My fellow Americans,
You know what you need to do.
That said, if you don’t, and it doesn’t go the way it should, it’s your fault. All your fault.
I’m sitting here in my new hotel room. It’s smaller but it’s a better location. I’m in the heart of the Lower East Side, just down the street from where the Luna Lounge was, which is where my comedy defined itself in the mid-90s. Sweaty Marc did many sweaty performances there for people sitting on the floor. There’s now a hotel where it once was.
I’m also near Katz’s Deli. I can actually smell Pastrami wafting over as I write this. Katz’s is an institution. It’s always been there. Since 1888. This was where the Jews were. Where many came first when they came to America. The shells of old synagogues are around every few blocks around here. My family came from Russia and Poland and migrated to different parts of New Jersey. Katz’s, Russ and Daughters and Yonah Schimmel’s Knishes are what remain here of the food. The same foods that have been eaten for generations. Obviously, you can’t eat that stuff every day but it is nice every once and while to have a few bites of the history of the Jews in America. A sandwich is a time machine. Connective tissue.
When I was younger all I wanted to be was an old Jewish man. It’s happening. I’m not the kind I wanted to be but I am my own kind. Most of the ones I wanted to be were comedians of a certain type. I am my own type. It’s happening naturally!
There’s something ingrained in me, almost genetically, about deli food. I was a Deli Man, briefly, when I was in college in Boston. I worked the counter at the last real Jewish deli in Boston. West Roxbury, Gordon’s Deli. I was pretending to be an old Deli Man Jew. I was maybe 19.
It has an allure that was maybe planted in me when I was about eight or ten. I was visiting my grandparents on my father’s side, Ben and Eleanor. My grandfather decided he needed some tongue, the meat. I remember it was night. He decided to make a Katz’s run. I certainly know what it’s like to have a craving and follow through with it. Never for brined tongue but I know the need is genetic. I just remember driving into the city to Katz's, which was at least a half hour run, and walking into that place with my grandfather. He got the meat, some pickles, Dr. Brown soda and we got back in the car and drove back to Jersey with the goods. Tongue is an acquired taste, mostly because its tongue. It’s good. Specific kind of fatty. Center cut, not the tip. I sliced it at Gordon’s.
I was walking down the street here the other day and some guy runs out of Katz’s. He works there. Stops me in the street to tell me he’s a big fan and he has a podcast about being a drug addict called Dopey. Wants me to do it. I waffled. He told me he’d get me breakfast if I came in the next morning. Lox, eggs and onions. Hard to turn down. I went. He served me that, some pickles, sour tomato, a little meat plate with pastrami, corned beef and brisket. He’s a good negotiator. Figure I have to do his show. For the addicts and the Jews. A mitzvah.
Today on the show I talk to a great comedian, Rita Rudner. On Thursday I talk to a great comedian’s son, Sandy Hackett (Buddy’s kid). Good talks!