Philip Roth and Mel Brooks Talk Art and Religion
A Television Critics Association panel hosts two titans
The Television Critics Association, which apparently exists, hosted a panel over the weekend featuring Philip Roth and Mel Brooks on their careers and lives. The discussion came in advance of two PBS documentaries, one on each man, which will be aired later this spring. In the 90-minute discussion, for which Roth was beamed in via satellite from New York (and Brooks showed up a little late), the two men talked specifically about the religious designations frequently ascribed to their work.
The two men spoke separately, but both addressed the issue of whether or not they considered themselves “Jewish” writers. Both said no. “I don’t write in Jewish, I write in American,” Roth said. He said he considers himself a “regionalist” when it comes to his work. “Bellow and Faulkner were regionalists, they write about the place they come from. So did Joyce,” said Roth. “I write about the locale I come from, and that particular locale was full of Jews, including me and my family.”
Brooks started out with a Jewish joke of sorts: “I’m not such a comedy giant, I’m 5-foot-6″, he said. “There are guys who aren’t as funny, but they’re taller.” He said growing up he once heard his mother talking to his friend about a woman leaving her husband. “She said: ‘How could she leave him? He was so tall,’ ” Brooks recounted. “This is the way Jews think.”
But on a more serious note, he agreed with Roth. “I think I missed the Jew boat by one generation,” he said. “When I worked in the Borscht Belt in the mountains, I spoke in English. A generation before me, they spoke in Yiddish,” he said. “I think it’s New York comedy, it is urban, it is sophisticated, it is street corner comedy.”
Roth also discussed his new love of retirement.
“Every morning I get up, go to the kitchen, get a large glass of orange juice and then go back to bed for half an hour,” he said. “After that, I go back to bed for half an hour. I’m doing fine without writing. Someone should have told me about this earlier.”
Sounds like fun. But, you know, let’s hope the routine gets old. For more on Roth’s retirement, check out David Hadar’s excellent piece from November.
Earlier: Why Philip Roth Is Retiring
Related: Is Roth Really Done?
Philip Roth & Mel Brooks Swap Stories, Talk Jewish Writers On PBS Panel: TCA [Deadline]
A personal look at the Yeshiva University High School scandal
Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180
WAIT, WHY DO I HAVE TO PAY TO COMMENT?
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.
I NEED TO BE HEARD! BUT I DONT WANT TO PAY.
Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at email@example.com. 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.