Program Details

The Great Jewish Entertainers:  From Vaudeville to TV, Hollywood, and the Broadway Stage

Al Kustanowitz
Video Catch-up

Course Description

When popular entertainment shifted from burlesque and vaudeville to radio, television, Broadway and Hollywood early in the 20th century, it attracted the attention of many Jewish performers, singers, and dancers. Some were experienced on the burlesque and vaudeville stages of America, and others made the move from the small and crowded Yiddish theaters on New York’s Lower East Side. All were determined to reach a broader audience. To do so, many shortened their long names and dropped ethnic references, understood only by “Members of the Tribe.” This presentation will highlight some of the most beloved excerpts by these performers from TV, Hollywood, and the Broadway stage, and little known facts and anecdotes about their careers. From Al Jolson, Eddie Cantor, Molly Picon and Fanny Brice to Leonard Cohen, Neil Diamond, Barry Manilow and Barbra Streisand, we will learn of their origins, their original names, and enjoy their artistry. The songs and acting skills of these entertainers and more will be analyzed and presented in their original form. Visual images and audio and video will be used throughout the program.

About the Instructor

  • A long-term devotee of Jewish humor, Al Kustanowitz, MBA, has been collecting and sharing it even before there was an internet. In 2009, after a 36-year career at IBM, managing new technology projects, Kustanowitz founded Jewish Humor Central (, an internet blog. Through the blog he brings a daily dose of fun and positive energy to readers who would otherwise start the day reading news that is often drab, dreary, and depressing, ( subscribing is free). He has published 11 books on Jewish humor based on his more than 3,500 blog postings, each of which includes a video clip and his commentary. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the City University of New York and taught computer science courses at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences at New York University.

Upcoming programs presented by Al Kustanowitz.

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