Yesterday I went to an event about images of Jewish women in Hollywood sponsored by the MorningStar Commission, an organization founded with support by Hadassah (I actually worked at Hadassah when the Commission was founded, and have long wanted to attend their events). This one, titled "Inside the Jewish Noggin," promised a "main event" interview with Jenji Kohan (left), the creator of "Weeds" and the potentially upcoming "Ronna and Beverly," as well as networking and breakout groups with Jewish women in the industry to give us an inside look at some of the issues they face as Jews in Hollywood. (Sold.)
- As an intro, "Hebrew Mamita" Vanessa Hidary (follow her on Twitter!) did her famous spoken-word piece about what it means to look Jewish...I asked her afterwards if it was a longer version of the one we'd seen on YouTube, and she confirmed that it was. As many times as I've seen it, I never get tired of it, and that's a testament to Vanessa's energy. (Haven't seen "Monologues" yet? Now's your chance! Check out this video and get your tickets in NJ, NY and Chicago here.)
- Writer/producer Jill Soloway gracefully handled questions from a room of interested attendees (many of them with job agendas), ranging from explanations about how the American TV industry works to the role of Jews in the writers' room. She explained a theory that Jews were "recreating culture to defend ourselves post-Holocaust," and noted that she meets young writers and tries to mentor them. In fact, she said, in response to a question about where the "United States of Tara" writers come from, she had met a playwright and offered her a job in an email exchange. (At which point, some blogger quipped, "so what's your email address?")
- As she took the stage, Jenji tried to adjust her lapel mic with the help of a technician. "You need to get higher," she said. After a few members of the audience began to snicker, she realized, "everything's a pun."
- Jenji noted that in her writers' room, the only thing that people aren't allowed to be is politically correct. "Being PC...that's just not ok," she said.
- When asked if Andy Botwin (Justin Kirk) would make a good rabbi, she initially said no, that "Andy lacks the scholarship," but that, as long as someone else wrote his speeches, he'd be "fun to listen to at the High Holidays."
- Asked about what it means to raise Jewish children, Jenji said that it means raising children to "question everything and look deeper...ask questions, ask 'why', ask more."
- Growing up in a showbiz family, none of the kids were supposed to go into the industry, but two did. (Brother David Kohan is the co-creator and producer of "Will & Grace.") Their family dinner table was "a really rough room." When Jenji's brother told a fart joke, a parent responded "fart jokes are an easy laugh - you can do better."
This did not come out of the interview with Jenji, which was gracefully conducted by Jewish Journal writer Danielle Berrin, but there's also a Jewish geography/Buffy connection that I must mention. (Because you know that's why you come here.) Jenji's husband, Christopher Noxon, is the brother of...Marti Noxon (writer/executive producer for Buffy and Angel)! Thanks to that factoid, I can also file this in "Much Ado About Whedon." Nice.