The year was 1994. A bar mitzvah-aged Seth Rogen was performing stand-up at a lesbian bar in Vancouver for the very first time. Did he know it was a lesbian bar? Nope. He just thought it was Ladies Night at The Lotus.
“I thought they really liked close up pictures of blooming flowers in this place,” Rogen told Jimmy Kimmel.
For those not great at mental math, that was about 25 years ago. You know what’s also about 25? Me. Hi, I’m Arielle, and I’m Seth Rogen’s biggest fan. Welcome to my quarter of a century review of his debut comedy performance.
You see, I recently discovered the most valuable video on YouTube: “Seth Rogen 1994 Stand Up Comedy.” Dressed in what I assume is an XXXL-sized brown t-shirt with indiscernible graffiti writing over a long-sleeved black shirt (ah, remember the days of layering?), baby-faced Rogen takes the stage for his tight 10. He absolutely nails it.
“Hi, I’m Seth Rogen, and I’d like to tell you a bit about myself… I am two-time Playgirl centerfold,” Rogen tells the audience in his pre-gravelly voice. “No, I’m not really. I am Jewish!”
The crowd erupts with laughter, as did I in my small office while viewing. “Arielle has been laughing at this Seth Rogen video for the past 20 minutes,” my editor wrote in our work Slack channel. It’s true.
Rogen doesn’t beat around the bush: His entire set is about Judaism, and the people are eating it up. “Now, I often think, what is the hardest part about being Jewish? Being persecuted for thousands of years? No. Being kicked out of every country we settle in? No. I think the hardest part about being Jewish is the grandparents.” ZING!
Grandparents are hard, but Jewish grandparents are a special kind of difficult, he explains. For example, his grandparents argue with each other, but they’re deaf and have no idea what they’re arguing about.
“I learned how to talk to them last week,” Rogen said. “I asked for a glass of milk and I got $20.” Be still my heart, he’s a hustler!
There’s a few more minutes of Jewish grandparent content — the audience is howling — before my love gets to the juicy stuff — Jewish summer camp. Guys, if I went to camp with Seth Rogen you know we’d be exchanging flirty Shabbat-o-grams. And by “you know” I mean “this is what I fantasize about on a daily basis.” It’s fine, I’m fine.
Rogen says the only part he hates about being a kid is how much his parents control his life (I mean, a-duh). His shtick about his parents sending him to Jewish summer camp was riddled with references to the Holocaust, which I didn’t love, but the audience did. Honestly, this wasn’t the highlight of the set for me, but mostly because his descriptions of the “fresh out of the Israeli army” camp counselors who bullied campers terrified me. Rogen was eight minutes late to an activity because he was stuck in singing class, and his IDF counselor said, “You owe me eight minutes.” At 11:30 that night, the counselor forced him to run around for two hours with a 50 lb backpack. Sounds more like my fat camp than Jewish camp, but I’m glad he survived.
What I did enjoy were the weird Jewish songs he was taught during singing class, which he regaled The Lotus audience with. My favorite one is about the five constipated men in the bible:
There were five, five, five, constipated men in the bible, in the bible,
There were five, five, five, constipated men in the five books of Moses,
The first, first, constipated man
Was Cain, he wasn’t Abel
The second, second, constipated man
Was Moses, he took two tablets
That’s all Rogen sang, so I took the liberty of looking up the rest of the lyrics which you can sing to yourself here.
If I was 13 when Seth was 13, I’d be the first to say he could totally get it. He can get it now, and he could get it then, and he’ll still be able to get it another 25 years.
To the kind stranger who uploaded my favorite video on YouTube (next to Abbi and Ilana’s tribute dance for Julia Louis-Dreyfus), thank you. And if you have any more Rogen relics, please send them to me. I promise I’ll be cool about it.
Image via Jason Merrit/Staff/Getty Images North America