Author Dave Barry during an author tour in 2006. (Mikki K. Harris/Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Photo: Mikki K. Harris
Photo: Mikki K. Harris

Dave Barry (MJCCA 9/26) roasts Judaism with his “Field Guide to the Jewish People”

Adam Mansbach and Alan Zweibel join him on the book

Originally posted Thursday, September 26, 2019 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Dave Barry has been a successful author, columnist and humorist for decades. He has penned books about Japan, dogs, Florida and how to be a man on his resumé. 

Now he’s jumped into the world of Judaism. Though technically not Jewish, Barry is married to someone who is and attends temple on a regular basis. 

So he co-wrote a new satirical book called “A Field Guide to the Jewish People.” His partners in crime are New York Times bestseller Adam Mansbach (“Go the  F*** to Sleep”) and TV writer Alan Zweibel (“Saturday Night Live,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”)

The cover makes it clear this book is mostly jokes with an extended take on what’s inside about Jewish people and their customs: “Who they are, where they come from, what to feed them, what they have against foreskins, how come they carry each other around on chairs, why they fled Egypt by running straight to a large body of water and much more. Maybe too much more.”

So, expect a talk with Barry and Mansbach to be packed with self-deprecating jabs and a loving roast of Judaism. You can see them in the flesh at the Marcus Jewish Community Center September 26 at 7:30 p.m. The event is sold out, though there are a few tickets available at the door if you want to take your chances.

The book is most likely geared to Jewish people who like to laugh at themselves. This is not, Barry said in an interview, supposed to be educational. “I’d like to go out on a limb and say the average person will come out of this experience knowing far less about Judaism than going in.”

In fact, he added,  by the time you finish the book, “you could very well become a Roman Catholic!” 

Barry and Zweibel previously had a best-selling comical book together about Passover. 

“We considered making this a 45-part series with one holiday per book,” Mansbach joked. 

They were able to get the word “foreskin” on the cover of the book (with a drawing of a man holding his crotch in pain.) and took pride in that. “Maybe we should do a live circumcision on stage,” Mansbach said.
Barry added: “We have an unusual technique. It’s using a device meant to open wine bottles. It’s pretty effective.”

As an author of more than 30 books, 72-year-old Barry said people do occasionally recognize him. “They’ll come up to me in an airport and say, ‘I just want to say I’m a big fan. I really loved ‘Skinny Dip.’”
Yes, he has been mistaken for Carl Hiassen, fellow Miami Herald columnist. “I’m a big fan of his, too,” Barry said. (MJCCA had Hiassen in the house three years ago.)

This interview proceeded to go all over the place. Mansbach wrote the screenplay for the 2016 film about Barack Obama called “Barry.” And that led into a discussion about the HBO show “Barry.” Then Barry, the author, segued into a discussion about former basketball player Rick Barry and his free-throwing ability (89%) vs. that of Shaquille O’Neal (52.7%).

“We plan to bring a basketball to the talk,” Barry said. “We’ll do some two-on-two drills. We’ve knocked over some elderly Jewish people in the past. We’ve learned from that. Gotta move your feet. Got to call out the screens.”

And acknowledging Zweibel’s absence from the talk, they roasted him, mocking his tendency to name-drop famous folks he’s worked with such as  Billy Crystal. “The three of us together are only slightly less funny than Adam and I alone,” Barry noted. 

Given one more chance to promote the book, the pair did their best at hyperbole:

“It’s life changing, life affirming,” Barry said. “Lots of people have lost 30, 40 pounds without dieting reading this book. It’s the most important book ever written.”

Mansbach: “It needs to be placed on the shelf next to the Talmud and the Torah. We could create a leather boxed set with all three!”

Barry: “It will be in both Kindle and scroll form as well.”

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About the Author

Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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