Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

Rick Moranis, Going from ‘Ghostbusters’ to Mom’s Brisket, Draws on Jewish Roots in New Album

June 26, 2013 2:00 am 0 comments

JNS.org – When fans picture Rick Moranis, the first things that probably come to mind are comedy and scenes from science fiction movies such as “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids,” “Ghostbusters,” “Little Shop of Horrors,” or “Spaceballs.” But Moranis’s latest project conjures up an image much closer to home.

Moranis recalls that the smell of his Jewish mother’s home “would get you from five blocks away.”

“The whole place smelled like Friday at 6 p.m., and that was 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days of the year,” Moranis says in an interview with JNS.org.

That smell is the inspiration behind Moranis’s new CD, “My Mother’s Brisket & Other Love Songs” (Warner Bros. Records/LoudMouth). Released June 18, the album is comprised of 13 comedic songs exploring the smorgasbord of Moranis’s Jewish heritage.

Moranis actually started his career not on the big screen, but spinning records at the Toronto-based CHUM-FM radio station, accompanying himself on the guitar during his earliest solo comedy routines. In 1982, Moranis and his fictional brother Dave Thomas from the movie “Strange Brew” and the comedy show “Second City Television” scored a Billboard Top 40 hit with “Take Off.” Nearly 25 years later, Moranis hit the charts again, but this time as a country singer on his album “The Agoraphobic Cowboy.”

This year, Moranis went back to the studio to record a set of songs that he was literally born to play. The result is “My Mother’s Brisket” (Warner Bros./LoudMouth), a baker’s dozen of songs that Moranis says even non-Jews can relate to. Moranis had an early inclination to include a glossary for his heavily Yiddish-infused collection of songs, but ultimately decided against the move.

“Other than Gary Schreiner,” Moranis tells JNS.org, mentioning his friend and producer, “almost all the musicians [on the album] were gentile.”

“They completely got everything [in the songs] because it was either self-explanatory, or I would set [the Yiddish lyrics] up with a few lines,” he says.

For example, Moranis says that once he explained that a zaide is a grandfather, the song “I’m Old Enough to be Your Zaide” had everyone in the studio laughing.

“And if you don’t know, you can get it from the song,” he says.

Among the other offerings on the album are “My Wednesday Balabusta,” “Belated Haftorah,” “The Seven Days of Shiva,” and “I Can’t Help It, I Just Like Christmas.”

Though Jew and non-Jews can both relate to most of Moranis’s compositions, perhaps the most universally relatable tune is the title track, “My Mother’s Brisket.” Asked what it is about brisket that makes Jewish children so loyal to the homes they grew up in, Moranis says he does not know for sure, but calls homemade food the “sensual part” of growing up in a Jewish home.

When it came time to choose a title track for the new album and to take a cover photo, Moranis went back to the home of his mother and his daughter’s bubbe.

“That is my mother on the cover,” Moranis explains. “My daughter took the picture!”

Moranis is not sure if his mother’s brisket had any “secret ingredient,” but does recall her roasting the meat “for hours,” then “letting it rest,” slicing it, then finally reheating it “with all the stuff on top of it, so it ended up being more moist than others we came across, that might have been cut right at the table.”

As happy as Moranis is to see his mother whenever he visits, he says that the rest of his family was always nearly as happy whenever she came to them bearing brisket.

“When my mother walked in a house with the brisket, they were all happy to see her, but some would be happier to see the brisket,” he says.

While his mother’s brisket may have been his true first love, Moranis says he has “always loved making music.” Though many fans think of him as a comedian and actor first, Moranis was actually one of the many kids who “grew up wanting to be The Beatles,” before he was “sidetracked into comedy.”

“Even when I was doing comedy, I wrote [music] all the time,” Moranis says.

On his album “The Agoraphobic Cowboy,” released in 2005, Moranis included a song called “Mean Old Man” which details the denizens of the Russian steam baths.

“It was about guys who came to school and described their father’s experiences in the steam bath, being whipped with eucalyptus leaves in theplaitza,” Moranis explains, mentioning the famed therapeutic torture that so many have enjoyed at the burly hands of Russian steam bath attendants. “They told about this particular Russian guy who had this great touch with the leaves.”

When “The Agoraphobic Cowboy” attracted wide acclaim, Moranis began looking into other elements of his upbringing for song ideas.

“I started writing more songs that had music I remembered from shul and the Zionist camp I went to as a kid, and the vernacular I grew up with that I was re-encountering in conversation with my family,” Moranis says.

Moranis has collaborated through the years with other famed comics, such as Steve Martin and Mel Brooks. His songwriting, however, is a more individualistic process.

“Writing jokes is a lot of fun to write with other people, but songwriting alone I like better,” he says.

Nevertheless, Moranis says he runs “everything by friends.”

“I don’t dare publish anything without trusted friends of mine who are writers hearing what it is and giving feedback,” he says.

Among the “editors” for “My Mother’s Brisket” were Moranis’s sister, a cousin, and of course, his mother.

“I sang some of [the songs] to my mother over the phone,” he says.

One of the songs that Moranis’s mother may not have heard in advance was “I’m Old Enough to be Your Zaide,” if only because she may not have approved of the premise.

“That was inspired by a little moment I had with a younger woman who I probably could have pursued having an introductory date with, and I asked her how old her father was, and the oldest guy she had dated, and they were both younger than me,” Moranis recalls.

“I though that, for the betterment of mankind, I would move on and wish her well,” Moranis says. “As I walked away, that song came to mind.”

While there is talk of a possible live tour, the album is currently the closest fans can get to being at Moranis’s mother’s table.

“At the end of the second day, the guys [at the recording studio] said we had to play this live,” Moranis says. “I thought they were kidding, but I find the idea intriguing.”

Moranis originally thought this album would be distributed privately, among friends and family. When he told his attorney that he would record it for just eight people, the attorney thought Jews all over North America would love the album. Now, deluxe sets of “My Mother’s Brisket” will even come with an inscribed yarmulke.

“I think people would give it to their cousins,” Moranis says of the album-yarmulke combination. “That is what I would do.”

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Relationships Yossi Vardi Credits Pushy Jewish Mother for His Startup Success

    Yossi Vardi Credits Pushy Jewish Mother for His Startup Success

    Millionaire entrepreneur Yossi Vardi credited his success in start-ups to his Jewish mother continuously pushing him to do better, Daily Mail reported on Thursday. “Jewish mothers are never satisfied and nothing is ever good enough,” he said, adding that his mother, who died 15 years ago, used to compare him with his cousins and say he was “an idiot.” “For most of my life I have been trying to show her I’m not,” he continued. “I keep on trying even now.” Vardi, […]

    Read more →
  • Theater US & Canada Seth Rogen Unveils New Christmas Movie — ‘Will Open on Thanksgiving, Made by Jews’ (VIDEO)

    Seth Rogen Unveils New Christmas Movie — ‘Will Open on Thanksgiving, Made by Jews’ (VIDEO)

    Famed actor Seth Rogen on Tuesday unveiled with typical comic fanfare the trailer for his new Christmas film. The movie “was made by Jews… and opens on Thanksgiving,” Rogen pointed out on Twitter. The Night Before tells the tale of three “ride or die homies” celebrating one last debauchery-filled Christmas Eve reunion before they become too busy to keep up their annual tradition. In an effort to make the night as memorable as possible, they set out to find the “Nutcracka Ball – the […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish History Art Can Inspire Faith; It Can Also Empower Destructive Ideologies

    Art Can Inspire Faith; It Can Also Empower Destructive Ideologies

    A June 2015 art exhibit, “The Transformative Power of Art,” at the United Nations headquarters in New York City, harnessed the universal language of art to convey an important message: “Our fragile Mother Earth faces the devastating consequences of climate change, a defining challenge of our time.” The exhibit also included sixteen portraits of people from all over the world who have “contributed to the common good of humanity in one way or another and have transformed the way we […]

    Read more →
  • Israel Sports Israeli Muslim Cage Fighter Says He’s Proud to Fight Under Jewish State’s Flag

    Israeli Muslim Cage Fighter Says He’s Proud to Fight Under Jewish State’s Flag

    A 32-year-old Circassian Israeli Muslim Mixed Martial Arts fighter from Abu Ghosh says he takes pride in fighting under the Israeli flag, Israel’s Walla reported on Sunday. Like most Circassian Israelis, Jackie “the Punishment” Gosh was born Sunni Muslim. He became observant about eight years ago, and is now scrupulous in following his religion’s tenets, praying five times a day and fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. Gosh is also very proud of his Israeli nationality, and sees no contradiction between […]

    Read more →
  • Israel Music New Mark Skinner Documentary Explores Jewish, Arab Rap Scene in Israel (VIDEO)

    New Mark Skinner Documentary Explores Jewish, Arab Rap Scene in Israel (VIDEO)

    A new documentary explores the lives and work of Jewish and Arab rappers in Israel and how the ongoing conflict in the region has impacted their lyrics, the U.K.’s Jewish Chronicle reported on Thursday. Hip Hop in the Holy Land is a six-part series co-directed by Mike Skinner, the British frontman of hip-hop group The Streets, and produced by Noisey, a music channel published by Vice news. The first episode, published last week, shows Skinner meeting with Tamer Nafar, the founder of one of […]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada 49ers Running Back Jarryd Hayne Apologizes for ‘Hurtful’ Jesus Tweets

    49ers Running Back Jarryd Hayne Apologizes for ‘Hurtful’ Jesus Tweets

    New 49ers running back and Australian rugby star Jarryd Hayne apologized on Wednesday for a tweet in which he raised the age-old myth that Jews were historically responsible for Jesus Christ’s death. Reaching out to his Jewish fans, and the chairman of the B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission, Hayne tweeted: “To the Jewish community @DvirAbramovich #WeAreAllOne.” Underneath, he keenly included a screenshot of a text message to elaborate on his apology: “I sincerely apologize for my tweets on July 1. I […]

    Read more →
  • Theater Israeli Actress Gal Gadot Recalls Being ‘Extremely Surprised’ at Winning Miss Israel Contest

    Israeli Actress Gal Gadot Recalls Being ‘Extremely Surprised’ at Winning Miss Israel Contest

    Israeli actress Gal Gadot reminisced about her childhood in Israel during an interview published in this month’s edition of Vanity Fair. “I don’t remember this, but my mom told me that when I was three they threw a party on the rooftop of the house. They put me to bed, and I heard people coming into the house and no one came to me. I went to the rooftop and took a hose and I started to spray water on everyone, just […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Features Wounded Israeli Soldiers Unite With American Veterans to Help Their ‘Brothers for Life’ Heal (INTERVIEW)

    Wounded Israeli Soldiers Unite With American Veterans to Help Their ‘Brothers for Life’ Heal (INTERVIEW)

    An Israeli organization is helping wounded U.S. veterans move past their physical and psychological challenges by connecting them with injured Israeli soldiers who understand what they’ve been through. “What we discovered very early is that there’s no ‘professional, psychiatrist, social worker’ or anything like that [or] pills that can come even close to helping a soldier who fought in combat, who was wounded, who lost his friends. No one can help him like another person who’s been through exactly what he has,” Rabbi Chaim Levine, […]

    Read more →