I’ve only been to a few big public events in my life. The first was a Wiggles concert when I was three, which I don’t really remember. The second was a jazz festival in my hometown. The third was a Miami Dolphins game, which was terribly disappointing because they lost to Blake Bortles. Or maybe that made it great. Regardless, I have never heard people cheer as loudly or as enthusiastically as the audience in Bailey Hall did when Max Greenfield stepped out on the stage.
As a young, Jewish boy, I admire how Greenfield — a self-described older Jewish man — has built an incredible career portraying Jewish characters in various TV shows and movies. New Girl, a comedy in which he plays a marketing agent named Schmidt, is on my short list of favorite series, and I am totally envious of anyone who has worked with Kristen Bell, as he did on Veronica Mars. But the fervor with which he was greeted Saturday night was a whole new level of fanaticism.
Greenfield deserved it, too. I had the opportunity to briefly interview him before his talk and he seemed as genuine up close as he does during public events. He greeted us by joking that he had requested no questions regarding New Girl when another press member opened with a query about Schmidt.
Before the session, a few of the interviewers tried to predict which Jewish holiday was Greenfield’s favorite. When asked, he responded with an enthusiastic “Hannukah!” Greenfield later quipped how Jews should be jealous of Christians because we only get eight gifts but there’s a trove of presents underneath Christmas trees, further validating the greed with which I approach the holiday as well.
The interview session lasted just ten minutes and passed before I had an opportunity to ask any of my fifteen deeply-probing questions. As we were being herded out of the green room, Greenfield paused and asked me if I had anything to add, which was a very kind gesture that I’m not sure many other celebrities would offer. Thus, I capitalized on my opportunity and inquired about the best challah bread he has ever eaten.
You’re welcome, dear reader. I’m asking the hard-hitting questions that no one else will.
Unfortunately, Greenfield couldn’t single out a greatest loaf, but instead responded with his favorite way to eat challah: cooked as French toast. I was floored: I have challah French toast every weekend at home and thought my family was unique. Does every Jew make challah French toast?
During his talk, Greenfield frequently touched on the topic of failure and discussed how he experienced an incredible amount of it while he was attempting to make it big in Hollywood. With so much success, he feels as though he is past the point of gratitude and now just feels “guilty.” Greenfield reflected on how he was overlooked for much of his early career. When asked by the moderator for any advice for young students entering the acting industry, he launched into a scene from the 1994 film Pulp Fiction.
As he tells it, Bruce Willis’ character Butch has to go back to his house to retrieve his father’s watch even though he was being hunted by the police. When he arrives, John Travolta’s character Vincent, whom Butch presumes is a cop, is using his bathroom but has left his gun on the counter. Vincent exits the bathroom and Butch kills him. Greenfield’s takeaway from all this is Butch’s line: “just keep underestimating these motherfuckers.”
The only issue is that Butch doesn’t say that line exactly, instead opting for a slightly more PG, “[they] keep underestimating you.” Greenfield’s message, however, is still obvious and probably more poignant than Willis’ mumbled dialogue.
Max Greenfield dropped out of college, couldn’t land a role for years and almost quit his acting career. Now the Emmy-nominated actor enters auditoriums packed with adoring fans, screaming his name and giggling out of sheer excitement. Who’s underestimating him now?
Jeremy Markus is a freshman in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected]