I’m Only Explaining This Once
nytheatre.com review by Ed Malin
February 23, 2012
Moe Rosen—Canadian comic, award-winning author of “Noam Chomsky is an Asshole,” and transplant to New York—is here on a mission. He would like to explain (but only once, so the whole audience gets the benefit) how he got his name and why he recently changed it from Noam to Moe. Moe tries his best to make sense of his past, which frequently appears in the form of taped interviews with his parents.
First of all, what’s so bad about the name Noam? Apparently, neither friends nor government offices can spell it correctly, leading to huge problems. And anyway, “Noam” sounds a lot like a diminutive lawn ornament seen in Travelocity ads, or the scholar Noam Chomsky. Why would random people walk up to a Noam and demand his opinions on Chomsky’s linguistic theories? I don’t know, but it happens.
Moe’s parents explain that he was named after a great-grandfather who died in the Holocaust. Although the great-grandfather’s name was Nissim David, it was important to pick a corresponding “English name” like Noam. This story, which comically unravels at every turn, is presented with the utmost seriousness. Noam is not really an English name at all. Nor was the family name “Rosen,” but “Rosencwajg.” Sorry, that name was actually spelled with a Zed, and belonged to a Polish ancestor who tried his best not to take his wife and children to the New World. More closely inspected, families can be very funny and rather unlikable.
It is quite charming to see Moe prove that names mean nothing, that families don’t know what they’re talking about (Mom and Dad’s stories contradict each other) and that therefore he is free to pick a name he likes. Yours truly, a Jewish reviewer, frequently laughed at the illumination of convoluted naming traditions. Since Moe is happy sharing a name with one of The Three Stooges, I urge you to go to his show and be happy for him.
Also, Moe has a funny technique of speaking to the movie screen, which then launches into one of the interviews. These videos are run by Mary Crosbie, his comic partner on The Moe and Mary Show, which is shown every week on Channel 56 in Manhattan.