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Irreverent humor, hard work and ‘Jewdars’ come together for ‘Jewtopia’

By Masada Siegel

September 30th, 2009

Bryan Fogel and Sam Wolfson will bring their “World of Jewtopia” to Milwaukee Oct. 24-25.

Bryan Fogel and Sam Wolfson will bring their “World of Jewtopia” to Milwaukee Oct. 24-25.

For Sam Wolfson and Bryan Fogel, an evening of laughs began with a whole lot of hard work.

After struggling for years in horrible Hollywood jobs, the actors and writers decided to work together and created “Jewtopia,” which premiered in Los Angeles in 2003 and played three years Off-Broadway in New York.

They wrote, produced and acted in the show. Initially they did all the marketing and even sold tickets. But they also spent a lot of their own money.

“Bryan and I put the show’s expenses on our credit cards,” said Wolfson in a recent interview.

“All together we spent 80 grand. Our parents each chipped in thousands of dollars. We wrote the play to get noticed. We were both struggling at that point in our careers.”

The pair will bring their show, “World of Jewtopia” to Milwaukee’s Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center on Oct. 24 at 8 p.m. and Oct. 25 at 4 p.m.

If you go:
When: Oct. 24, 8 p.m. & Oct. 25, 4 p.m.
Where: Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center
Cost: $32.50 for JCC members/$38.50 non-members (before Oct. 10)
Tickets: 414-967-8249

The show is a combination of standup humor and a scene from their play all mixed in with a multimedia presentation. It follows Chris O’Connell, a Gentile man looking to marry a Jewish woman so he never ever has to make a decision again in his life. He meets up with his old friend Adam Lipschitz who guides him in his quest.

“Jewtopia” ran Off-Broadway for three years and 1,200 shows before traveling to venues around North America.

The “Jewtopia” concept expanded into a book where their independent streak became even more apparent. 

Wolfson explained how the book was developed. “We did not just want to do a book, we wanted pictures and drawings. So we put an ad on Craig’s list, hired 15 people that worked out of our apartments and spent the entire advance money on creating the book.

“Our agent thought we were out of our minds and told us that if Warner did not like the book, we would have to return all the money. But we were determined and wanted it to be great.”

The book, “Jewtopia”, which pokes fun at Jewish stereotypes such as overprotective parents and obsessive cleanliness, has sold over 40,000 copies.

While they mock Jewish mothers, Wolfson and Fogel also know their mothers’ power and used it to help promote the book. “We put our mothers’ phone numbers on the back of the book, so they could help with publicity,” said Wolfson.

The pair employed other tactics too. “One day we were on the Upper East Side [of New York City] in a Barnes and Noble, our books were out in front, so we started signing them,” Fogel said.

“Since we had our “Jewdar” on, we pounced on anyone we knew was Jewish to buy our book and have us sign it for them.”

They now both live in Malibu, a few miles away from one another. Wolfson surfs and Fogel, an avid skier and cyclist, bikes a few hundred miles a week. At the moment they are working feverishly on their movie which starts filming in mid October.

“It’s going to be a crazy, fun, wild, hysterical movie,” Wolfson said.

Advance tickets are $32.50 for JCC members/$38.50 for non-members. After Oct. 10, tickets are $38.50 for JCC members/$44.50 for non-members. For tickets or more information, contact Mona Cohen at the JCC, mcohen@jccmilwaukee.org or 414-967-8249.

Masada Siegel, otherwise known as Fun Girl Correspondent is a freelance writer in Scottsdale, Arizona and can be reached at fungirlcorrespondent@gmail.com