Cohen, Jaffe. “The King of Kings and I”. Harper, San Francisco, 1997.
Jaffe Cohen is one of the funniest writers around. After reading “Tush”, new book I went back and reread “The King of Kings and I: The Greatest Story Ever Kvetched” and I am still laughing. The book is a trip through religion, the gay world and parents and is blasphemous all the way through. It’s got a sense of humor like nothing you have ever read before and after reading it again, I realize why I loved it so much. Cohen wrote all the things I have always felt but never had the nerve to utter out loud.
Jaffe Cohen is an author and a stand up comic and he is very, very funny. His book is simply the story of how easy it is to get lost in the search for yourself. This memoir is perceptive and hilarious as it takes on religion, sex, the search for meaning and mom and dad. Jaffe begins his saga in Brooklyn where he began life as a little Jew and transports us to his meetings with Christianity. His sexual coming of age is brought into union with his desire to have a more tantalizing supreme being unlike the God of the Old Testament that he learned about in religious school. (His description of God hit me hard as it was so close to the one I used to have—striped robe, long beard and all). When he realized that he was in love with his next door neighbor, he knew that he was indeed gay. He was distraught that his neighbor left him after a night of fun and ran to confess his sins.
Jaffe’s college years were spent halfway in the closet as he was afraid of guilt by association because of his activity I musical theater. His brother, a pothead, was the goal of a hitchhiking trip before he ended up as a member of a commune in order to seek inner peace. When that did not work out, he ended up at a Christian prayer meeting where he had a vision of Jesus which so inspired him he went home to convert his parents.
This is a book that has a laugh a line and it is hard to keep reading because of the swiftness of the jokes. Yet it is also a look at what it is for accept his gayness and find peace. The road may be a funny one but beneath the humor there is a great deal of seriousness. If I had not been so lucky to write to Jaffe Cohen after reading his new book, I might have forgotten that “The King of Kings and I” ever existed. Jaffe and I quickly became email buddies and the compassion he showed me for my having endured Katrina gave me a great sense of inner peace. Incidentally, I lent my copy of “The King” to my rabbi as I knew he would enjoy it and he loved it. I expect to hear some of the jokes crop up in his sermons. I had a bit of trouble locating the book but now that I have it, it is not going away. I lost my original copy to Katrina. I don’t plan on losing this one.