The world has long known that Shimon Peres has a talent for statesmanship, having been a national leader in public service for some seven decades. Now we find out he has a sense of humor, too.
A five-minute video conceived by his screenwriter-humorist granddaughter, Mika Almog, and a group of artist friends, depicts Peres, 91, as a man looking for a job, having stepped down as president of Israel this summer. With a clever premise, first-rate production and some subtle messages of substance, it has gone viral since its release two weeks ago with 600,000 YouTube views at last count.
We see Peres in various roles, including security guard, supermarket clerk, pizza delivery guy, sky diver and stand-up comic (“Shimmi P!”), offering advice to the people he meets.
Almog, a well-known figure in Israel who has spent extensive time in New York (NYU) and Los Angeles (UCLA film school), told The Jewish Week that the concept for the video came to her after her grandfather sent her a long document for her feedback about six months ago, entitled “Letter To A Young Friend.”
It was an effort by Peres to bequeath his principles, learned over the decades of service to Israel, to the next generation. “It had a lot of beautiful messages, pearls of wisdom,” Almog recalled. “But I told him that his target audience won’t read it.
“I said, ‘You have to speak their language. It has to be short, funny and it has to be a video.”
He readily agreed, she said, and after Almog brainstormed with five or six creative friends, they came up with the idea of taking Peres job hunting.
And each stop along the way would be “funny and daring,” she said, “but come down to one of his principles.”
For instance, as a gas station attendant unsuccessfully pitching free products to a driver in a hurry, Peres tells the man, “If you keep refusing every offer you’ll have to pay a hefty price.”
It could refer to peace talks or any negotiation, Almog said. “It’s finding how to meet in the middle.”
As a pizza deliveryman berated for being late, Peres tells the customer, “It was not a long path but breaking through was hard.”
The video was distributed by the Peres Peace Center, and several other groups. Israel At Heart, a local nonprofit founded by Joey Low, was a key sponsor.
Almog, who shares her grandfather’s dovish politics, said she was pleased that the video has been received “with humor, goodwill and love.” She was especially gratified to learn that it is being viewed by thousands in Egypt and other Arab countries.
“It proves that humor can be a terrific tool,” she said. “It gets some people to listen who otherwise would not, and it shows people that it’s okay to poke fun at yourself. Fortunately my grandfather was very cooperative. He understood my vision and he was very trusting of me.”