Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another


Fugging Around

At 86, blind and housebound, Fugs frontman Tuli Kupferberg is still dispensing crass words of wisdom

Print Email
The Fugs in 1967, from left: Ed Sanders, Tuli Kupferberg, and Ken Weaver.(Courtesy of Ed Sanders)

In 1965, two beat poets on New York’s Lower East Side, Tuli Kupferberg and Ed Sanders, put together a band called the Fugs. (The name is a euphemism that means what it sounds like and was borrowed from Norman Mailer’s novel The Naked and the Dead.) The Fugs have been recording and performing irreverent rants about sex, drugs, and war since then, often with Kupferberg delivering deadpan lyrics in what the New York Times recently described as his “rabbinical monotone.” The group’s latest album, Be Free, comes out this week, though Kupferberg has been confined to his home since the fall, after two strokes left him virtually blind. He continues to make himself heard by way of daily dispatches, which he calls “perverbs,” posted on YouTube. He doesn’t consider himself religious, but his songs, poems, and missives are steeped in the Yiddish culture he grew up in. Reporter Jon Kalish profiled the performer—who, be warned, uses some explicit language. [Running time: 11:25.]

Print Email

Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180

Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.

Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.

We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.

georgianna says:

He can’t be 86! I had such a crush on him in the ’60s. “Mrs. Tuli Kupferberg…” I’m very glad to hear he’s still carrying on.


jon ..just wonderfull as steve ben

And the opening line of the Fugs’ song, “Advice From the Fugs” is, “Never forget that Sholom Aleichem lost all his inherited money in the stock market.” Jewish references came naturally to Tuli and the Fugs and they did not edit out those references to be a little cooler.

groove68 says:

Watch Tuli Kupferberg in the 80s on Paper Tiger TV

Even die-hard atheists might agree that God blessed, blesses and bless Tuli.

Nancy Cain says:

Hey Jon–wonderful piece!

Great piece, thanks!

Peter Zanger says:

Jon–Fan-fuggin’-tastic! Thanks.

Thelma Blitz says:

You can see an illustrated montage I made of this podcast with rare Tuli photos, cartoons, and pictures of the people Jon mentions, which I am told is very helpful to people who speak languages other than English. For the rest, it should enhance the experience of hearing Jon’s piece. Too bad that Tuli can’t appreciate it, but those of us who still have the gift of sight should check out the video:

(also on YouTube and DailyMotion)

Vivien Orbach-Smith says:

Once a fug, forever a fug – how great is that? Kalish, your work cuts to the heart.

A heart of Judaism that should be better known – the desire for peace for all!

Rosebudz says:

Man what a farrrrout piece of reportage with a Jewish touch— dig it!!! thanx for it!

Charles Soberman says:

I was introduced to the Fugs in 1966 by my roommate from NYC. We wore out the grooves (remember them?) on our record. Hard to believe Kupferberg is 86, but no harder to believe than that I am 61!

Yankeedog says:

Kupferberg had a listed phone number and was exceedingly polite to a sixteen-year-old moron who called him up one afternoon in 1967, and said moron is sad to hear of his passing…

Ron Wolf says:

Shocked and saddened. My regards and and consolation to Ed and all survivors. Tuli and Ed will always be engraved in my acid stained mind as a true prophets in every sense of the word. Will always remember those “under thirty days” on Avenue A, the second Peace Eye next to Park Center Hardware run by another good friend Joe Scime who finally found a wife at sixty nine! At 65 more than ever it feels so lonesome in the morning. Tuli, you will be missed.

Wow, awesome blog format! How lengthy have you been running a blog for? you made blogging look easy. The whole look of your site is fantastic, as smartly as the content material!

some type of organization and would like to have an on-line presence then the first thing

I’ve said that least 1223465 times. The problem this like that is they are just too compilcated for the average bird, if you know what I mean

Thank you for the sensible critique. Me and my neighbor were just preparing to do some research on this. We got a grab a book from our area library but I think I learned more clear from this post. I’m very glad to see such wonderful info being shared freely out there.

Magnificent goods from you, man. I’ve understand your stuff previous to and you’re just too fantastic. I actually like what you have acquired here, certainly like what you are stating and the way in which you say it. You make it entertaining and you still care for to keep it wise. I cant wait to read much more from you. This is really a terrific site.


Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

Fugging Around

At 86, blind and housebound, Fugs frontman Tuli Kupferberg is still dispensing crass words of wisdom

More on Tablet:

From the Mekong to Maryland

By Hillel Kuttler — After the fall of Saigon, a Baltimore synagogue helped 15 Vietnamese become Americans