Celebrity Jews

Stay tuned

Air America radio may not be a household name just yet, but they’re working on it. Despite a somewhat rocky beginning when it started broadcasting March 31, Air America now claims 17 stations nationwide, plus a presence on the XM and Sirius satellite radio networks. And now listeners in New York have given the station its ultimate vote of confidence — good ratings. The station’s flagship show, “The O’Franken Factor,” hosted by Jewish satirist Al Franken, surged past conservative nemesis Bill O’Reilly in the first quarterly match-up between the two in the Big Apple.

Be fruitful

Phillip Berg, spiritual leader of Kabbalah Centre fame, has reportedly told Madonna to have another child, saying it “would be a great thing for her spiritual growth.” Speaking of growth, it seems the Material Girl is stretching her vocal talents: At a recent party held at Berg’s New York home, she belted out two songs in Yiddish.

Dude, let my people go

Variety is reporting that Val Kilmer has been cast as Moses in the upcoming stage musical, “The Ten Commandments,” set to open Sept. 27 at Hollywood’s Kodak Theater. It won’t be the actor’s first stab at the biblical character. Kilmer gave voice to Moses in DreamWorks’ “The Prince of Egypt.”

Too hot

Sacha Baron Cohen, aka Ali G, is profiled in the August issue of Vanity Fair. In it, we learn that the Jewish comedian got his start doing impersonations. “In one routine,” the article points out, “he played a Hasid who gets so hot in the shvitz that he ended up converting to Christianity.”

Sandler’s solo

Speaking of comedians, Adam Sandler has a new CD. Check it out to hear a loving tribute to his father, Stan, who passed away while Sandler was recording the album.

Mazel tov

Congratulations to … “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart and his wife on the birth of their first child, Nathan Thomas Stewart. Also, the Television Critics Association gave the “Daily Show” the award for best news and information program. In a taped acceptance speech, the Jewish host reminded them, “We’re fake!” … 18-year-old Shia Laboeuf for starring in the movie (“I, Robot”) that finally knocked “Spider-Man 2” out of the No. 1 spot at the box office … The creators of “Arrested Development,” a Fox sitcom centering around a dysfunctional family, in which the father is a white-collar-criminal-turned-Orthodox Jew (played by Jewish actor Jeffrey Tambor). The show was nominated for an Emmy in the best comedy category.

Zach vs. Woody

“They’re very, very different. Zach’s much more hands-on. He tells you a lot more and talks to you a lot more, and is a lot more social than Woody is. You become friends with Zach and that’s sort of how he directs you, as your friend. It’s very loose and open. My experience with Woody Allen — maybe it was me too, being like 14 and not knowing what the hell I was doing — was very, like … I don’t even think that he knew who I was while we were working together. I think he maybe said two words to me while we were working, and he had a very abstract way of directing.” — Natalie Portman comparing being directed by Zach Braff on the new film, “Garden State,” to being directed by Allen in 1996’s “Everybody Says I Love You.”

Columnist Benyamin Cohen is the editor of Jewsweek Magazine (www.jewsweek.com)