How to Be a Jewish Son

on “The David Susskind Show”


How to Be a Jewish Son on

“The David Susskind Show”

Produced by Jean Kennedy

Directed by Arthur Forrest

November 12, 1970



David Susskind

Mel Brooks

George Segal

David Steinberg

Dan Greenburg

Larry Goldberg

Stan Herman



Television: Metromedia Television & Pamandia

Video: S’more Entertainment



Aspect Ratio: 1.28:1

Disc Size: DVD-9

Runtime: 99 minutes

Region: 0 / NTSC



English Dolby Digital 2.0


Subtitles: None



Program notes by Stephen Battaglio



DVD clamshell case:

Release Date: February 14, 2012



S’more Entertainment continues their foray into the David Susskind vault (cf: Jerry Lewis on Open End) with this “often-requested and beloved” repeat performance of “How to be a Jewish Son” which originally aired in 1970.  Present were six Jewish celebrities, three of them - Mel Brooks, George Segal and David Steinberg – well known at the time, though with most of their respective careers ahead of them.  Mel Brooks, for example, had been a successful writer for Sid Caesar, co-created the television series Get Smart and had directed his first two feature films: The Producers and The Twelve Chairs.  George Segal had had a major success in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Plus a number of other films and was all set for the release of The Owl and the Pussycat and Where’s Papa?  Also on board were David Steinberg (comic and son of a rabbi), pizzeria king Larry Goldberg, fashion designer Stan Herman, and Dan Greenberg, author of “How to Be a Jewish Mother.”



The Show: 8

The scripted idea, and one that Susskind tries repeatedly to return to, often with hilarious results, is that these gentlemen would have fascinating insights into the topic: “How to be a Jewish Son” which, of course, begs the question of the existence of the “Jewish mother” a concept that Susskind assumes his guests will want to weigh in on.  To our delight they just as often turn the tables on their host, changing the subject or interviewing him.  Susskind is manifestly uncomfortable in the role, try as he might to be good natured about it.  Most of the time, however, we learn a great deal of the childhoods of his guests and what it meant to break into mainstream entertainment after living in the world of the Borsht Belt – and the telling is often very funny indeed, with most giving ground to David Steinberg and, of course, Mel Brooks.


Image: 2

There are two difficulties that leap off the screen as it were: the first is the color – monkey-puke yellow-green flesh tones that would have been more suitable for a Halloween Special.  Some close-ups are worse than others, but at best it’s pretty gruesome.  I offer this comparison to a frame I half-heartedly corrected so that the obvious will be inescapable.  Of course, in so doing, Segal’s jacket and shirt are now too purple, but these elements could have been corrected in isolation (as in the second pairing) or, simply, endured as the lesser of two evils.




The second issue is that there are brief bursts where the integrity of the image simply falls apart before our eyes.  This doesn’t happen often – more so near the beginning than later, but it’s not something that I’ve ever encountered before, and for that reason alone, is worth a looksee, like one of those freak exhibits at a carnival.  At all other times, even though everyone remains recognizable (thus the score of “2” instead of “1”) the image suffers from general fuzziness and a compression of the darker end of the tonal scale that is apparent even prior to expansion to a TV-size picture.  Neither of these issues are likely the fault of S’more and are uncorrectable to any useful extent.


Audio & Music: 4/7

Except for the music for the opening and closing credits, there is just talk, always clear – which is a good thing, since there are no subtitles here.


Extras: 2

S’more Entertainment offers no Bonus Features as such on the disc, however the 220-word piece by Stephen Battaglio quoted on the disc cover is a useful descriptive introduction to the proceedings.


A quick note on Operations: The DVD contains two segments (54 and 44 minutes) for the purposes of syndication. If you hit the Play button from the opening menu page, the program will play the second interview segment right after the first one closes. Or you could choose to play each segment separately from the second menu page.



Recommendation: 4

Unlike S’more’s DVD of “Jerry Lewis on Open End” “How to be a Jewish Mother” stretches our willingness to accept historical footage in the service of entertainment.  The picture quality is truly awful and, while S’more cannot be faulted for the source material they are given to work with, it is evident that they failed to work with it at all.  All the same, the show offers lots of laughs and is worth seeing, with caveats observed, so rent this one before you buy.



Leonard Norwitz

© LensViews

March 3, 2012

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