In an exclusive interview with Martin Bodek, Co-founder and Editor of TheKnish.com, Jew Central gets the details on the creative side of Jewish business.
Read on why laughter may be the best medicine for your business.
Since TheKnish.com was founded less than one year ago it has kept the Jewish community laughing- at itself. Lisa Sweetingham of Time Out New York says it “even made this shiksa chuckle”.
Martin Bodek, who co-founded TheKnish.com along with Chaim Y., has been published by The Jewish Press, Bangitout.com, JewCentral.com, JewishWorldReview.com, The Daily News, and “plagiarized in dozens of publications and webzines”. Here he shares his unique insights to the Jewish creative market.
Jew Central: What do you consider the most important factor(s) to your success?
Martin Bodek: The key to TheKnish.com’s success is that we set out with no goal whatsoever. Therefore, anything we accomplish is a smashing success. As is corroborated by April 23, 2004’s Dilbert calendar entry:
Dilbert’s boss: The key to success is to remain optimistic even when you fail.
Dilbert: What’s the point of succeeding if failing feels good too?
JC: What do you consider TheKnish.com’s biggest professional accomplishment/achievement?
MB: TheKnish.com’s biggest accomplishment is finding the one thing not available on the web for Jewish consumers and providing just that. Try as we might, there was no fake Jewish news anywhere, and we Googled our brains out to find it, but we didn’t, and so TheKnish was born.
JC: It’s hard to always be funny, how do you deal with writer’s block?
MB: I suffer when that hits, but I try to avoid it by soaking my head with news. I visit the “You can’t make this stuff up” section on 1010wins.com, I check out and rip off websites like TheOnion.com, Chortler.com, Glossynews.com and TheBorowitzReport.com, and when all else fails, I get tons of inspiration from Fark.com. I just keep refreshing the site until an idea comes up that I can parody. The key is to keep looking at new sources for ideas.
JC: What are the special challenges serving the Jewish market?
MB: Our interests don’t really appeal to the larger market. As Mark Twain put it, we’re “a nebulous dim puff of star dust lost in the blaze of the Milky Way.” He’s right. The sales of best selling albums or books would be laughingstock figures in non-jewish markets. limited appeal is a problem, the communication gap as well, and this can’t be corrected until goyim realize that “frum” means “religious,” not “opposite of to.”
JC: What’s the best way for creative Jews to succeed?
MB: Go it alone, do it yourself, fly solo. Most feedback for creative types are negative. Don’t listen to anybody. If you think you’re good, you are, unless others vehemently disagree, in which case, they should be shot. Forget agents. Think you’re funny? Perform at open mike night at Pip’s in Sheepshead bay. Think you’re a good writer? Submit stuff everywhere and keep getting rejected until you get accepted. Be the captain of your own destiny.
JC: When the dot com bubble has burst many web only businesses folded. How do you think web only sites can be profitable?
MB: Be eBay. Okay, just kidding. In order to make money, you’ve got to sell ads. There was an “Apprentice” episode where two teams had to maximize money out of rickshaws. One team had the brainstorm of putting ads all over their rickshaws while they went about their business. Genius. They walloped the other team by several thousand dollars. Lesson learned. We can sell as much merchandise as we want, but the advertising dollars is where it’s at.
JC: What has been your biggest surprise?
MB: The success of some of the articles we’ve put up that we thought would fail (i.e, “Lubavinator“) and the failure of some of the articles we’ve put up that we thought would succeed (i.e., “Chanukwanzaamasadan“)
JC: What other online or offline companies do you look up to and why?
MB: Humorfeed.com – Great up-and-coming satire resource that I plagiarize to death.
Iuniverse.com – Because it’s gonna help me self-publish one fine day
Marvel Comics – Because the stock just split and I’m gonna make a fortune
E-notations – They set up a killer design for our webpage.
JC: What books do you recommend?
MB: How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie – most useful book ever written
Word Freak by Stefan Fatsis – hands down the most enjoyable read of my life
The Wolf’s Hour by Robert R. McCammon – my favorite work of fiction ever
Attack of the Deranged Killer Monster Snow Goons by Bill Waterson – Calvinball!