‘Good Shtick! With Zack’ Review: It’s Good Shtick — and a Remedy for Quarantine Loneliness
“I think when Darth Vader and Luke fight, it’s, like, so beyond intense, when they, like, turn on their lightsabers in the dark, and, like, the flips, and when he chops off his hand in the reveal, it's just crazy.” — Zack, Episode 4 of “Good Shtick! With Zack”
“Good Shtick! With Zack” is a new comedy talk show hosted by the perky and loquacious YSU President Zachary Greenberg (SSSB ‘21) which features a slew of student guests including student leaders, Seforim Sale staff and shadchanim, truly the A-list celebrities of Yeshiva University. Airing via Zoom conferencing on Monday and Thursday nights at 10 p.m., Zack and his guests discuss issues that are of interest to a wide audience, ranging from dating during the Corona Crisis to Star Wars to Disney to exclusive analysis of student council statistics to Star Wars to Disney. But that’s all tangential. Upwards of 60 people have been tuning in during the live shows, and dozens more have watched them on YouTube. At its heart, it’s a show about unity within our university, finding happiness in dark times and, above all, Good Shtick — but more on that later.
There is no doubt that “Good Shtick! With Zack” gets off to a shaky start. The pilot episode, which aired on March 16, is full of awkward pauses, serious conversation and forced banter. What should’ve been a fun and facetious conversation about issues of tznius at beaches and waterparks, was instead, dare I say it, serious. The audience questions at the end provide the viewer with a well-deserved break from the all too somber conversation.
The second episode, the first to feature the show’s cinematographically brilliant intro clip, succeeds where the first episode fails. Perhaps this is because the episode featured not one, but two, guests, which makes it less awkward and there’s more people to pop in and speak. Even the serious conversations feel fun and entertaining. This episode also saw an increase in audience participation, another area where this show excels, utilizing interactive polls and even allowing audience members to speak live on air! In one particularly inspiring moment of the episode, Zack strikingly declares, “My ultimate dream is to build Disney in Israel.”
The episodes, which have only gotten longer since the first, only get better from there as Zack and his team keep finding new ways to engage audiences. Episode three, for example, featured a virtual background contest, with viewers voting on which audience member had the “shtickiest” virtual background.
Zack himself is an excellent host. His stentorian voice engages guests and audience members alike. He always has interesting questions to ask, and, with rare exceptions, succeeds in his banter. He seems to always know the right thing to say or have the right prop to bring in at any given moment. The one issue, though, is that he refuses to sing, despite persistent requests from audience members — give the fans what they want!
Not everything on this show is all hunky-dory. The diverse subject matter can sometimes get nasty, such as the brutal shots that were fired between Zack and SOY president Yoni Broth (SSSB ‘20) in the show's 4th episode over the yeshivot they went to in Israel and the lawsuit from earlier this semester, which were reminiscent of trashy reality TV shows. That being said, the stunning presentation that Broth offered displays an incredible intelligence and academic acuity and is far more advanced than anything a Kardashian could do.
There have been some slight technical issues with the show, including lags, microphone mutings and background mishaps. While these can certainly be annoying at first, the more they happen, the more they resonate with the viewer. The constant lags are a constant reminder just how fraught our connections with each other are. At some points they even become the catalyst for amusing conversation.
If the show wants to succeed in the realm of “shtick,” we need to define exactly what “shtick” is. This is no simple task. This conversation comes up in several episodes. In episode two, for example, TAC’s VP of Shabbat Ariella Etshalom (SCW ‘20), who runs a matchmaking service called A(Z)A Connects, says that “shtick can be humorous, but it’s not the same thing [as humor].” I think most would agree. Humor is more subjective: there are different types of humor, and what’s funny to one person may not be funny to the next. But shtick exists on a separate plane, the realm of objectivity, and something is either good shtick, or it isn’t. In episode four, Yoni Broth asks Zack what he thinks are two essential elements of shtick.
“The best shtick,” proclaims Zack, “is when it’s serious and there are stakes. People can do funny gimmicks when it’s easy but then no one cares.” I wonder what the stakes are for this show. Are there stakes? The answer, I believe, is a resounding yes, and I now return to what we mentioned earlier.
This show goes far beyond the schticky hats, suit jackets, backgrounds and “Worst Grade on an Elementary Skool [sic] Test” graphs. When we all come together to discuss the crucial, and less crucial, issues of the YU community, when we truly all engage with each other in a casual and comedic setting, we win the battle against the existential loneliness coronavirus quarantines inevitably bring. Without this show, who knows where we would all be right now. The stakes could not be higher.
Past episodes of “Good Shtick! With Zack” can be found on Zack’s YouTube playlist here.
Photo Caption: Students display their shticky backgrounds during the third episode of “Good Shtick!”.
Photo Credit: The Commentator