The Hebrew Hammer is the hero we need right now, and he's answering the call.
Back in 2003, Adam Goldberg and filmmaker Jonathan Kesselman introduced the world to Mordecai Jefferson Carver, the world's first Jewish blaxploitation hero. The titular private eye of The Hebrew Hammer kept kosher and kicked ass, protecting the Jewish people after a childhood filled with anti-semitic ostracization.
There were several attempts to make a sequel, including a crowdfunding campaign Kesselman launched in 2013. But it took last year's presidential campaign, and the events that followed, to convince Goldberg that it was time to bring the Hammer back. Last week, the team announced that a long-awaited sequel, The Hebrew Hammer vs. Hitler, is in development, and asked fans to invest in the project with a new crowdfunding platform.
Goldberg spoke with SYFY WIRE about the project, the recent resurgence of anti-semitism, and how he's dealing with his own share of Twitter hate.
So Trump's election, which is the focus of the video you posted [see below], was the impetus for this return?
I guess the most recent impetus. Because, yeah, it had been just sort of dormant, and I kind of just let it, sort of c'est la vie. And then I started to talked to Jon about the idea of actually doing a series of shorts. And this was sort a pilot premise to the short, the Hammer comes out of retirement. Instead of making a series of shorts, we just decided to sort of rewrite the script and take that concept for the pilot for the shorts and then do a campaign again. The other campaign that Jon did a few years ago was really something that Jon did and I wasn't really involved in.
Before Trump got elected, I was talking to Funny or Die about maybe doing something. They like to do topical stuff, so I was trying to figure out a way for the Hebrew Hammer to get involved in what's going on topically. It just all seemed so relevant, with all the demagoguery and everything. We were going to do literal ones. We had one, which was my favorite, about the Hebrew Hammer and Steve Bannon. And there was the Hebrew Hammer seducing Ivanka Trump. We had very, very, very literal ones that we wanted to do with Funny Or Die, but we just couldn't work it out.
So I reached out to Jon and started talking about that. And then we just got into discussing the script again. It was almost as though we had conceived of it prematurely in a way. That idea, The Hebrew Hammer vs. Hitler, came about in a conversation I had with him in like 2005. At the time, there was some stuff in the news, like the Mel Gibson s***, but we didn’t realize he represented this contingent of people who had been hiding in their basement until recently. And they're still hiding in a basement behind their cartoon avatars, but it's getting a little bit more visceral with these demonstrations, with their J.Crew models.
We just kind of decided to recontextualize the premise of the series. The rest of it remained intact. It just felt sort of prescient, in a way. Although not really, because it's not like anti-Semitism is a brand-new invention. In the last few days since we announced it, if you look at my timeline on Twitter, it almost entirely comprised of my exchanges with these f***ing morons.
How do you feel about returning to the role?
I wasn't sure that I really wanted to be overly identified with that. That was a concern of mine going back to doing the first one. So that was always an issue I had to kind of grapple with a little bit. I'm sort of culturally Jewish, but to the extent to which I am known, it’s a Jewish person. But my mom isn't Jewish, she’s a lapsed Catholic, and I didn't get bar mitzvahed.
So I always had kind of a lot of inner conflict and contradictions and kind of a difficult time. But lately I've just been like, f*** it, I now feel like it's important to not be a self-loathing Jewish person of any stripe. I mean, I'm still going to be self-loathing as a human. But arguably my self-loathing comes much more from the f***ed-up Catholic side of my family than it does from the Jewish side, who all seem pretty normal.
This was Jon's movie. This was his baby. He made a short in, I think, film school or something. The Hebrew Hammer is all Jon. It was a script I came to when I was pitching my own film, to the production company that made The Hebrew Hammer, which I eventually made, called I Love Your Work.
We collaborated a lot while we were shooting the first one, but we're collaborating much more on this in terms of story. And in terms of where one of us begins and the other ends, and the character begins and ends, it has sort of gotten kind of mushier over time.
Someone posted news about the movie on Reddit, and it was filled with anti-semitic comments. I don’t think I realized how widespread it has become again.
Clearly these are people who didn't feel like they had any real kind of conduit through which to voice their secret antipathy and misery and all of that. Obviously the internet has provided that, and what started out as 4chan and now has just gone everywhere Twitter, and basically the cabinet of the presidency, have obviously given these guys an opportunity to hitch their wagons to what appears to be something like some sort of conservative, right-wing nationalism or whatever. When it's really just sort of preppy Nazism.
I always sort of referred to the anti-Semitism that I experienced, which was really nothing compared to what I interact with now, as America's cuddly racism. Because people were always very casual about the way that they were anti-Semitic, and in a way that I don't think that many Jews were cognizant of. I mean people have no qualms about saying, “nice Jewish boy." Now, I know that that comes from an idiomatic Jewish vernacular, I think, but it gets kind of appropriated in a way that I always felt like was insanely condescending.
Whereas the Hebrew Hammer sort of owns a lot of the Jewish stereotypes, which is empowering. Or at least neutralizing.
What I remember from the response to the first movie was, to whatever extent to which it was controversial, and it was a little bit, I remember Jewish people being offended. So I think it's just interesting the way that the world has changed. That if you announce the crowdsourcing campaign for a movie called "The Hebrew Hammer vs. Hitler," who could possibly be offended by that? Well, apparently, a lot of Nazis.
And what's annoying is, people say, "Oh, whaddya know, a schlomo begging for shekels." And it's like, if you'd seen the first one, which I'm sure you didn’t, we're already making the joke. You don't get to be a Nazi or an asshole or a wannabe Nazi or a f***ing bedwetter in their basement hiding behind their f***ing avatar, and also appropriate the Jewish self-loathing. You can't loathe a self-loather. It doesn't work.
So while it's kind of shocking that people are this f***ed up, on some level, it's really funny, too, to kind of call their bluff. The “nationalists" that have engaged with since Entertainment Weekly announced that we were doing the campaign, they troll you and then they block you once you start interacting with them. And it's hilarious.
And one of them, I said I would fly to Toronto, I would meet him on Bloor and Yonge just before Shabbat on Friday. Just before sundown, Old West-style, at 4:30. And he wrote back, "I'll be there by myself, faggot." And I was like, okay. And he blocked me so then I couldn't see his tweets anymore. So I could log in as the Hebrew Hammer on that Twitter handle, and be like, “Randy, what happened, buddy? I'm literally offering this fight. And send me a picture."
Because if you're like 600 pounds or whatever, and all muscle and eight-foot-two, I probably won't meet you. But let's at least size each other up. You know what I look like, let me see what you look like. And they just f***ing don't respond.
So tell me about the movie itself. Hebrew Hammer goes back in time?
When Jon and I first got together about this, I said, if we're going to make a sequel, you know, we might as well go after Hitler, because really what else is there to do? Let's just kind of get down to brass tacks. It was kind of like you're reverse engineering a script. Now there's kind of a prologue that's more connected to the movie. It's not literal. It's basically, an infomercial star becomes president. And there's this escalation of demagoguery and racism and all that. I was just like, well what's slightly dumber than Trump becoming president? I guess an infomercial guy.
So Hammer, who's living this quiet life in suburbia, is sort of rustled out of retirement to go save his younger hipper counterpart, who gets trapped back in Nazi Germany. So I take a s***ty time machine and try and find him. We're going back in time. We run into Jesus. I mean, because there's all kinds of issues with the time machine. Obviously, there has to be. So, yeah. There's a lot of pit stops and detours along the way. Jon sort of likes to liken that aspect of it to Bill & Ted. It's like Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure meets Shoah.
And you’re doing a new kind of crowdfunding, which allows people to buy into it, to invest into the project.
The key obviously is just to get this thing made. We’re doing something which is fairly new, which is this equity crowdsourcing thing. It's kind of annoying because when you're being trolled by Nazis, them saying "You're begging for shekels," I'm like, you f***ing idiot, Nazis can actually invest in the film and own part of it.
That's what I keep tweeting, is like, you know, tired of the worldwide Jewish media conspiracy? Well, join us. You know, don't you want to co-own the media? Well, okay. And I always think it's funny, too, because it's like either you're like a loser who's crowdsourcing and begging for shekels, or you own the media. But apparently there's no in-between for Jewish people.