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On Kanter’s Lunch: Old Jews Slurping Soup and the Fate of Jewish Humor

Kanter’s Lunch

“Gary and I are not old enough yet to eat soup,” declares TV writer and producer John Rappaport, who, along with voice actor Gary Owens, represents the youthful contingent of the veteran comics documented in the film Lunch (Donna Kanter, USA, 2012). “So they all have soup,” Rappaport continues. “There’s always a matzo ball and the cabbage and everything else . . . and Gary and I just sort of kill time until they’re all done slurping, then we can join in.” Slurping matzo ball soup is just one of the many rituals that transpired every other Wednesday for the past forty years, when Sid Caesar, Carl Reiner, Hal Kanter, Arthur Hiller, Monty Hall, Matty Simmons, and other Jewish writers and directors who shaped the comedy of Hollywood congregated to nosh, kibitz, and kvetch at Factor’s Famous Deli and other Los Angeles eateries. Lunch’s intimate look at the merrymakers of the mid-twentieth century is entertaining but hardly unique, having been released almost concurrently with When Comedy Went to School (Mevlut Akkaya, Ron Frank, USA, 2013), the tendentiously titled When Jews Were Funny (Alan Zweig, Canada, 2013), and the ongoing web series Old Jews Telling Jokes (Sam Hoffman, USA, 2009–).


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