Wednesday, October 03, 2012

If I wrote the Superman legend


A rocket hurtles out of the sky and lands with a crash, a plume of smoke trailing behind it.

A 1988 Kia comes down the road. Inside are Yetta and Morris, a middle-aged Jewish couple.

YETTA: Morris, stop the car!


YETTA: What do you mean why? Didn’t you just see that?

MORRIS: Let’s not get involved.

YETTA: Stop the car or so help me I’m taping over BAYWATCH.

MORRIS: Alright. Alright. I’ll stop the car. Leave it to you to want to examine every little object that falls out of the sky.

YETTA:  You know that's a terrible show, right?

MORRIS: Look, I stopped the car, okay?!

YETTA:  Let's have a look.

She gets out of the car.

MORRIS: What?  We're getting out of the car?  Aren’t we trespassing?

YETTA: Oh shut up.

He follows her across the field.

MORRIS: Who knows? Someone may come and think we did this.

They arrive at the scene.

YETTA: It’s some sort of rocket.

MORRIS: Great. You happy now? It’s a rocket. Let’s go.

YETTA: Aren’t you even curious as to how it got here?

MORRIS: No. It’s a rocket. Who shoots rockets? Kids. Skinheads.  For all we know there’s a Hitler Youth group in Smallville and it's der Fuehrer Air Power Day.

YETTA: That’s ridiculous.

MORRIS: You haven't been to the Dairy Queen lately.

YETTA: (examining closer) Wait a minute. Morris, I think there’s a baby inside.

MORRIS: Okay. Now we’re leaving for sure.

YETTA: I swear I'm erasing all eight episodes of BAYWATCH. 

MORRIS:  Well then just kill me!

YETTA: Who do think would do such a thing?

MORRIS: I told you, the skinheads.  There's probably a new chapter -- Hitler Toddlers.

YETTA: Well, we’ve got to get the poor thing out.

MORRIS: I’ll call the Auto Club.

YETTA: We can’t wait forty-five minutes. Give me a hand. We’ve got to get it out ourselves.

MORRIS: What? Us? Are you crazy? That thing is hot. What if I order a pizza? They’ll be here in thirty minutes or less. Let the pizza boy open the rocket.  I'll  tip him.

YETTA: I should have married Saul Gazin.

MORRIS: Oh, again with the "Saul Gazin". Mr. Perfect. He’d get the baby out. He probably has oven mitts right there in his glove compartment just for an emergency like this.

YETTA: My mother and the entire congregation was right about you.

She takes off her sweater, wraps it around her hand for protection and begins pulling at the latch. Out of guilt he wraps his jacket around his hand and joins in.

MORRIS: Move away. I’ll do this.

YETTA:  Thank you. You're such a prince.

He yanks and pulls and strains.

MORRIS: If my back goes out, good luck getting the Nazis to pay for my medical bills.

YETTA: Maybe if you exercised more than once every fifteen years.

MORRIS: Do YOU want to do this?

YETTA: No. Fine. Keep going.

MORRIS: Stop nagging. I’ve never broken into a rocket before.

YETTA: Sorry… but you really do have no muscle tone.

Finally, the latch opens.

MORRIS: There!

YETTA: Oh thank God!

She sweeps the baby up into her arms.

YETTA: He is so cute.

MORRIS: He? Then that rules out China.

YETTA: Why would anyone do this to a precious little baby?

MORRIS: You’re looking for answers? In this crazy world? Why can't they solve the Middle East?  How could a thing like the Exxon Valdez oil spill happen?  How did Rick Dees get a national television show? I think the real question here is what are we going to do with him? Does Protective Services have a UFO division?

YETTA: Morris, why don’t we keep him?

MORRIS: What?!

YETTA: We always wanted a baby.

MORRIS: Yetta, that’s insane. We also want a time share in Hawaii. 

YETTA: We talked about adopting. Y’know, after learning that your sperm count was low.

MORRIS: You gotta bring that up, don’tcha? I bet Saul Gazin could repopulate the world!

YETTA: I’m just saying.

MORRIS: Look, you can pull the cable out of the wall.   I’m not keeping this child.

YETTA: Don’t you see what this is? It’s a sign from God, Morris. It’s like when Bithiah found baby Moses floating on the Nile and raised him. Change boat to guided missile and it’s the same thing. Morris, this child – I just get the sense he’s… special in some way. And there’s a reason we found him. These things are not by accident. If that had landed five minutes earlier maybe Martha and Jonathan Kent would have found him and fifteen years from now he’d be selling dope.

MORRIS: (softening) Well… I always did want a son to take over the Woolworth store. But what if his real parents do come after him? What if we see a milk carton and there is the baby or a picture of the rocket?

YETTA: Then we’ll call Protective Services.

MORRIS: This is so nuts.

YETTA: Morris, I won’t ask you for another thing for months.  Not even a new garbage disposal that if you have a nose you know we need desperately. 

He considers, then finally:

MORRIS: Alright. We’ll take him.

YETTA: Seriously?

MORRIS: Yes, because my life isn't stressful enough.

YETTA: Oh, darling. I’m so happy.

MORRIS: What do we name him?  And if the answer is "Saul" then the deal's off.

YETTA: How about Zvee? After my grandfather.

MORRIS: A perfect name for a kid growing up in Kansas.   Zvee Sugarman.

YETTA: I love you.

MORRIS: Yeah yeah. Let’s go eat.



Anonymous said...

This may be among your best yet, Ken...especially when you remember that Superman was the creation of two nice Jewish boys from Cleveland, reacting to the growing threat of Adolf Hitler.

Paul Duca said...

Sending a message before naming it can happen when you go online before you've put in your contact lenses.

Eric said...

Was it Lenny Bruce who said that only a Jew could come up with a name as goyishe as Clark Kent?

Jason W. said...

Reading it, I heard Judd Hirsch as the husband...

John said...

I'm waiting for "Superman -- The Toddler Years", where he starts using his powers during temper tantrums and the Kents and most of Smallville end up pretty much like the family in that episode of "The Twilight Zone" with Billy Mumy.

They've got plenty of cornfields in Kansas, though I don't know if you can send someone there with your X-ray vision ("That's a good thing you did, Clark"...).

Kal-El Gibran said...

What If Superman Were Raised by Jewish Parents? from MAD #325 (Feb. 1994):

Bill said...

Some things are universal. I can imagine Jonathan and Martha Kent having the same conversation.

Years ago Saturday Night Live did "What if Superman had landed in Germany?" with Dan Ackroyd as "Ubermensch."

BigTed said...

Superman creators Siegel and Schuster, Batman creator Bob Kane (born Robert Kahn), and Marvel Universe (the Hulk, the X-Men, the Fantastic 4, Spider-Man, Iron Man, Thor, etc.) creators Stan Lee (born Stanley Lieber) and Jack Kirby (born Jacob Kurtzberg) all had something in common....

Tom Quigley said...

I can't wait until his Bar Mitzvah when he starts dancing the Hora and unintentionally stops the earth from spinning on its axis.

Anonymous said...

Like that poor bastard doesn't have enough guilt?

ScottH said...

Wow, Ken. That's quite an accumulation of stereotypes. I laugh at slight Jewish humor like I laugh at anything else, but there's nothing slight about this--it's an onslaught of borscht-belt "comedy" that would've been fresh in the 1960s. You're much, much better than this, Ken. I've been reading and enjoying your blog for years, and this is the first time I've read something that seemed like just a hackneyed collection of stereotypes, turned up to "11" on the offensive scale.

Cap'n Bob said...

I seem to remember reading that Stan Lee is not Jewish. Can anyone confirm this either way?

RCP said...

I'm wiping away tears (allergies, you know.)


Anonymous said...

I recall reading where a couple of writers on the Superman movie toyed with the idea of showing the rocket headed clearly for the USSR, then the earth would rotate to reveal the good old USA.

Breadbaker said...

We always transliterated it "Zvi."

ed.j. said...

Ken, you're channeling Earl again, snap out of it.

cadavra said...

Scott: To each his own, but this grumpy old Jew loved it!

Bill said...

Ken -- Friday question for your consideration. In many discussions of television, particularly television in the 80s, the late Brandon Tartikoff's name always comes up as the symbol of true visionary/leader/champion of quality television. I think you've mentioned meeting/talking with him, too. My question is, first, what made him so "different" from the usual network suit that he was able to recognize and stick up for quality television? (Or maybe it's all more mythology than anything -- I'm sure he had his share of bombs, too.) And second, was he truly one of a kind, or are there executives like him today--or has the landscape and business changed so much that someone like him is not likely to come around again?

Pete Grossman said...

Always gotta have a nosh when an event is involved.

Johnny Walker said...

I just took them to be two funny characters. Anyhoo, it made me laugh. That MAD magazine article, too.

I always wondered what would have happened if he'd landed in a field owned by a big corporation. There's a great story there, I think.

Stu Miller said...

Set on plains of the Kansas Borscht-belt, I expected at least one "Oy Hay!"

Phillip B said...

Cap'n Bob said...
I seem to remember reading that Stan Lee is not Jewish. Can anyone confirm this either way?

On the authority of the useful site "Jew or Not Jew" the answer is -

Cristina said...

This was great! And a really great technique for collecting inspiration from other mediums. I read about all of the different programs you worked on after reading this post. No wonder it was hilarious! I currently intern for TheFilmSchool and I think it would be awesome if you participated in our comedy contest by voting for your favorite screenplay:

Storm said...

@Bill: And Ubermensch used his X-ray power to stare at men's crotches and tell who was secretly a Jew! I was a kid when that first aired, and I watched it with my mother (a fellow insomniac, who was very... open in my upbringing), and I asked "Huh? I don't get it, how can he tell?" And that's when my Mom explained circumcision to me. Good times.

Cheers, thanks a lot,


miami lakes kia said...

I can think about Jonathan and Martha London having the same discussion.

JT Anthony said...

Funny stuff--even for a non-Jew like me. Possible Friday question: to what extent do culture, ethnicity, religion etc have to be "normed" in TV comedy writing for the general viewership? U.S. demographics might suggest that Asian or Latino centric shows would be more representative of our population, yet shows don't seem to be focused there. A more recent trend seems to be on the melting pot of people living or working together. I appreciate the stereotypical Jewish couple humor in this post, but would get tired of it quickly if overdone.

Michael said...

My one problem with this is bringing up calling the Auto Club or the pizza place. In the middle of a field. In 1990. Even if this nice Jewish couple had a cell phone, highly doubtful, at the time I bet they wouldn't have much of a signal.

Unknown said...

I have to admit that the whole bit was ruined for me because you kept calling the capsule "rocket".

The rocket is what propels the payload into orbit. You know that cylindrical thing with the controlled explosion at the lower end. Payloads usually are called satellites or spaceships or capsules - not rockets.

KKs rocket remained on Krypton and he arrived in a ship.

I know it's completely nerdy and nitpicky but I can't help it - I know too much about rocket science :-)

Might also be the reason why I would've had the couple call the little fella "Herschel" :-)

(yeah and maybe because I'm German. So sue me ;-) )