“It really hurts,” I said to my wife as my knee buckled under me.

“Good,” said Mary Ellen.

That’s not the kind of support you expect from your spouse.  It’s bad enough I have virtually no support from my knee, which is why I’m getting a new one next week. Unlike a heart or kidney, you do not get someone else’s knee: it pretty much comes in a box like a pair of shoes from Amazon Prime. You just have to pray it’s going to fit. And there’s a lousy return policy.

Now let me explain my wife’s apparent lack of sympathy. Every time I’ve had a couple of pain-free days, I’ve started to question whether I really need this operation. This drives Mary Ellen nuts. When we go on vacation, my wife wants to hike all morning and go to museums in the afternoon, and I usually hurt too much to tag along. To end this agony, I’ll need a new knee.  To avoid going shopping, I’ll need a new excuse.

And I have another issue.  I have never spent a night in a hospital in my life, and I’m afraid I will get very antsy and impatient until I get to go home. I’ve stopped going to the Minute Clinic at CVS because the last time I was there, it took them twice as long to treat me as the name suggests.

Mary Ellen and I arrived at the surgical center for a pre-op class and were directed down a corridor that said JOINT HEALTH.  I’m a big advocate of medical marijuana, so this was a good start. Kimberly, the RN conducting the class, wanted each of the attendees to know that no matter which surgeon was performing our operation, he was the very best. There were six of us having this procedure­—all with different docs—so it was pretty obvious that five of us were being hoodwinked. The previous week, Dr.  Estes told me he had done 1,700 knee operations. That made me feel better, but I’ve done 7,800 TV shows and I still mess up more than half the time.

Kimberly  taught us several exercises and carefully went over guidelines we had to follow prior to surgery. I always have trouble concentrating, but I remembered her saying no alcohol four hours prior to surgery. Despite my love for beer, that seemed manageable. My wife claimed she said four weeks.  I went with Mary Ellen’s recollection because she’s a better listener, and that’s why I wanted her with me through the entire orientation. When I went in for my EKG, the nurse told Mary Ellen she need not accompany me during the procedure, “unless you’d get a kick out of watching me rip the adhesive pads off your husband’s hairy chest.”

The last stop during the pre-op visit was the hospitalist, the physician who looks at all your medications to help avoid any complications with the anesthesia. The nurse referred to him as “our very own medicine man,” which made me so nervous my knees started to shake. That made my bad knee really hurt—which is why when we left the hospital, Mary Ellen was feeling pretty good about everything.


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On Friday, August 18, at 7:30 in the evening, I will be stepping onto the stage at the Phoenix Theatre…and out of my comfort zone. The Phoenix is one of several venues for this year’s IndyFringe Festival, part of an Indianapolis tradition that originated in 2005. Entertainers from all parts of the U.S. will offer hour-long acts in venues along the Mass Avenue corridor over an 11-day period, with more than 72 artists, giving in total more than 400 performances. There is something for everyone: cabaret, comedy, dance, drama, magic and music.

My performance is called “The Art of the Jewish Joke.” I have read or heard thousands of them, and while I have no idea where my keys or glasses are, I remember (and can repeat) just about all of them. When I buy books of Jewish humor, I read the first line of an anecdote, then I anticipate the last line, skipping to the end to confirm my prediction. I usually nail it, but I always go back and read the whole thing again, anyway. Why? Because just like “The Star-Spangled Banner,” there’s lots of ways to “sing” it, and occasionally the new version is an improvement. Or, as many of my Jewish friends say when I tell one, “I’ve heard it already, and you’re telling it wrong.”

Humor is one way for Jews to stay connected to their faith and traditions. Food works, too. Many Jews do not read Hebrew or speak Yiddish, although everyone knows at least some Yiddish words. If you don’t, you’re meshuggana (Look that up. It’s a great one.)

In my show, I’ll have the audience spin a wheel that contains categories of popular Jewish topics: food, money, temple politics, kvetching (look that up, too), assimilation, and marriage. Here’s a good one about Jewish mothers:

A Jewish girl brings three boys home to meet her mother and just for fun asks her mother to pick the one she thinks her daughter has chosen to marry. The mother questions them all.

“This one,” she says, pointing to the young man in the middle.

“How did you know?” asks the daughter.

“He’s the one I don’t like.”

You can’t stick a hole in a jelly doughnut and make it a bagel. Likewise, a real Jewish joke is about more than inserting a rabbi or a guy named Goldstein into a one-liner. Despite being “the Chosen People,” Jews suffered for thousands of years. Maybe they got the worst of the deal—but they got the best of the argument by incorporating their predicaments into their humor. Why should I let you make fun of me, when I can do it better myself?

Many Jewish jokes do not end with a typical punch line, but with an observation or a commentary on life. And some are a little bit naughty:

A Jewish widow knocks on the door of an elderly Jewish man next door. “Would you like super sex?” she asks.

“I’ll take the soup.” (If you’re not laughing, you should say that one out loud.)

Muslim, Christian, Jew, and atheist alike can enjoy a good Jewish joke. And I’ve got a million of ’em.

Okay, maybe two thousand.


To get tickets to Fringe performances, go to: Indyfringe.org

I have six performances. Go on line for dates and times….


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