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 9th of Av, Tisha B’Av. He’ll be at the breakfast spread casually listening to Rabbi Greenville talk about the destruction of the second Temple by Titus.
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 Tisha B’Av 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 of the destruction of the Jewish temple and how the start of the Judaic diaspora 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 Tisha B’Av, 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, I wondered whether I had lived with love in my heart. “Did I even know how to love?” I questioned as I used the bottom half of a bagel chip to scoop up the last of the whitefish. “Fuck it,” I said. “I’m going to go talk to David Wain.”
I made my way out of the temple’s main room and into the BBYO teen room where I found David Wain waiting for me.
“So, you wanted to talk to me?” he asked, casually leaning against a foosball table set up for the teens who meet here after school. “Yeah, I’ve always wanted to meet you,” I said, walking up to him slowly.
“How long have you known about me?” he asked.
“Oh, I don’t even remember the first time I heard about you. It feels like forever.” By this point, I was staring directly into his eyes. He was breathing heavy himself, almost as if he were nervous to meet me for some reason. I could smell the whitefish come off his breath.
“Is there anything you want to say?” he asked. The directness of the question through me off. I had thought about what it would be like to meet David Wain since I was a teenager and wanted to tell him how much he meant to me. But for whatever reason, that manifested in my leaning in and kissing him squarely on his lips. I didn’t know what came over me. I had panicked and was embarrassed.
“I’m married,” I said.
“Obviously. So am I” he said. “So this is what you want? You’ll leave me alone if we do this?”
I didn’t understand the question, but before I could figure out what was happening, he grabbed me for a kiss. The whole episode took me off guard and I was unsure what was happening or why or how I should navigate this situation which felt so alien. “Is this what I wanted?” I asked myself. “Is this what Rabbi Greenville meant by letting love into your heart and living life with Tikkun olam?”
“What are we doing here?” I interrupted as David Wain’s hands made their way down the front of my dress pants.
“I don’t know,” he said. “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?” I asked. “Sarah is my wife.”
“Yeah, I know, obviously,” he told me, his hands starting to explore beneath my tallis. As I continued to be felt up in the youth room of my temple, I struggled to make sense of what was happening. How did David Wain know my wife and what about her did he want to keep from his wife?
“Stop!” I said, pulling back. He was confused and as he waited for me to explain my sudden change of mind, I looked deeply into his eyes and scanned his face in a way I 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?” I asked the man, whom I later discovered was a wedding photographer who sold 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 said. I told him I wouldn’t and left David with the voyeuristic teens 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, I found my wife Sarah with our kids Menasha and Yael. “Where did you go, we were looking all over for you” Sarah asked.
“I was…just catching up with someone,” I said. As my family and I left the temple, I watched Sarah and wondered what drove her to have an affair and how, after 15-years together, she could put all we had built at risk. Had I not been there for her? Should I tell her I know? The questions raced through my mind as we left the shul and made our way to our favorite diner, a place called Art’s in Studio City, so we could have a proper breakfast since the temple’s spread was so underwhelming.
“Someone ate all the whitefish,” Sarah complained. “Yeah, I saw the guy who did it. He didn’t seem to mind taking what isn’t his,” I said.
As we sat at the restaurant, I listened to my kids laugh and make jokes with one another and thought about how they would be impacted by the divorce. “Penny for your thoughts?” Sarah asked me, seeing that something was on my mind. I started to feel anger at what she did to me. “You know, Sarah, it’s not okay–” I began, but was interrupted.
“Holy shit, is that David Wain?” Sarah asked, pointing to a table in the corner of the restaurant. “Honey, you have to go over to him,” she told me. “He’s your hero.”
As I walked over to the table, my heart started to palpitate. Was this some sort of sign? A rainbow in a delicatessen from Hashem that I shouldn’t destroy my marriage? Is it silly to think this is merely a coincidence, or foolish to think that it isn’t?
“Um, excuse me,” I said to David Wain, the real David Wain.
“I just wanted to say I’m a big fan,” I told him.
“Oh, thank you so much,” he smiled politely before returning to his sandwich.
As I walked back to my table, I locked 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 our relationship that we may not be able to weather. But I think it’s worth trying to make what we have work, because recent revelations notwithstanding, it mostly does work. It’s like Rabbi Greenville told us: 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 I want to dip my balls in it.
“How was he? What did he say?” Sarah asked about my finally getting to meet my hero David Wain.
“He was nice,” I told her. “He was eating a Reuben. I think I’m gonna get one too.”