Rick Moranis Is My Grandma’s John Mulaney | Steve Heisler
Rick Moranis has a new musical comedy album. What, the star of Honey, I Shrunk The Kids and Little Shop Of Horrors can’t get back in the oh-so-lucrative game after eight years off? He sure can, and boy he sure did. My Mother’s Brisket & Other Love Songs, from a few months back, is a collection of Klezmer-inspired goof songs about Moranis’ Jewish experience. “Live Blogging The Himel Family Bris” is one of the tracks, and the name alone should give you an idea of the crotchety Judaism in store. Also know that at one point, Moranis’ backing band puts down the Bar Mitzvah bassoon and picks up a vaguely racist harpsichord for a song about ordering Chinese delivery.
Suffice to say, the album is not for me. Moranis goes after the lowest of hanging Jew-fruit—the etrog, perhaps—relying on the recognition of Yiddish words for chuckles before daring to venture deeper. But I didn’t expect to fall in love with My Mother’s Brisket like Moranis falls in love with his cleaning woman, so no surprise there. I did, however, immediately have a clear vision of who the album IS for: my grandparents.
There is rarely a universal consensus when it comes to my family and comedy. We can all agree that Mel Brooks is a genius, for example, but even then it’s for different reasons. My grandparents love how he lambasts Jewish culture while simultaneously celebrating it. I see the secular side of the equation and think he’s merely the world’s biggest optimist of any faith or culture, his comedy a parade of weird and hysterical ideas he can’t wait to open to the public. My grandparents were raised by post-World War II parents who used laughter to diffuse lingering antisemitism; I was raised by two suburban Chicagoans who loved Seinfeld and David Letterman for how surreal they were. There’s a cultural thing happening, but it’s also generational. Humor was, by virtue of having nothing else, a lifeline for my grandparents, whereas it became a catalyst for creative expression to me—playing a decidedly much more luxurious role.
Listening to the Moranis album, I thought of jokes I’ve heard about music and aging. Perhaps when we’re 70, these jokes posit, our grandkids will make fun of us for listening to Kanye West and/or Ben Folds Five. “That’s just old person music,” the younguns might exclaim. The smart ones might revere the classics, as I do, I dunno, Beethoven…or Beethoven’s 2nd. But they’ll probably choose new stuff, as I do for pretty much anything that mashes with the Chrono Trigger soundtrack.
My Mother’s Brisket came out in 2013, but it already feels incredibly dated. It’s made for a generation of listeners of which I am not a part. So that got me wondering: As a 31 year old, who is the comedian of MY generation? Who will I look back on in 50 years and think he or she captured exactly what myself and my friends were going through in the 2010s? And after seeing him destroy at Just For Laughs in Montreal last month, I have no doubt that’s John Mulaney.