Seth Rogen – crossing the line between comedy and tragedy

Word is that Rogen has already privately apologized via DM’s on Twitter to several people for what he said.

Presenter Seth Rogan blows a kiss backstage at the 81st Academy Awards in Hollywood, California, February 22, 2009 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Presenter Seth Rogan blows a kiss backstage at the 81st Academy Awards in Hollywood, California, February 22, 2009
(photo credit: REUTERS)
“…As a Jewish person, I was fed a huge amount of lies about Israel my entire life. They never tell you, that oh by the way, there were people there. They make it seem like it was just sitting there, oh the f*cking door’s open!”—Seth Rogen to Marc Maron on the WTF Podcast, 7/28/20
In addition to making a career as a comic actor, writer and producer, Seth Rogen, a Canadian Jew who grew up in a suburb of Vancouver and attended a private Jewish day school, also seems to have had a second career issuing apologies over the past couple of years. In 2018, he said he was deeply sorry for putting a white child actor into blackface to stand in for a Black actor on the set of his film “Good Boys.” Then, in 2019, in an interview with GQ, he apologized for the gay jokes that appeared for years in many of the movies he made. Well, now after a conversation with Marc Maron, the comedian and host of the popular WTF Podcast, it will be interesting too see if his apology tour continues.
Among other things, Rogen questioned Israel’s purpose. For instance, if the Jewish state was “for religious reasons, I don’t agree with it because I think religion is silly. If it is truly for the preservation of Jewish people, it makes no sense, because again, you don’t keep something you’re trying to preserve all in one place especially when that place has proven to be pretty volatile.”
Advised the comic actor, whose new movie American Pickle imagines what would happen to an Eastern European Jewish immigrant to New York who falls into a pickle barrel and then wakes up a 100 years later, Jews should “spread out” around the world instead of “putting all your Jews in one basket.”
The 55 year-old Maron also offered his views about why Israel has become central to most Jews: “They want to make you feel frightened enough about your own survival to the point that when you are old enough, you will make sure money goes to Israel, and that trees are planted and that you always speak highly of Israel and Israel must survive no matter what.”
Now, on the face of it, the opining of one 38 year-old comic actor who may be best known for such fare as “Sausage Party”, “The 40 Year-Old Virgin”, “Knocked Up” and the masterpiece “The Interview”, and the musings of a 55 year old stand-up comedian who spent years in the comedy wilderness until his podcast started to get attention, would not really matter in the scheme of things.
However, the remarks of both, at a heightened period of anti-Semitic pronouncements and violence, are incredibly reckless and insensitive. Whether or not these two funny men intended it, anti-Semites all over social media are rejoicing at their comments. BDSers and anti-Zionists are proclaiming that this is proof that Jews outside of Israel are abandoning the dream of Zion and the Jewish state.
Predictably, the reaction to these thoughtless remarks in Israel and around the world has been an angry one. The Jerusalem Post’s Lahav Harkov echoed the views of many, stating they were: “made from a position of really, really great privilege – and ignorance - if he can’t understand why Israel makes sense to millions of Jews around the world”. Here are a few things that Rogen, who may have been paying attention to something else during his time at his Vancouver Talmud Torah, might want to think about when it comes to why Israel is central to most Jews:
·      There has been a continuous Jewish presence in what is now Israel since before the destruction of the Second Temple.
·      The strict immigration quotas instituted by British mandatory authorities in Palestine, kept millions of Jews from leaving Europe and facing murder in Hitler’s death camps.
·      Those quotas also forced survivors of the Holocaust into displaced persons camps in Europe, some in the same places as the death camps they survived.
·      The highest number of Jews who survived the death camps were the religious, Communists, and Zionists.
·      In a survey taken of those forced to live in the displaced persons camps, when asked where they would choose to go if they could not go to Eretz Israel, a majority answered: “the crematoria.”
There is a reason why Jews in synagogue during the High Holidays pray about “next year in Jerusalem.” It is a dream that has kept the Jewish people alive for millennia, much longer, most would assume, than the staying power of “American Pickle” or any episode of the WTF podcast. Word is that Rogen has already privately apologized via DM’s on Twitter to several people for what he said. He’s claiming that his comments were taken out of context. Maybe. But the damage is already done. Just like the damage from his gay jokes and his blackface incident. Edmund Kean was the celebrated Shakespearean actor of the late 18th and early 19th century. He will be remembered long after Seth Rogen and Marc Maron are forgotten. One of his best known remarks is one of the reasons why he continues to be celebrated: “Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.” The two funny boys might want to take this axiom to heart next time they start riffing on things they clearly do not understand.
Richard Trank is the writer, director and executive producer of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s award-winning Moriah Films division and an Academy Award®-winner for “The Long Way Home.” His latest documentary, “Never Stop Dreaming: The Life and Legacy of Shimon Peres” will be premiering as an original Netflix documentary later this year.