all, it was a really entertaining concert. My kids really liked it. Especially the nostalgic songs that brought them back 30 years.
My son: “He means that . . .”
The readers know what I mean. v
Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia and is the author of four books, published by Israel Book Shop. He also does freelance writing for hire. You can send any questions, comments, or ideas to MSchmutter@gmail.com.