Whether or not you ended up seeing Seth Rogen’s The Interview in theaters after the whole “Sony versus the North Korean Hackers” debacle (which I will also now pretend is the name of an album by the Flaming Lips), you probably can’t say no to a little more of one of our favorite Jewish comedians, talking about…moyels?
It turns out that one of Rogen’s first gigs — at the age of fourteen, no less — was writing one-liners and stand up material for a lamborghini-driving ritual circumciser. Traditionally, moyels were expected to crack wise in order to ease the tension inherent in, well, slicing off a foreskin. This was, apparently, the practice of the moyel who hired a teenage Rogen to craft some… uh… cutting one liners, after seeing him perform his own routine at a comedy club in Vancouver. Rogen dished the whole story of his career in comedy circumcision during a live discussion with Andy Borowitz and The Interview co-writer Evan Goldberg (with whom Heeb spoke in ’12) at The New Yorker Festival last fall. Lucky for us, The New Yorker posted the interview, so we can all enjoy Borowitz botch the word “mohel” (“…a mole?”) and hear Rogen spew some of his old bris-centric gems (“he’ll be the only kid in his nursery to have been in a knife fight”).
“IT’S A TRADITION; WE’RE USED TO IT” SAYS FGM VICTIM. “Don’t be a brat,” her grandmother says (2:32) as the family jokes about the cutting. I find that to cope with the horror they just inflicted on their child before/while/after mutilating their genitals, many families do have to resort to humor. This is certainly the case at Jewish brisses, of which I have attended several.
The role of humour in mitigating the tension men naturally feel when watching a baby have the most intimate part of his body cut off, just as they did, is an interesting one. It serves as a distraction, it unifies the group, it normalises what is, by any external standard, a very abnormal occurrence.
No matter how ancient, no matter how beautiful the ceremony around it or how clever the jokes, no matter how much people have suffered for it, no matter how much it is perceived as binding people to their ancestors, no matter how divinely commanded – what is happening at the centre of this is that a baby is held down and part of his genitals are cut off, and they stay cut off for the rest of that person’s life, whether he likes it or not. More and more are saying they don’t like it. Sooner or later we, the human species, will rise above the wish to cut parts off babies’ genitals for whatever reason, and it might as well be sooner. Why not now?