Beca brings the case against her sister Jessica. They're both proud of their Jewish heritage, but Jessica objects to Beca's claim that they are both "part-Jewish" due to their ancestry. Jessica says that since she and her sister were raised in the Catholic faith, they can't in good conscience call themselves “part-Jewish”. Who is right? Only one man can decide.
Thanks this week to Rabbi Mike, former litigant from the episode "Parents Just Don't Understand", who joined us to share his expertise.
Special thanks to listener Larry Herold for suggesting this episode's title!
On this week’s episode of Judge John Hodgman, His Honor set a task for devoted listeners. As your Halloween homework, he asked you to research the origin of Dracula’s use of the term “Bleh!”
Since you are a wonderful, loyal and intellectually curious audience, many listeners wrote in promoting a variety of interesting theories. The first, and likely the most commonly held, suggests that the "word" slowly seeped into our lexicon whilst we absorbed countless indistinguishable impressions of legendary Dracula performer Bela Lugosi. Nathaniel Reha promoted this theory, lifting a quote from the Straight Dope boards: “Actually, thinking about it a sec, I’m hearing a hundred-odd bad impersonations of Bela Lugosi in my head, doing the “I vant to suck your blood!” line. Blood, in the bad accent, becomes ‘bluh’ (with a shortened, almost silent, d or t sound at the end of the word), which just becomes the one readily identifiable word when you think of someone’s bad Hungarian/Transylvanian vampire-speak.” Though listener John McGlothlin notes “[I]f your letter-writer-inner was convinced that ‘bluh’ did not originate in strict canon, that would rule out it stemming directly from Lugosi’s accent in the 1930’s Dracula film.”
Which leads to our second theory. Several listeners suggested that the phrase first appeared in a 1952 Bela Lugosi film called "My Son the Vampire". Jamie McCormick wrote: “The earliest occurrence I can find of a Dracula character making the sound is from 'My Son, The Vampire', a 1953 musical satire starring Lugosi in essence mocking the franchise he himself created. Nosferatu, in company with the other early silent Dracula films, makes no reference to the sound, nor does Lugosi make the sound in his early and serious-minded Dracula films. Note especially the last line of the film's title track – “He wants Bluuuuuuuuuuud!”
Jamie also provided links to the film for those who want to verify this theory. You can find the full film on You Tube or on Netflix; but Jamie also astutely notes that only the Netflix version has the song "My Son, the Vampire" rolling over the credits. Why?
I did some further research. Actually, that title song provides a rather interesting clue. As listener John McGlothlin noted, “[A]round . . . 1964, Allan Sherman put out a comedy song titled “My Son, the Vampire” which opens with “blood!” being screamed in a strange way that sounds rather ‘bluh’ like.” This Allan Sherman tune is the title song of the movie in some (but not all) versions of the film. According to IMDB , the film's original title was “Vampire Over London”, (this is the version available on You Tube), but it was apparently retitled "My Son, the Vampire" for its 1963 American re-release (six years after Bela Lugosi's death) to cash in on the success of Allan Sherman's album, "My Son, the Folksinger". Indeed, there is an American trailer for the film that prominently features Mr. Sherman:
I also discovered that Rhino released an EP of Sherman’s work in 2005 that includes “My Son, The Vampire”. So for 99 cents you can nab the song from itunes and consider the audio evidence yourself. (Although, truthfully, you hear him utter the critical word during the few seconds of the song's free preview).
A third theory, promoted by multiple listeners, claims that the sound was first uttered by comedian Gabe Dell. Kevin Harris first advanced this theory without any video or audio evidence; but listener Cayman Unterborn did all of the heavy lifting for him by providing an extensive defense of Dell as the source of the original parody. First, he provided this explanation from Svenghoolie (who he identifies as a venerable Chicago Horror Icon): “. . . Bela, as Dracula, never said ‘Bleh!’ It was indeed an imitator – back in the days of the old Steve Allen TV show; one of his stock players, Gabriel Dell (who had, at one time, been a ‘Dead End Kid’ in movies – and may have even worked with Bela in a cut-rate Monogram movie) was playing Dracula – and did the ‘bleh!’ thing (or, do you spell it ‘blah!’) From there on, it was history. So many Drac and/or Bela impersonators have done that now that most people assume that Bela actually did that . . .” Unterborn also found a CD that appears to feature a 1963 recording of Gabriel Dell doing his Dracula character (not on the Steve Allen show) and he also points out that you can download audio of the relevant Steve Allen Show episodes where Dell performs as Dracula, but it's going to cost. In terms of putting these performances on the correct spot in our "bleh!" timeline, I discovered that, according to IMDB, Dell performed this character on Steve Allen's Plymouth Show in 1957 (episode 2.35) and again in 1959 (episode 5.3). So that puts it after the original release of "Vampire Over London", but before the re-release of that film with the Allan Sherman title song.
Finally, two listeners suggested a connection to comedian Lenny Bruce. John McGlothin (who, along with Adam Pracht, tried to maximize his chances of winning by providing support for three of these theories) notes that “[I]n the 1960s, Lenny Bruce did a parody of Dracula as a Yiddish man, and the Eastern European accent may have made blood sound a bit like “bluh.” But McGlothin did not provide links to any video or audio which verifies Bruce’s performance or its place in this timeline. This theory does, however, have the backing of reference librarian Emily Menchal who states that there is support for the Lenny Bruce theory in David Skal’s book The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror.
That concludes my dutiful summary of the wonderful answers you uncovered.
So who's right? Only one man can judge the true winner of this contest! And we await his verdict.
Thanks everybody for the submissions and for lending us your talents!
Voice your opinions on which ones are your favorites, because after all: you'll be the ones wearing the winning design.
Emily & Aaron
Ian & Darcy
Email your entries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Include a screen-printable vector-based file (eps or pdf) and a 500 pixel-wide mockup we can post here.
Three entries per person max.
The NEW Deadline is 9AM pacific, Thursday, November 12th.
You must use shirt colors available from Alternative Apparel's Basic T line
Winners will receive:
$100 in MaxFunGoods from the MaxFunStore
Credit and a link to your site from the item in the store
Jesse, Jordan, or Jesse and Jordan's voice on your answering machine or voicemail saying basically whatever you want.
A box of books and CDs and other miscellaneous crap Jesse wants to get rid of from the books and CDs and crap that come in to MFHQ all the time.
we may eventually make more than one if we get really excited. Any beyond the winner will be negotiated individually, we won't just use it without asking, because we're not dicks.
You may have noticed that we're sponsoring a really awesome comedy film festival in LA.
We'll be giving away tickets to some awesome movies throughout the festival, but here's two great flicks to start us off. To enter, email our intern John at email@example.com with your film preference, full name, and two favorite words and definitions - one real, one fake. A pair of tickets will go to the author of our favorite real word, and our favorite fake one.
Saturday night at 10:45, there's a screening of "TV Carnage," a bizarre and amazing collection of insanity, including a main feature called "One Man Force" that promises to be a gem of disastrous cinema. As the Cinefamily folks put it: "TV Carnage barfs up its frenetic celebration of the human thought process with a magical odyssey of alternative judgment calls and creative decision making."
Above, an example of the kind of madness that will be shown in the shorts program.
At 8PM Saturday night, a screening of the documentary "Winnebago Man." Documentarian Ben Steinbauer tracks down the man in the legendary viral clip above, and finds much more than he expected - a rich, brilliant, heroic American figure. A huge hit at SXSW this year.
Congratulations to our winners, Mariel and Riley!
As you may have heard, every year for our annual pledge drive we create a limited-edition Maximum Fun shirt for donors, and every year that shirt is designed by listeners.
We had you vote for your favorites in the semi-finals. Well, the people have spoken, and we have five finalists. These finalists will now be put before our blue ribbon super-panel to be evaluated and judged accordingly.
This year's esteemed super-panel is:
Comedian Extraordinaire Tig Notaro
Standup Superstar Al Madrigal
Cartoonist to the Stars Ariel Schrag
Ultrablogger Merlin Mann
Charming Quipster Paul Scheer
and Jesse's mom Judith Thorn.
The winner will be announced at the beginning of our pledge drive on May 1st.
Here are the finalists.
Not only did Jeremy and Meredith send me and Jordan cookies for the Holiday Contest, they also made this amazing video of the whole thing.
TWENTY DOLLAR PRIZE!
To all ye donors out there, we've got a special treat. We recently came in possession of "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour: Best of Season 3" DVD, and we want you to have it. It's really an awesome show that was incredibly influential. Who ever would like it, and is a donor, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org your address and a one sentence reason why you deserve the DVD's.
We have a winner! Laura, congrats, and enjoy!
We have a copy of the wonderful "Late Show Fun Facts" by David Letterman. It is the perfect coffee table book and regular book. All you have to do is answer this question: David Letterman used to work on a news program in Indianapolis; What was his job?
Just e-mail the answer and your address to email@example.com
If you listen to the show on your local public radio station this book will most likely be available as a pledge drive gift during the pledge drive in the fall. So stay tuned to The Sound of Young America all the time.
We have a winner! Bobby, congrats. Enjoy your book.
To all Maximumfun.org donors: we have a nifty contest for you. We recently came in possession of some copies of the new Brian Wilson record, "That Luck Old Sun," on special edition 180 gram vinyl. But not only that, we also have 7" vinyl singles of Brian Wilson's "Midnight's Another Day." We have decided that the nice thing to do would be to give them away as a package to the wonderful donor's of Maximumfun.org. All you have to do is answer the following question:
What album took Brian Wilson 37 years to complete, and was finally released in 2004?
E-mail your answers to firstname.lastname@example.org
Attention Again: We have selected the winners and they will be notified as soon as we figure out how many vinyls we can send out. Thanks for entering. You guys are so smart.