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Hanukkah Harry and the Gift of Comedy

It was a Saturday night in December of 1989 and an urban legend was about to be born. Enter Hanukkah Harry on a mission to help out an ailing Santa Claus.

By: Tammy Mark
Published: November 27th, 2013 in Culture » Society » News
Jon Lovitz

It was a Saturday night in December of 1989 and an urban legend was about to be born. The scene opens with Santa laying sick in bed. He needs somebody to fill in and deliver holiday gifts on a moment’s notice. He knows there is only one guy for the job. Enter Jon Lovitz as Hanukkah Harry.

As Harry, Lovitz sported a long grey beard, a black suit and a blue and white hat. With more sentiment and less satire than the usual SNL skit, the story wrapped up with a message of unity and camaraderie between the different cultures. It was a mock Hallmark moment that left a true lasting impression. Though Hanukkah Harry is still part of pop culture today, Lovitz had no idea at the time that it would become as iconic as it did.

Lovitz made his initial debut on Saturday Night Live in 1985, upon recommendations from his friends he had met early on in the business. After 13 years as an actor, mostly in theatre, he made his way to the long running late-night show where he would go on to create such unforgettable characters, like the Pathological Liar (“yeah – that’s the ticket!”) and Master Thespian.

Lovitz’s best memory of his time on Saturday Night Live was the day he saw the set created exclusively for his Master Thespian character. He was taken aback and very appreciative of the support and the display of confidence from the cast and crew. During his time at Saturday Night Live, Lovitz made connections for life and catapulted his movie career.

One lifelong connection he made was with another Jewish comic who has his own association with Hanukkah, Adam Sandler. Sandler, who produced the animated film Eight Crazy Nights and the quirky “Chanukah Song”, was actually hired on Saturday Night Live after Lovitz had left. Lovitz had known Sandler back when he was doing stand-up comedy back in Los Angeles. Lovitz was so grateful for the support that he had gotten when he started out that he felt the need to “pay it forward”. He reached out to Sandler and gave him the inside scoop on what to expect at his new gig at SNL. Sandler embraced the support and showed his appreciation over the years by inviting Lovitz to join him in numerous movies and sketches.

Even after countless roles played over the decades of his career, Jon says he is still excited and grateful for every single job, and he loves helping others succeed. He truly believes that when artists and performers support each other, everybody wins.

To that end, Lovitz opened a comedy club in 2009. The Jon Lovitz Comedy Club in Los Angeles has become the place to develop and showcase new talent. The club is now the setting for The Jon Lovitz Comedy Network, a new digital entertainment network. The idea is to give unknown comedy performers their big break into show business, while offering audiences great entertainment. From stand-up to web series to live-streamed stage shows, this online network provides content that can be watched anywhere, anytime.

Lovitz often headlines the acts. “I love stand-up! I love getting more and more comfortable with the crowd”. What’s his best piece of advice to the new comedians? “Play to the crowd”, he urges, “if you’re on a stage, talk to the audience. If you’re on TV, face the camera.” Either way, he insists that making the connection is the key. Echoing the sentiment of the Hanukkah Harry message, Lovitz believes that comedy has the ability to unite people.

Combining his belief in camaraderie and his emphasis on connection, Lovitz is running a crowd-funding campaign, turning to FundAnything.com to expand the network of both new and established talent. Crowd-funding is becoming an increasingly popular avenue for funding new creative projects and businesses. It brings the money to the projects from the fans, and the fans get to support projects they would like to see. Lovitz’s vision is an interactive relationship with the viewer. The supporter is invested in the talent and the talent has the chance to grow.

Lovitz is offering the audience a chance to actually be a part of the network as well, offering fun gifts for supporters. Producer’s credits and twitter shout-outs are among the rewards. Certain giving levels will offer personalized gifts from Jon, like autographed photos or tickets to a “meet and greet”. Anyone still searching for the perfect Hanukkah present can support the campaign and give a gift to someone else. A personalized outgoing voicemail message from Jon Lovitz himself just might become your loved one’s favorite gift.

What Hanukkah favorites does Jon Lovitz have? “Going to my grandmother with all my cousins is a favorite childhood memory”. As for “Hanukkah Harry’s” favorite Hanukkah food? “Definitely latkes on Hanukkah – and jelly donuts are great for every other day of the year!”

Related articles: Hanukkah Harry, Jewish, Christmas, Santa, Jon Lovitz, Saturday Night Live
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