Booker & Foster

You Don't Have to Be Jewish

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Bob Booker was a master of the seemingly lost art of the sketch comedy album; he was one of the writers behind the smash hit Kennedy parody disc The First Family, and several years later he teamed up with George Foster to create You Don't Have to Be Jewish, a collection of blackout bits and extended one-liners which poked fun at the absurdities of American Jewish culture. Like The First Family, You Don't Have to Be Jewish was recorded in a studio with a live audience in attendance as a cast of actors performed scripted material much in the manner of a radio play. While You Don't Have to Be Jewish wasn't going to win any awards for originality even in 1965 -- many of these jokes were already antiques by that point -- and some of this material sounds a bit less than p.c. in the 21st century (especially the persistent presence of the Nagging Jewish Mother), for the most part the album is funny stuff and far too good-hearted to offend anyone. Booker and Foster had the good judgment to assemble a superb cast for this recording, and they transform what could have been ordinary Catskill shtick into something memorable; the performers include Lou Jacobi, Jack Gilford, Betty Walker, and Joe Silver, and their expert timing and feel for their characters is impeccable. You Don't Have to Be Jewish is a fine sampling of classic Borscht Belt humor (blended with a bit of like-minded new material) performed by a top-notch cast, and like the title says, you don't have to be of the Semitic faith to enjoy it ... though it couldn't hurt.