Rockin' Around the Dreidel The musical duo Good for the Jews play live from their Hanukkah set.
NPR logo

Rockin' Around the Dreidel

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Rockin' Around the Dreidel

Rockin' Around the Dreidel

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


At sundown tonight, let the menorah lighting begin. It's the first night of Hanukkah - a celebration of the miracle on a single day's worth of oil found at a temple, lasted eight days, hence the eight days of Hanukkah. That's the way that goes, right?


Right. I think I've heard that.

STEWART: Mm-hmm. But, you know, where those Hanukkah songs, carols - I don't know. I don't think dreidel, dreidel, dreidel counts.

BURBANK: Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel.

STEWART: Think about that and all that jingle-belling and all that deck-the-halling. Well, the musical duo Good for the Jews provides equal time for all those rounds of carols with their unique, full of chic and decidedly twisted take on the Festival of Lights and all things Jewish. Good for the Jews hitting the road this month, a 13 city, Putting the Ha! in Hanukkah tour. Thank you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ROB TANNENBAUM (Good for the Jews): Thank you.

STEWART: On the crowd, that's Rob.

BURBANK: Is that what it's going to sound like if the Shakey's Pizza in (unintelligible).

Mr. TANNENBAUM: He wants the basketball.

Mr. DAVID FAGIN (Good for the Jews): We did the best we could do.

Mr. TANNENBAUM: We couldn't get booked at the Shakey's Pizza, unfortunately.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. TANNENBAUM: (unintelligible)

STEWART: Just a matter of time. Rob Tannenbaum, hi.


STEWART: David Fagin - the duo behind Good for the Jews join us in the studio.

Mr. FAGIN: Hi, Alison.

STEWART: He calls me Ali because we know each other from our previous life.

Mr. TANNENBAUM: (Unintelligible).

STEWART: Just full disclosure. So was it just the heavy-handed domination of Christmas tunes that got you on this mission, this path?

Mr. TANNENBAUM: Before I answer that - did you say tonight is the start of Hanukkah?

STEWART: It's the first night of lighting the menorah, right?


Mr. TANNENBAUM: Oh, Jesus.

Mr. FAGIN: Oh, boy.


Mr. TANNENBAUM: We got some presents to buy.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. TANNENBAUM: Seriously. Is there like a Barnes & Noble or a 99 cent store…

STEWART: Right up the street.

Mr. TANNENBAUM: …nearby?

BURBANK: There's a 98 cent store over on 34th, which for the people who think that 99 cent is just more than you want to pay.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. TANNENBAUM: The - yeah.

STEWART: Is that an anti-Semitic joke? I don't know.

Mr. TANNENBAUM: Oh, we'll…

Mr. FAGIN: Think about that.

Mr. TANNENBAUM: We'll be the judges about that. Let the Jews in the room decide what's anti-Semitic. The act started with a single song, "(It's Good To Be) A Jew at Christmas" - which if the other guests having gone too long, we'll sing for you in a little while. And it was really sort of a song of protest against the dominance of Christmas in the United States. You know, people talk about the war on Christmas. Well, that's - there's no such thing as a war on Christmas. You could sooner kill President Bush behind his desk than you could fight a war on Christmas. And so feeling very alienated one December, I wrote a song about how marginalized Jews are, or really, anyone who isn't a Christian at this time of year, and it makes fun of Christians for drinking too much in their silly holiday and it's about how our holidays is better.

Mr. FAGIN: It's that weird smell they always have.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: So David, The Washington Post said of guys - a funny mixture of Jewish pride and cultural self-mockery. Accurate? Inaccurate?

Mr. FAGIN: Absolutely inaccurate. We don't - you know, we take ourselves way too seriously. We'd never make fun of ourselves on stage.

Mr. TANNENBAUM: We've never even been in Washington so I don't know…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. TANNENBAUM: …where they got that idea from. Plus, Washington Post - owned by Jews - do you trust Jews to report accurately on other Jews? We gave them some money.

BURBANK: What I think is really good, though, about this whole thing is that finally some Jews are getting into comedy.

Mr. TANNENBAUM: Yeah. And the entertainment business, we found the barrier to entry pretty difficult.

BURBANK: Mm-hmm. Absolutely. You're the Jackie Robinson of (unintelligible).

Mr. TANNENBAUM: Right. But I've got some big comedy, though, for the upcoming audience members. Can I do a line right now?

BURBANK: Please.


Mr. TANNENBAUM: Hanukah gelt, it's a Jew's worst nightmare — money that melts.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. TANNENBAUM: Who came up with that?

(Soundbite of laughter)

BURBANK: I like the tag, who came up with that?

STEWART: Who came up with that?

BURBANK: What's up with that? (Unintelligible).

STEWART: Aside from the comedy, you guys have solid musical routes. You're a writer for Blender - editor of Blender.

Mr. FAGIN: I'm the music editor of Blender magazine. It's true.

STEWART: And you've been on the rock 'n roll tour thing?

Mr. FAGIN: Yes, I've been blacklisted from every respectable record label in the country at this point in time, and so I'm here with Rob.

Mr. TANNENBAUM: David was very big back in the 1940s. He had a little swing and combo, very well regarded.

Mr. FAGIN: Yeah, yeah. I know, back in the day of my band The Rosenbergs, we spoke out against a universal music deal and the next thing you know I went on Dennis Miller with a kill Clear Channel bumper sticker, and I think I haven't left my apartment since then.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: That was the end of that.

BURBANK: If you have that to do over again…

Mr. FAGIN: I will do it.

BURBANK: Probably.

Mr. FAGIN: Oh, yeah.

STEWART: Well, you bragged about the songwriting, singing, comedy stick?

Mr. FAGIN: Right.


Mr. FAGIN: It's not really bragging so much as telling the truth.

STEWART: I see. Well, let's…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. FAGIN: Look, we are the greatest Jewish musical comedy duo performing in the United States right now.

Mr. TANNENBAUM: We're bigger than Moses, man.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: Well, let's see you prove it.

Mr. FAGIN: And no disrespect to other Jewish acts, but they freaking stink, compared to us.

Mr. TANNENBAUM: That's true. Most Jewish music stinks. I'm sorry - it's the truth.

BURBANK: Don't you - have you listened to NPR in the last - I don't know - 50 years? I think we actually, literally for one year, all we played was klezmer -24 hours a day on the network.


BURBANK: So, you know…

Mr. FAGIN: That was a good programming decision.

Mr. TANNENBAUM: My sympathy.

BURBANK: People on Washington would disagree with you, re: Jewish music.

Mr. TANNENBAUM: Is that why right-wing tried to defund you? Do they just hate klezmer music?

BURBANK: Well, that was actually their move was to make us play klezmer for a year.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: In other words: no donations. All right. I want to hear what you guys have to say. Put your money where your mouth is.

Mr. TANNENBAUM: You want a song?

STEWART: Yes, please.

Mr. TANNENBAUM: Okay. Let's do - the first song that we're going to - do we have time for two songs, do you think?

STEWART: I think we do.

Mr. TANNENBAUM: Okay. The first song is a song (unintelligible) about all Jewish holidays. You know, every Jewish holiday is the same story. Basically, it's - they tried to kill us, we survived, let's eat. So now, there's a sing-along in this part and I know that the two of you are kind of shy, but there'll be a point in the song where we need you to shout let's eat.


Mr. TANNENBAUM: Will you do that with us?

STEWART: Absolutely.

BURBANK: Sure. Absolutely.

Mr. TANNENBAUM: Okay. Good. When I was growing up, the - I didn't grow up in a very Jewish household and Jewish holidays were always a little bit of a mystery. So for instance, at Passover, my father didn't understand that Hebrew is read from right to left and from the back of the book to the front. So we would sit down for Passover dinner and he would open the Seder book at the back, and he would read the Seder ends and then we would eat. It was fantastic. We had the shortest Seders in history. So this is a song that retells the story of Passover based on all the things that I learned and picked up on the street.

(Soundbite of song, "They Tried to Kills Us, We Survived (Let's Eat)")

GOOD FOR THE JEWS (Duo): (Singing) We were slaves to pharaoh in Egypt the year was 1492. Hitler had just invaded Poland. Madonna had just become a Jew. Moses was found on the Potomac then he marched with Martin Luther King. He came back to free us from our bondage because S&M has never been our thing. They tried to kill us, we survived, let's eat.

STEWART: Let's eat.

BURBANK: Let's eat.

GOOD FOR THE JEWS: (Singing) They tried to kill us, we were faster on our feet. So they chase us to the border. There's a parting of the water. Tried to kill us, we survived, let's eat.

STEWART: Let's eat.

BURBANK: Let's eat.

GOOD FOR THE JEWS: (Singing) Then the pharaoh, who looked like Yul Brynner, heard the Jews were trying to escape. Charlton Heston came right down from the mountain. He said, pharaoh, you're a damn dirty ape. The menorah was almost out of oil. Farrakhan was planning Kristallnacht. The gefilte was nearing extinction. It looked like Moses and his flock were fehrkakt. They tried to kill us, we survived, let's eat.

STEWART: Let's eat.

BURBANK: Let's eat.

GOOD FOR THE JEWS: (Singing) They tried to kill us, we were faster on our feet. And we knew how to resist because we'd rented "Schindler's List." Tried to kill us, we survived, let's eat.

STEWART: Let's eat.

BURBANK: Let's eat.

Mr. TANNENBAUM: So yea and verily, God did bring down the 10 horrible plagues upon the people of Egypt.

Mr. FAGIN: Well, there's one.


Mr. FAGIN: Two.

Mr. TANNENBAUM: Locusts.

Mr. FAGIN: Three.


Mr. FAGIN: Four.


Mr. FAGIN: Five.


Mr. FAGIN: Six.

Mr. TANNENBAUM: Dane Cook.

Mr. FAGIN: Seven.


Mr. FAGIN: Eight.


Mr. FAGIN: Nine.


Mr. FAGIN: And ten.

Mr. TANNENBAUM: Sickle cell anemia.

Mr. FAGIN: One, two, three.

GOOD FOR THE JEWS: (Singing) We fled on foot, there was no time to tarry. Leavening the bread would take too long. All we had was egg foo yung and matzo while battling the fearsome Viet Cong. And so tonight, we gather to remember the ancient Hebrews who paid the price. We have a Seder each year in December to commemorate our savior, Jesus Christ. They tried to kill us, we survived, let's eat.

STEWART: Let's eat.

BURBANK: Dane Cook.

GOOD FOR THE JEWS: (Singing) He tried to kill us, we were faster on our feet. So we never did succumb to the annual pogrom. Tried to kill us, we survived, let's eat.

STEWART: Let's eat.

BURBANK: Let's eat.

GOOD FOR THE JEWS: (Singing) They tried to kill us, we survived, let's eat.

STEWART: Let's eat.

BURBANK: Let's eat.

GOOD FOR THE JEWS: (Singing) They tried to kill us, we were faster on our feet. So come on, blow the shofar because they haven't nailed us so far. Tried to kill us, we survived, let's eat.

STEWART: Let's eat.

BURBANK: Let's eat.

Mr. FAGIN: Yeah. Screw you, Dane Cook.

BURBANK: You just never hear pogrom used in enough joke rhymes. That's great.

Mr. FAGIN: What's funnier than a pogrom really?

BURBANK: Oh, I tell you, little grom(ph).

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: You guys are going to be on tour. That's Rob Tannenbaum and David Fagin we're talking to - the duo Good for the Jews. You're going to be on tour and it's kind of a vaudeville show. It's not just you guys get up and sing, you have guest acts and…

Mr. FAGIN: (Unintelligible) stick. You know, remember the Borscht Belt from the '70s and '80s - Rob dresses like Buddy Hackett pretty much.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. TANNENBAUM: I've tried to dress like I stole all my clothes from my uncle's closet after he died in 1974.

BURBANK: You should do some material about how sort of annoying your wife is -just as a thought.

Mr. TANNENBAUM: I would have to get married first.


Mr. TANNENBAUM: And then even before that, I would have to terminate psychotherapy. So we're still working towards that as a goal. Yeah.

Mr. FAGIN: Next tour, we'll get there. Right now, we're girlfriends, annoying girlfriends' mothers and all that stuff.

STEWART: How does your mother feel about this by the way?

Mr. FAGIN: Oh, she's dead.

STEWART: I'm sorry.

Mr. FAGIN: I'm just kidding.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. FAGIN: She loved it.

BURBANK: Oh, gosh.

Mr. FAGIN: We're doing Boca(ph). That's where they live.

STEWART: Oh, that's nice. All right.

Mr. TANNENBAUM: That's essentially why we're playing Boca so that our parents can see us.

STEWART: Well, I do want to hit a song, "(It's Good To Be) A Jew at Christmas." We're going to actually ask you guys to stick around so we can get a live performance and put it on the Web.

Hey, Jake, do you have that track?

He's going to hit it for us. Well, I'll say that we're going to link to all of your dates on our Web site…

Mr. TANNENBAUM: Thank you.

STEWART: … Thanks for coming in, you guys. Stick around for a minute.

Mr. TANNENBAUM: Thanks for having us.

BURBANK: Thanks for taking Dane Cook down.

Mr. FAGIN: Well, thanks…

(Soundbite of laughter)

BURBANK: It's one of my dying wishes on this show.

Mr. FAGIN: Thanks for breaking NPR's boycott against Jewish guests.

STEWART: Let's listen to the song for a minute.

Mr. FAGIN: All right.

Mr. TANNENBAUM: All right.

(Soundbite of song, "(It's Good To Be) A Jew at Christmas")

GOOD FOR THE JEWS: (Singing) At Christmas. Second verse…

Copyright © 2007 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.