It's not like my parents intended to screw me up religiously, that's just how it went down. Growing up, things were just confusing -- my father was Jewish and my mother converted, which meant her side of the family was Catholic. My father's previous wife was also Catholic, and so my two half-brothers and half-sister decided to live their life according to Jesus. Me? I went to my cousin's Bar Mitzvah when I was, like, six and was totally mesmerized by the fact that a kid could have this huge party dedicated only to him. Thus, I decided to be Jewish -- not knowing anything about the years of Hebrew School I'd have to take on -- strictly for the Bar Mitzvah party. Funnily enough, when I finally did have my Bar Mitzvah, I didn't even know enough people to have a party, so my parents took me on a trip to California -- a place I had always dreamed about traveling to (because, to a kid from New York City, California is on the other side of the world -- so exotic, sunny and full of big Hollywood stars). Even while I was in training for my Bar Mitzvah, for some reason my parents still wanted me to believe in Santa and open up presents under the Christmas tree. Of course, while I was still in Hebrew School, they'd be gracious enough to hide a menorah in the corner so that I wouldn't forget what the Jews were doing in December. Following the Bar Mitzvah, the menorah was gone, we stopped going to Synagogue, the Christmas trees got bigger and my little sister -- who was three when I officially became a man in the eyes of the Jewish religion -- decided all of this was way too f**ked up for her, and so she became a Buddhist. Still with me? Though my family weren't traditional Jews (in the sense that we actually celebrated the Jewish holidays), our household was forever filled with Jewish humor. One of my earliest memories of my parents was watching them screen Annie Hall over and over again, as my father would shout at me, "Don't worry Erik, one day you'll get this movie." My father also insisted on taking me to see Jackie Mason on Broadway a few times, we traveled to the Catskills, Seinfeld was constantly quoted around the living room and, till this day, there isn't a table that exists in any restaurant where my mother won't feel a draft. (I promise, we're getting to the short films -- just keep reading ... )

p> Since my wife is an Atheist, I'm constantly trying to explain and show examples of Jewish humor. Let's face it, most people hear the term "Jewish humor" all the time, yet they don't exactly know what it means or why it's funny. This week, I originally intended to show you a bunch of Chanukah-themed short films because, well, the holiday still exists and it would be a nice way to balance out all the Christmas schlock Cinematical will be shoving down your throats throughout the next two weeks. However, there aren't many shorts about Chanukah currently online and available to watch -- at least, I couldn't find many. So, I decided to switch things up, and collect an assortment of short films filled with Jewish humor.

But this doesn't mean I'm forgetting about Chanukah. If you happen to stumble upon a great Chanukah-themed short film online, please send it my way as I'd love to host another edition of Eat My Shorts that covers this topic. As always, you can send all tips, links and suggestions to shorts AT cinematical DOT com. Oy vey, I feel as if I just unloaded on my therapist -- let's go watch some shorts ...

  • Stalker Guilt Syndrome -- One personality trait that Jews are born with (as seen in almost every Woody Allen film) is the fact that we're neurotic -- constantly worried about what we're doing and wearing, that other people are looking at us, judging us and somehow reading our thoughts as if they were printed on a script stapled to our foreheads. Directed by Jonah Kaplan, Stalker Guilt Syndrome follows a seemingly normal guy who winds up following a girl after the two of them get off a train. It's not like he's trying to follow her (at first), he really does need to meet up with his girlfriend. However, as the two of them continue to walk in the same direction, he becomes worried that she thinks he's stalking her, and so he follows her with the intentions of telling her he's not stalking her, only the words never slip out of his mouth ... until it's too late. The entire time, a neurotic voice inside his head guides him through this journey and, quite frankly, it's one of the funniest short films I've watched in a long time. Very Woody Allen-esque, and definitely worth checking out.
  • HOra HOra HOra -- This is a cute little animated film that claims Santa is Jewish and called Schmanta Claus. According to them, Jesus is black, Rudolph is green and Schmanta was born in Bethlehem. Oh, and he drank schnapps with the three wise men and gave the baby Jesus a dreidel. Yes, I'm totally serious. Kat Caverly directs, and it's a sweet short that could have been funnier -- but it blows by so fast, you need to watch it a few times to pick up on all the jokes.
  • NYPD Jew -- Before it begins, there's a banner that warns you: "This Police Drama Contains Material That May Not Be Understood By Gentiles. Viewer Donations Are Strongly Advised." And from there, we're bombarded with Jewish humor. The title says it all -- imagine an episode of NYPD Blue, but everyone and everything is Jewish. The detectives are called to an apartment where a family is celebrating Passover -- the kids feel they're being forced to find the hidden Matzah and the cops are called to settle the whole thing. Oh, and there's a guy who's trying to scalp tickets to a service at the local Synagogue. It's funny, well shot and hey, the lead actor looks just like Rick Schroder. Beat that!
  • Sopranowitzes -- Keeping with the whole spoof theme, here's one that shows you what The Sopranos would look like if, ya know, there were a bunch of Jews running the show. Instead of Tony, we have Sammy -- and he's got a lot on his plate. While trying to plan his son's Bar Mitzvah, he learns that his son's rabbi owes him a lot of money. What does he do? Does he whack the rabbi or go ahead with the Bar Mitzvah? Of course, that's why he's in therapy, right?
  • How the Jew Stole Christmas -- Hey, check it out -- a silent film. Silent Masterpiece Theater (of course, there is no such thing) presents How the Jew Stole Christmas. While the footage was obviously doctored up to make it look very old (and because of this, it might be hard to figure out what's going on), the subtitles do help out a bit. Basically, a Jew is celebrating the last night of Chanukah, only he's run out of candles to light. And so he grabs a bunch of candles with Jesus' face on them and lights those instead. When Jesus himself shows up confused, the two wind up hitting it off and --whaddya know -- Jesus actually likes being a Jew. It runs a bit too long, but give credit to the filmmakers for trying something different.

Once again, send me whatever you got and I'll try to fit it in somewhere -- all tips, links and suggestions should be forwarded to shorts AT cinematical DOT com.

Happy Chanukah!

categories Features, Cinematical