When I won four tickets in the “Saturday Night Live” audience raffle for this past weekend’s November 5 taping, I didn’t know that it would be hosted by veteran Jewish comedian Amy Schumer — and I didn’t know that the experience would be absolutely what I needed.
Like many Jews, over the last few weeks I’ve spent a lot of my energy thinking about antisemitism. That’s partly because I’m a Jew and the most recent discourse from Kanye West and Kyrie Irving about Jewish people is personally disturbing and frightening. But it’s also because of my job writing for this here website. I’ve been obliged to think and write about what’s been happening in a way that best informs you, our readers. I love my job, I love the Hey Alma audience and I’m happy to do it. But spending 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and then some afterwork hours, thinking about anti-Jewish hatred has started wearing me down. (Joking about taking a shot every time “Jews” or “The Jews” or “The Jewish People” or “The Holocaust” or “Anne Frank” or “Semitic” trends on Twitter is only a funny defense mechanism the first five or so times.)
So, I entered the famous Studio 8H this past Saturday night with my parents and girlfriend excited for a hilarious release from antisemitism. And I did get that (perhaps I’m biased, but I think the most recent episode of SNL was the best and most consistently funny episode of the season thus far). But what I also found was a space where I felt safe and proud to be Jewish — thanks to all the subtle and not-so-subtle Jewishness baked into the episode.
Knowing that Amy Schumer has been vocal in calling out for support of Jewish people, I was interested to see how she would tackle the recent news about antisemitism, specifically in her monologue. And while Amy spent the majority of her opening set talking about motherhood and her husband, she didn’t disappoint.
“My husband is diagnosed, he’s on the autism spectrum. He has autism spectrum disorder. It used to be called Asperger’s,” she set up, before landing the punchline: “But then they found out, this is true, that Dr. Aspberger had Nazi ties… Kanye.” Amy then pretended to be confused, looking at her mic as if to say, “Who said that?!”
It was perhaps the largest laugh of the six-minute stand-up set and necessitated a brief applause break. I don’t know how many Jewish people were in the audience — for all I know, it could’ve just been my family and me. But to see a proudly Jewish comic pull no punches towards an antisemite on a huge, televised platform, and then for the audience to react in the way they did, not only made me laugh, it also made me relax.
Next up was the first sketch of the evening: a hilarious ode to matzah ball soup. In the sketch, Amy plays someone who is way more focused on enjoying her delicious matzah ball soup than listening to her friend talk about her sad life.
There are so many reasons I love this sketch. First, Kenan Thompson narrating the thoughts of Amy’s character via power ballad while wearing a long, flowing wig is exactly the brand of silly and ridiculous comedy I’ve been craving right now. (Plus, it was undoubtedly cool to see the multi-camera and green screen set-up necessary to make the sketch work.) Also, how Amy’s character feels about matzah ball soup is pretty much how I feel about all Jewish food. If you’re going through something at the same time that a beautiful, fluffy matzah ball or a juicy Reuben is staring me in the face, I’m so sorry but the latter takes priority.
But, what I love the most is this: Realistically, the sketch, which is simply titled “Soup,” didn’t need to feature matzah ball soup. The sketch would’ve been almost exactly the same had the titular soup been French onion or gazpacho. But the fact that the SNL writers (perhaps with Amy’s influence) chose to feature the sketch around a dish known colloquially as Jewish penicillin felt particularly symbolic. Though the sketch wasn’t about Jewishness, or even an explicitly Jewish character, it felt like a message of support for Jews everywhere. Even hearing Amy utter the non-jokey lines, “I have been craving this soup, I can’t even tell you. It just like brings me home,” made me feel, even just briefly, spiritually healed.
And then, of course, there were the good nights at the end of the show. As Amy, musical guest Steve Lacy and the cast gathered onstage during the final commercial break, I turned to my girlfriend.
“Do you see what Amy’s shirt says?”
In turn, she looked at me and smiled.
Amy was wearing a blue and white baseball-style t-shirt with a simple message across the front: “❤️ Jews” (presumably reading as “love Jews” or “heart Jews”).
Nowhere during the show did Amy Schumer explicitly say that she is a Jewish woman or talk about antisemitism, but at the same time (from the perspective of someone who was in the room) it felt like that’s exactly what she was saying the whole. entire. broadcast.
Obviously, Amy Schumer hosting “Saturday Night Live” doesn’t end antisemitism, nor will it, in all likelihood, change the minds of antisemites. But during my time in the live audience of SNL, I felt so safe and so supported. As I walked out of 30 Rock on Sunday morning, I felt rejuvenated with Jewish joy and ready to take on any antisemitism that comes into the popular discourse. I didn’t know it at the time, but seeing Amy Schumer on SNL was truly bashert for me.
From one Jew to another, thank you, Amy.