Celebrity Jews

Einstein the jokester

With the recent announcements of the 2012 Nobel Prize winners, it seems like a good time to share a funny anecdote I read about one of history’s more prominent Nobel winners — Albert Einstein, who won the honor for physics in 1921. The story was relayed in a 2009 memoir by Nicholas Meyer, 67. Meyer’s credits include co-writing and directing “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” (1982), whose success revitalized the “Star Trek” franchise.

Nicholas Meyer

Meyer’s father was a Manhattan psychoanalyst and a good amateur pianist. His mother was a concert pianist. The rarefied intellectual circles in which they moved included Einstein. Of course, Einstein was a much more complex man than the always genial, sometimes absent-minded professor that popular culture often makes him out to be. But in Meyer’s only meeting with Einstein, he lived up to the “cute professor” stereotype.

Meyer’s family attended a Thanksgiving dinner in Princeton, N.J., where Einstein taught. Before dinner, Meyer’s father played piano, accompanied by Einstein on “squeaky” violin. The 8-year-old Meyer was seated next to Einstein at the dinner table. He leaned over and told the great man that he thought he had a hair on his turkey. Einstein replied: “Not so loud. Everyone else will want one.”


Movie and TV news

The scripted, 12-episode MTV drama “Underemployed” premiered on Oct. 16. (Those who missed it can see one of the many encore showings this week or view it online.) The series follows the lives of five friends, all recent college grads, trying to make their way during uncertain economic times. Jared Kusnitz, 21, plays Lou, an aspiring environmentalist. Kusnitz recently tweeted: “My mom just compared me to [singer] Adam Levine. Her main comparison being that we’re both tall, skinny and Jewish.”

Max Greenfield

“Night of Too Many Stars: America Comes Together for Autism Programs” airs on Comedy Central at 8 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 21. The special is hosted by Jon Stewart, 49, with the following funny guys set to appear: Seth Rogen, 30, Jerry Seinfeld, 58, Bob Saget, 56, Matthew Broderick, 50, and Robert Smigel, 52 (as the voice of Triumph the Insult Comic Dog).

Opening on Oct. 26 is “Fun Size,” the first feature film directed by Josh Schwartz, 36, creator of the TV hits “The O.C.” and “Gossip Girl.” “Fun Size” is centered on Wren (Victoria Justice), a nice teen girl who is forced to spend Halloween babysitting her little brother, while her mother (Chelsea Handler, 37) goes out to party. While trick-or-treating with her brother, Wren stops in at a Halloween party and loses her brother in the crowd. Frantic to locate him before her mom finds out he’s missing, Wren enlists an unlikely teen foursome (nerd, sassy friend, etc.) to aid her.

Max Greenfield, 31, has hit the equivalent of the actor lottery. After a decade as a guest or recurring actor on sitcoms, in 2011 he landed the role of ladies’ man Schmidt on “New Girl.” This Fox sitcom starring Zooey Deschanel is a huge hit. The Schmidt character has clicked with the TV audience almost as much as Deschanel’s character. Greenfield’s first-year performance was Emmy-nominated.

Naturally, he is much in demand as an interview subject, and he often mentions his Jewish background. He recently told Vanity Fair about his “Saturday Night Live”–themed bar mitzvah, which included a Blues Brothers cake and tables graced by headshots of the show’s cast members. On Oct. 8, he told David Letterman about a potentially dangerous encounter with an ostrich at an animal park when he was a teen. Letterman replied that Greenfield might have been killed. Greenfield said if that had happened, the headline would have been, “Jewish Kid Killed by Ostrich.” By the way, Greenfield was a member of the almost all-Jewish cast of “When Do We Eat?,” a 2005 indie cult film about a wild Passover seder.

Columnist Nate Bloom, an Oaklander, can be reached at middleoftheroad1@aol.com.

Nate Bloom

Nate Bloom writes the "Celebrity Jews" column for J.