(RNS) — At 11:35 pm, this past Saturday night, on “Saturday Night Live,” comedian Larry David jumped the shark.
Here’s what happened. Larry David was the guest host on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” and in his opening monologue he stepped on two landmines — each of which set Facebook and the Twitterverse ablaze.
The last Jewish SNL host was just weeks ago — the Israeli superstar, Gal Gadot.
From Gal Gadot to Larry David. What a bring down.
As you-know-who likes to say: Sad.
First: Larry told us how embarrassed he is, as a Jew, that so many of the men who have been accused of sexual harassment happen to be Jewish.
His Yiddish response: Oy vey iz mir (Woe is me!) — intoned like a man who had never spoken those words in his life before that moment.
Because, as he told us, he has always strived to be a fine exemplar for the Jewish people.
Second: He imagined himself in a Nazi concentration camp, and wondered if he would have been checking out the women inmates. He wondered if Jews in concentration camps still had sexual interests.
The problem is — there are no good opening lines in a concentration camp . . . “How’s it going? They treating you OK? You know, if we ever get out of here, I’d love to take you out for some latkes. You like latkes?”
I predict that tomorrow morning, the phones at the ADL will be lighting up like a hundred Hanukkah menorahs.
The callers will not be wrong.
Larry David’s performance was despicable.
So despicable — that I would not be surprised if Lorne Michaels, the SNL producer, takes over the traditional cold open next Saturday night, and offers a public apology.
“Oh, c’mon, Jeff,” you are saying. “You have a somewhat edgy sense of humor. Can’t you take a joke?”
Let’s consider the second shtick first — the one about sex during the Holocaust.
Was there, in fact, consensual sex in the concentration camps?
I remain agnostic on this question.
But, after the war — absolutely.
The greatest baby boom in Jewish history occurred in the year after the liberation of the camps. In the displaced persons’ camps, men and women met, fell in love, and had children. Sex and fertility were the ultimate affirmation of life.
But, let’s look at Larry David more closely.
If you take a long look at Larry David’s comedic career, you might realize something: He has been leading up to this moment for decades.
First, there was the famous “Seinfeld” episode — “The Raincoats.” That is the episode in which Jerry is spotted by Newman, the mailman, making out with his girlfriend, Rachel, in the movie theater while watching “Schindler’s List.” Newman then reports the incident to Jerry’s parents.
Larry David was one of the writers of that episode.
As I recently wrote, on one level, this was brilliant satire and social commentary.
The film “Schindler’s List” had attained iconic status among American Jews, especially the older generation. They might have believed that making out during the movie (which people who are dating are known to do) was tantamount to making out during the Holocaust itself.
It is like trampling on the holy.
Second: There is the “Survivor” episode of Larry David’s HBO series, “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” It is a classic. A Holocaust survivor gets into an argument with a cast member of the “Survivor” reality show — “Who is the ‘real’ survivor?”
On a certain level, that episode is a commentary on what happens when the term “survivor” loses its meaning — so that it can be claimed by almost anyone.
I have often lectured on “Seinfeld” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm” episodes as Jewish short stories.
For years, I have given Larry the benefit of the doubt. I appear to have been wrong. His attempt to be edgy fell flat.
But, the piece about the (perceived) prevalence of Jews among men accused of sexual harassment was far worse — and far more dangerous.
Because the imagined sexual prowess of Jewish men has long been a dark theme in anti-Semitic ideation, as it has been in anti-black racist ideology.
The Nazi propagandist, Julius Streicher, editor of Der Sturmer, promoted the idea that Jewish men had abnormal sexual desires — which they directed against pure Aryan women.
And, true to the example of their literary ancestors, some anti-Semitic web sites have made the same case — that Harvey Weinstein’s outsize sexual and power stuff is directly linked to his being Jewish.
And, no — I am not posting the links to that material here.
That is why Larry David’s opening monologue was not only tasteless.
It was not only unfunny.
With the preponderance of anti-Semitism in this country, it is also dangerous.
He has handed the modern day descendants of Julius Sturmer a victory.
Larry — that was pretty, pretty, pretty bad.