What’s the point of living in LA if you’re not going to be friends with celebrities? In this series, The Avocado provides tips for approaching the sort-of famous person you see at shul without coming off like a total kibitzer.
Celebrity: David Wain
What You Know Him From? David Wain is a comedy legend known by many Jews in their 30s and 40s for The State, Wainy Days, Stella, and Wet Hot American Summer.
What Does Your Mom Know Him From? Probably nothing, right? Ma, you haven’t seen Wet Hot, right? Yeah, I didn’t think so. Um, well he has a new show called Medical Police that just came out on Netflix, but you probably haven’t seen that either. You have? Already? Netflix recommended it because you watched New Girl? You know, I think he directed a few episodes of that so I guess that makes sense.
Where You Will Meet: Beit Shecter Conservative Temple in Valley Village on the Purim, the 14th day of Adar. He’ll be at a breakfast spread casually listening to Rabbi Greenville read the story of a botched genocide against the Jews in ancient Persia from the Megillah. Fun!
Wait, Are You Sure That’s David Wain?: One of the difficulties of running into David Wain in public is being absolutely sure it’s him. I mean, why would he be at a Purim service anyway? Is he that religious? Maybe it’s just a different balding Jew listening to the Rabbi’s lecture by the buffet and taking more than his fair share of the whitefish?
How To Figure Out Whether That’s David Wain: In most circumstances, there is literally no way of determining whether someone is David Wain or not. But lucky for you, you’ve run into him at a temple which provides you a good opening and the necessary time to confirm his identity.
Walk up to the spread of food he is standing by and casually say “this is pretty good whitefish,” almost as if talking to yourself. He’ll smile, but will say defensively “I wouldn’t really know, I haven’t had too much of it,” which is a lie. At this point, say “I want to dip my balls in it!” quoting that famous catchphrase from The State to gauge his reaction. He’ll again smile politely and say something like “it’s not that good,” which is a pretty funny line but doesn’t really confirm that this is David Wain.
Still unsure of whether you are talking to your comedic hero, you decide to just ask:
“Your name is David, right?” He’ll say it is, but does so as a dozen other slight-framed balding men gathered around the whitefish also volunteer that their names are David too.
“You went to summer camp growing up, right?” you’ll ask, but the same dozen Davids also confirm that they went to summer camps too. After several minutes of you and the Davids running through the various Alan Cohens and Ben Golds you knew at Camp Ramah and what they are up to now, you turn back to who you think might be David Wain to ask if he went to NYU. He says yes, but then the other Davids all also say that they went to NYU too, except for one who went to Columbia and thinks he is better than everyone because of it. As you ponder your next move and contemplate whether there is a subtle way of confirming David Wain’s existence, he turns to you.
“Look, I know what you’re doing,” he says.
“Yeah, but let’s not do this here. Meet me in the teen room after the Parsha and we can get into this,” he said and walks away. For the next 15 minutes, you listen as Rabbi Greenville talks passionately about the lessons to be learned from anti-semitism and how generations of Judaic resilience should give us confidence in our own survival as a people in what can feel like a fractured and hateful world. “It is often said that because the Jews are the chosen people, we are granted an exalted position in the eyes of Hashem. But God’s choice to bestow onto us a great nation means we have the responsibility to make the world a better place through Tikkun Olam. That is the lesson of Purim, that even in the face of anti-semitism and destruction we must still act with love in our hearts and choose to rebuild the world out rather than accept its destruction.”
As the Rabbi’s words settled in, you wonder whether you have lived with love in your heart. “Did I even know how to love?” you question as you use the bottom half of a bagel chip to scoop up the last of the whitefish. “Fuck it,” you say. “I’m going to go talk to David Wain.”
You make your way out of the temple’s main room and into the BBYO teen room where you’ll find David Wain waiting for you.
“So, you wanted to talk to me?” he asks, casually leaning against a foosball table set up for the teens who meet here after school. “Yeah, I’ve always wanted to meet you,” you say, walking up to him slowly.
“How long have you known about me?” he asks.
“Oh, I don’t even remember the first time I heard about you. It feels like forever.” By this point, you are staring directly into his eyes. He breaths heavy himself, almost as if he were nervous to meet you for some reason. You can smell the whitefish off his breath; it’s sort of gross.
“Is there anything you want to say?” he asks. The directness of the question throws you off. You had thought about what it would be like to meet David Wain since you were a teenager and want to tell him how much he meant to you, but for whatever reason, the admiration manifests itself in you leaning in and kissing David Wain squarely on his lips. You are overwhelmed by the taste of white fish and honestly don’t know what came over you. You’ve never been so embarrassed.
“I’m married,” you’ll say to a shocked David Wain.
“Obviously. So am I” he says back. “So this is what you want? You’ll leave me alone if we do this?”
You don’t understand the question, but before you could figure out what was happening, he grabs you and kisses you. The whole episode takes you off guard and you’re wholly unsure what is going on or how to navigate this situation which felt so alien and gay. “Is this what I want?” you ask yourself. “Is this what Rabbi Greenville meant by letting love into your heart and living life with Tikkun olam?”
“What are we doing here?” you interrupt as David Wain’s hands make their way down the front of your dress pants.
“I don’t know,” he says. “I’ll do whatever you want just let’s get this over with and please don’t tell my wife about Sarah.”
“What do you mean?” you ask. “Sarah is my wife.”
“Yeah, I know, obviously,” he says, his hands starting to explore beneath your tallis. As you continue to be felt up in the youth room of the temple, you struggle to make sense of what is happening. How did David Wain know your wife and what about her did he want to keep from his wife?
“Stop!” you say, pulling back. He is confused and as he waits for you to explain your sudden change of mind, you looked deeply into his eyes and scan his face in a way you had not previously done: This wasn’t David Wain at all, but just a run of the mill Jewish man covered in whitefish.
“You and Sarah had an affair?” you ask the man, whom you later discover is a wedding photographer who sells pre-paid cell phones to Americans traveling to Israel on the side named David Werksman. “Yes. I’m sorry. But please don’t tell my wife about it,” he says. You tell him you won’t and leave David with the voyeuristic teens who watched the entire scene in the BBYO room.
How To Deal With The Discovery That Your Wife Had An Affair With Someone From Temple And, If Possible, How To Relate That Betrayal to The Struggles Of The Jewish People Following The Destruction Of The Second Temple:
After leaving David, you find your wife Sarah with the kids, Menasha and Yael. “Where did you go, we were looking all over for you?” Sarah asks.
“I was…just catching up with someone,” you tell her. As your family and you leave the temple, you watch Sarah and wonder what drove her to have an affair and how, after 15-years together, she could put all you had built at risk. Had you not been there for her? Should you tell her you know? These questions race through your mind as you leave the shul and make your way to your favorite post-shul diner, a place called Art’s in Studio City.
“Someone ate all the whitefish at the Temple,” Sarah complains. “Yeah, I saw the guy who did it. He didn’t seem to mind taking what isn’t his,” you say.
As you sit at the restaurant, you listen to your kids laugh and make jokes with each other and think about how they would be impacted by the divorce. “Penny for your thoughts?” Sarah asks, seeing that something is on your mind. You started to feel anger at what she did to you. “You know, Sarah, it’s not okay–” you began, but are interrupted.
“Holy shit, is that David Wain?” Sarah asks, pointing to a table in the corner of the restaurant. “Honey, you have to go over to him,” she tells you. “He’s your hero.”
As you walk over to the table, you can feel your heart palpitate. Was this some sort of sign? A rainbow in a delicatessen from Hashem that you shouldn’t destroy your marriage? Is it silly to think this is merely a coincidence, or foolish to think that it isn’t?
“Um, excuse me,” you say to David Wain, the real David Wain.
“I just wanted to say I’m a big fan,” you tell him.
“Oh, thank you so much,” he smiles before returning to his sandwich.
As you walk back to your table, you lock eyes with Sarah. Maybe there were underlying reasons for her infidelity and it’s possible that the discovery of her betrayal will initiate the beginning of a rough patch in your relationship that you may not be able to weather. But you think it’s worth trying to make it work because, recent revelations notwithstanding, it mostly does work. It’s like Rabbi Greenville told you: It is our duty as the chosen people to build up our world with love in our hearts and to not give in to the impulse, even during the most trying of times, to destroy what we have created. As Jews, we rebuild. That is the meaning of Tikkun Olam. And you want to dip your balls in it.
“How was he? What did he say?” Sarah asks you about finally getting to meet your hero David Wain.
“He was nice,” you tell her. “He was eating a Reuben. I think I’m gonna get one too.”