The memes finding the Jewishness in every red carpet outfit – The Forward

If you’re on the Jewish internet, you know Shoshana Gottlieb — even if you don’t know you do. Maybe you know her parsha jokes or her Jewish takes on viral memes, posted to her Instagram handle, @jewishmemesonly, or her X profile, @TheTonightSho. But if there’s one thing you definitely know her for, it’s her Jewish red carpet reviews.

A frothy pink dress was “the ostentatious centerpieces at your rich friend’s bat mitzvah.” Margot Robbie striking a saucy pose and smiling in hot pink made her “the rolled up smoked salmon on a plate knowing it’ll be the first thing that gets eaten at kiddush,” while a sparkly silver dress was described as “a really expensive Sephardi sefer Torah that takes your Ashkenazi breath away.”

Gottlieb describes herself as “frum” — Jewishly observant — but “in a relaxed and kind of chill way.” That means her jokes are not of the Seinfeld or Larry David secular Jewish culture ilk. They are extremely niche, and you sometimes need a lot of Jewish education — and deep experience within a very specific corner of the Jewish community — to get them. But that’s why they work.

I’ve always said that people want to be on the inside of the joke, and will work to be on the inside,” she told me.

In an email exchange — Gottlieb lives in Sydney, Australia, and after much schedule shuffling we realized a phone call just wasn’t in the cards — she talked about how she finds the Torah in every outfit, and her predictions for the Oscar red carpet on Sunday. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to ask her why Nicole Kidman is her arch-nemesis; that will have to wait until next time.

How did you get into meme-ing? 

I basically just realized one day that I could make jokes instead of reposting them, and began a weird shift from consuming content into making it instead. When I started my Instagram, it was intended for my friends to follow. I didn’t really think I’d get much of an audience beyond that. 

So seeing what it’s turned into — and the opportunities it has afforded me — has been really wild.

What’s your audience like? How inside-joke-y can you be with people still mostly getting it? Are there any super niche jokes you’ve made that seem to go over people’s heads?

It’s a really mixed bag. I’ve got people from all over the world, from all different denominations, from different backgrounds. 

I’ve always said that people want to be on the inside of the joke, and will work to be on the inside, whether it’s Googling some terms or literally just DMing me and asking what it means. So jokes that are too vague or not substantive enough can miss because they’re just not interesting. 

On the other hand, I’ve always sat in this world that hovers between Chabad/ultra-frum and more Modern Orthodox, leaning towards open Orthodox and egalitarian. And I’m from Australia, which is so different from the U.S. So my frames of reference mean that some jokes are so niche they’re really only funny to me, and me alone.

I feel like your red carpet reviews have been core to my Jewish internet forever. How — and how many years ago — did they actually get going? 

I started doing them by accident. I happened to be in Chicago in 2022, and it was the first time I’d watched the Oscars live in an American timezone — in Australia they air in the middle of the day on a Monday. 

I started doing a live tweet of the red carpet, and Nicole Kidman — my arch nemesis — reminded me of those little foil things you put in a candlestick holder so the candle melts down onto it. You know those things? Anyway, that made me laugh really hard, and then I started just comparing other looks to Jewish things. It was also the year, I think, that Licorice Pizza was A Movie, so Alana Haim was there and brought extra Jewish vibes, too.

Why do you think they work so well?

I think they work maybe because the film industry/celebrity world and fashion are so inaccessible and border on farcical. These reviews sort of bring them down to our level, it makes them a little silly and reminds us that nothing’s really that serious.

What are people’s reactions usually like?

Oh I get DMs when I don’t post. I didn’t do the Grammys this year because I felt like I was doing too many and it would just get overhyped. A lot of people were mad with that decision. But there’s just too many award shows! If I did them all throughout awards season, the Jewish fashion review market would be over-saturated. And I don’t know any of the musicians!! It’s only fun when I know most of the celebrities. 

People love them like it’s crack, I don’t really get it. It’s the most unifying genre of post I have — rabbis love it, middle-aged mothers love it. People are really invested. It’s strange to me that this has become like THE thing I’m known for. I’m not mad about it, but I really never expected it.

How on earth do you find Jewish angles on all of these random celebrities? How does your brain work? I feel like I need to steal this for my own job.

When Judaism is the lens through which you see the whole world, anything can be made Jewish. Literally sometimes I just stare at something long enough and it’ll just come to me. Sometimes they’re really obvious, sometimes I have to workshop it a little bit. I’m sorry, I can’t offer advice beyond “just be really Jewish.”

What are usually good inspirations for the red carpet reviews?

Candlesticks are always a vibe, especially those Emanuel-style gaudy pink ones. 

Specific-Jews-you’ll-encounter-at-shul are also always fun, and always good to get me in the right frame of mind. 

Bedika cloth is ALWAYS a showstopper because white dresses will never be out of style. I’m a Tanakh girlie, so Torah jokes are a must. Jewish iconography is also an easy in — pomegranates, etrog, ten commandments, things like that. Also drawing on Jewish media: There’s always Fiddler jokes, there’s often Yentl jokes.

Any looks at the Oscars you’re expecting to be particularly good or particularly Jewish? Celebrities that have emerged as best-dressed or can be relied upon to look like something Jewish?

Jack Antonoff always looks like a bochur just because he throws on a suit and his face looks so Jewish. Jewish faces always help, I’m not gonna lie to you. 

Billie Eilish has been a solid contender just because her looks are always interesting. Gay looks are always fun — I’m looking at you, women who wear suits. I always like seeing what’s the new “in” thing — silver and sparkly appeared a lot at the Golden Globes this year, for example. Also Martin Scorsese just always looks like a really happy and proud zeyde, so at least I always have that.

I’m newly obsessed with Schiaparelli’s strange surrealist gowns, and they’ve been on a lot of red carpets recently. What’s your wildest Jewish Schiaparelli dress prediction?

I’m not gonna lie to you, I just Googled Schiaparelli for the first time and that is crazy. God, I hope there’s something like that on the red carpet, it’ll be like a really fun challenge. I just saw a runway model dressed like a slutty Ruth Bader Ginsburg — how delightful.

Any other Oscar predictions?

Lots of annoying and self-righteous jokes about Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie not getting nominations for Barbie. Lots of very vague political comments that become inherently meaningless. A host who’s too scared to get canceled. Kristen Stewart being really gay. Ummmmmmm, jokes about the German dog from Anatomy of a Fall. Emma Stone making her ha-ha-ha rolling eyes face when they cut to her. (Is that too specific?)

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