“Wildly funny... Part of a new breed of Jewish hipster comedy that includes Jon Stewart, Sacha Baron Cohen, Sarah Silverman and Heeb Mag.” PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS
JEWMONGOUS, a solo comedy song concert with occasional guests, is the colicky, uncircumcised brain child of SEAN ALTMAN: the golden-voiced song-writing wiz behind the pioneering comedy act What I Like About Jew and the founder and former leader of Rockapella. Sean was featured in Time Out New York's cover story "The New Super Jews," (with Jon Stewart and Sarah Silverman) and in the New York Times feature about "the Jewish Hipster Movement." He debuted JEWMONGOUS in December ‘06 and has garnered press accolades coast to coast. The “Taller Than Jesus” tour hit 16 cities in December ‘07.
JEWMONGOUS’ debut album Taller Than Jesus will be officially released Spring 2008 but, as part of a worldwide Jewish conspiracy, it was quietly pre-released to fans on Christmas 2007 (to give Jews something to celebrate that day). Advance copies are available at www.jewmongous.com and on iTunes. The title song “Taller Than Jesus” is Beatle fan Altman’s tribute to John Lennon’s 1966 misunderstood declaration that the Beatles were “bigger than Jesus.” The album’s dozen original songs include the fractured Passover story song “They Tried To Kill Us (We Survived, Let’s Eat)”, which was featured on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross; the Irish drinking song ode to the infamous Blood Libel “Christian Baby Blood”; the venomous anti-Jews-For-Jesus punk anthem “Jews For Jesus”; the ska-inflected “What The Hell Is Simchas Torah?”; the bluesy “My Pact With Satan”; the longing crooner ballad “Another Inch”; the cowboy romp “Long-Tongue Shloime”; the dysfunctional Bar Mitzvah anthem “Today I Am A Man”; and the swingin’ “Blow, Murray Blow”, about a Yom Kippur shofar (ram’s horn) blower so virtuosic that his playing purges listeners of all their sins, no matter how despicable. The album’s only cover song is a semiticized version of the Ramones’ classic “I Wanna Be Sedated”, as Altman believes that Joey Ramone (born Jeffrey Hyman) would have wanted it sung that way.
As a solo artist, Sean has released three albums of bittersweet power-pop and was named "Best Male Artist" in the 2005 International Acoustic Music Awards. The anti-Kurt Cobain" (NY Press) and "absurdly talented performer" (Village Voice) has "killer hooks" (Time Out NY), "a cynical edge" (Philadelphia Daily News), and a "silky tenor voice that produced chills" (NY Times). He is best known as the founder and former leader of the vocal group Rockapella - stars of the TV series "Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego?" - for which Sean co-wrote the famous theme song with Broadway's David Yazbek. He is a member of the Loser's Lounge series in Manhattan, he sings with Kol Zimra Jewish Acapella and performs charity concerts with Voices For Israel, he pitches Astelin nasal spray on TV as a member of the acapella group The GrooveBarbers, he serenades hospital patients as a volunteer with Musicians On Call, and his songs have been featured in dozens of TV shows. In short, Sean is a highly exposed mensch, albeit a potty-mouthed one.
SEAN EXPLAINS: Why JEWMONGOUS?
At my bar mitzvah, Rabbi Gottlieb publicly warned me of the perils of becoming a ‘bar mitzvah Jew’: a Jew for whom that barely pubescent rite of passage is the end of the line. Indeed, from the moment I sent out that final bar mitzvah ‘thank you’ note (to the Himmelsteins, for that bond that won't mature until I'm dead), I gleefully eschewed the spiritual elements of Judaism. Through my twenties I reveled in my great escape from the clutches of my ancestors' faith, even marrying a dreaded shiksa.
But damn him; that know-it-all Rabbi Gottlieb was right: secular Judaism (the ability to discern a bagel from a donut) was not nearly as fulfilling as Satan had promised (and to boot the shiksa dumped me). I felt an increasingly urgent longing to be more connected with my Jewish lineage. But how? Synagogues intimidated me and I'd long forgotten how to read Hebrew (and by ‘read’ I mean sound out the words with no comprehension whatsoever). For years I asserted my Jewishness only at Passover seders, where I read the four questions aloud with particular bravado in an attempt to ‘prove my Jewishness’ to the rest of the table (and assuage my guilt).
Then it hit me: the only things I know how to do - period - are sing, write songs and crack wise. In lieu of shul, then, I started writing naughty ditties that celebrate and lovingly skewer the trials and tribulations of the tribe. Presto: suddenly I'm an esteemed purveyor of ‘Jewish music’ and part of the fancy-shmancy ‘Jewish hipster movement’ everyone's talking about. I've never been called ‘hip’ in my life, so I figure God must really want me to write these ferkachter songs. Let's not forget that Jews have produced some of the greatest comedians and song writers, so I have numerous role models for both endeavors.
Marrying a knockout JDate Jewess cemented the deal: I'm back home with the Hebrews and life is sweeter than my bubbe's kugel. The fact that I still know very little about my people hasn't deterred me from penning catchy songs that display my pathetic lack of knowledge. In fact, I've found that not knowing squat about Judaism allows for better lyrics, as I'm not hamstrung by the pesky ‘truth’. So have I managed to shed the sinister ‘bar mitzvah Jew’ moniker? Nope. I came of age in the '70s, when ‘theme’ bar mitzvahs were just coming into vogue. My event's theme was S&M;, so JEWMONGOUS is really just an extension of my bar mitzvah, simultaneously embracing and rebelling against my heritage and forever trying to tweak the rabbi's beard and yank his talis. I'm still a ‘bar mitzvah Jew’, but at least I'm now ‘hip’. Thank you, Rabbi Gottlieb!