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The Arts

Sean Altman brings ‘Jewmongous’ back to Brattleboro

Raunchy, irreverent comedy turns stereotypes into humor

Tickets are $18 online at www.brownpapertickets.com or In The Moment Records, Main Street. More information on Altman can be found at www.jewmongous.com.

BRATTLEBORO—Sean Altman, the singer, composer, and musical force behind a capella singing sensation Rockapella, brings his silky tenor back to Brattleboro as the star of Jewmongous!, his collection of satirical comedy songs poking good natured, often raunchy, and decidedly less than politically correct fun at his Jewish heritage and the plight of modern Jewish life.

Altman will appear at the Hooker-Dunham Theatre on Main Street on Thursday, Dec. 27, at 7:30 p.m.

Altman is perhaps best known for penning and performing the ubiquitous theme song for the PBS series Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego?, in which Altman and Rockapella starred. Carmen won numerous Emmy Awards and the coveted Peabody Award while attracting a fanatical viewership of 20 million.

Altman’s career erupted from there — nine CD releases; eight tours of Japan; concerts with Sting and Don Henley; televised specials with Jay Leno and Whoopi Goldberg; and numerous commercials.

The Jewmongous! experience is summed up by Rabbi Angela Buchdahl of Central Synagogue in Manhattan, where Altman recently performed to a sold-out house:

Jewmongous! is funny ’til it hurts. Sean dishes out an irreverent, sometimes vulgar, but always illuminating view of American Jewish life. While his humor cuts to the bone, Altman’s pride in the tribe is always evident, and he is also a world-class mensch. Listen and weep. And love it!”

Despite the irreverence of some of his shtick, Altman is quick to say he never intends to offend.

“Fortunately, the name Jewmongous! tends to weed out audience members who are not predisposed to enjoy some of the comedy,” said Altman in a 2010 Commons interview. “No one’s going to come see an act called Jewmongous! and think that they’re seeing Israeli folk dancing.”

While Altman admitted that he does “take advantage” of some of the stereotypes, he added that “it’s more to deflate them than to imply that they’re true. My act is very affectionate and full of pride. I just want to make people laugh, but I don’t want to be ‘cute,’ either. I’d rather be Lenny Bruce than Alan Sherman.”

Not only can non-Jews appreciate the quirky humor of Jewmongous!, Altman insists, but also having audience members of other faiths is a critical component to the show’s success.

“Early in the show, I ask who’s not Jewish,” he explained, “and then I poke some lighthearted fun at the fact that they’re outnumbered, when normally it’s the other way around. But part of the show is me attempting to explain some of these bizarre rituals, even something as simple as the bar mitzvah ritual, or blowing the shofar on the High Holy Days — explaining these things to the goyim in the audience.”

Altman will be performing songs from his 2010 CD “Taller Than Jesus” (so titled, Altman says, as a tribute to John Lennon’s misunderstood declaration that The Beatles were “bigger than Jesus”), including the fractured Passover story song “They Tried to Kill Us (We Survived, Let’s Eat)” and the dysfunctional Bar Mitzvah anthem, “Today, I Am a Man.”

Due to adult themes and language, Jewmongous! is not recommended for children younger than 16.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #183 (Wednesday, December 19, 2012).

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