Winnipeg Jewish Review  
Site Search:
Home  |  Archives  |  Contact Us
Features Local Israel Next Generation Arts/Op-Eds Editorial/Letters Links Obituary/In Memoriam

Rabbi Jill Hausman and Gilbert Gottfried have Irwin Corey’s left ear at the Actors Temple.
Photo by Tim Boxer

Tim Boxer: Standing At Irwin Corey’s Left Side

By Tim Boxer, August 8, 2014





Even as he entered his hundredth year, Irwin Corey remains an irreconcilable opponent of a Jewish state. Furthermore he doesn’t want you to call him a Jew. He says that’s “pejorative.” He prefers to be called a Hebrew. That sounds more respectful in certain leftist circles.


Corey’s been striving for respect over a lifetime in the socialist trenches. He tried to join the Communist Party but they rejected him. He said they accused him of being an anarchist.


The goofball satirist was a wild one on the comedy circuit, where he was billed as The Professor, renowned as the World’s Foremost Authority. His cutting edge ramblings and gibberish meanderings won him acclaim among peers and critics alike.


“I never use four-letter words,” he said proudly. “The audience does. They say, ‘What the

f-- is he talking about?’”


And that’s the way it went at his 100th birthday celebration on July 29, at the Actors Temple on Manhattan’s West Side. Comedian Bob Greenberg, a board member of the temple, along with the rabbi, Jill Hausman, produced a love-fest that Corey will remember for the rest of his life.


More than 200 friends and fans, shlepping homemade greeting cards and unique baseball caps, squeezed into the sanctuary to pay tribute to the zany star holding court in a wheelchair. “Life is worth living only if you have friends,” he said. “So many people came out to see a relic like me.”


It was pot luck. Greenberg’s wife Theresa brought a homemade vegetarian pasta salad, the Friars sent cases of Coca-Cola, and Sarge’s restaurant donated cheesecake.


You had to talk to Corey close up on his left side. He is stone-deaf in his right ear and blind as a bat in his right eye. “That makes him an authentic lefty,” Greenberg said.


“How do you feel?” I asked.


“I feel like 99,” Corey said.


I reminded the professor of the time he participated in a Purim event by Minyan of the Stars two decades ago. He read a portion of the Scroll of Esther (in English) and concluded with an improbable statement he attributed to Mordechai: “Always remember, wherever you go…there you are.”


The old coot is still quick with the quips: “Ten years ago we had Johnny Cash, Steve Jobs and Bob Hope. Today we have no cash, no jobs and no hope.”


The bold-face names at the comedian’s birthday party included Joe Franklin, 88, the veteran late-night talk show host; Ervin Drake, 95, composer of such famous songs as It Was a Very Good Year and I Believe; and Corey’s son Richard, a painter/actor. Also comedy writer Jeffrey Gurian, radio producer Myra Chanin, and comedians Gilbert Gottfried and Kenny Kramer.


“Life is very short,” Corey said. Fran, his wife for 70 years, died three years ago at age 95. He said he learned that marriage is a three-ring circus. First there’s the engagement ring, next the wedding ring, and then comes the suffering.



Tim Boxer was a columnist at the New York Post for two decades and has been writing a column for The New York Jewish Week for 35 years; he's been a writer-photographer at for 16 years. He is the author of “Jewish Celebrity Hall of Fame,” interviews of Hollywood stars about their Jewish roots.


<<Previous Article       Next Article >>
Subscribe to the Winnipeg Jewish Review
  • Royal Bank
  • Fillmore Riley
  • Jewish Federation of Winnipeg
  • JNF Manitoba / Saskatchewan
  • JCFS
  • JCFS Winnipeg
  • Orthodox Union
  • Accurate Lawn & Garden
  • Sobey's
  • Coughlin Insurance
  • Munroe Pharmacy
  • Safeway Tuxedo
  • Daniel Friedman and Rob Dalgleish
  • Lipkin Family
  • Booke + Partners
  • Red River Coop
  • Gislason Targownik
  • Janice Morley-Lecomte
  • James Teitsma
  • Obby Khan
  • Jon Reyes
  • James Bezan
  • Markus Chambers
  • Ross Eadie
  • Ted Falk
  • Artista Homes
  • Fetching Style
  • Chisick Family
  • Ronald B. Zimmerman
  • Bob and Shirley Freedman
  • Shinewald Family
  • MLT Aikins
  • MLT Aikins
  • Myers LLP
  • Levene Tadman Golub
  • Charach Family
  • Munroe Dental Centre
  • MCW Consultants Ltd.
  • Preventative Health First
  • Lanny Silver
  • Josef Ryan
  • Taverna Rodos
  • Holiday Inn Polo Park
  • Bruce Shefrin Interior Design
  • PFK Lawyers
  • Commercial Pool
  • Simmonds and Associates
  • CVA Systems
  • CdnVISA Immigration Consultants
  • Laufman Reprographics
  • Dr. Brent Schachter and Sora Ludwig
  • Clear Care Periodontal
  • Shindico
  • Doheny Securities Limited
  • Lazar Family
  • Superlite
  • Chochy's
  • Nick's Inn
  • Bridges for Peace
  • Global Philanthropic
  • Abe and Toni Berenhaut
  • Peerless Garments
  • Cavalier Candies
  • Roseman Corp
  • Shoppers Drug Mart
  • kristinas-greek
  • Broadway Law Group
  • West Kildonan Auto Service
  • The Center for Near East Policy Research Ltd.
  • Sarel Canada
  • Santa Lucia Pizza
  • Roofco Winnipeg Roofing
  • Center for Near East Policy Research
  • Nachum Bedein
Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.