JUF's Jewish Celebrities

Julie Kavner

Julie Kavner

Lots of TV shows, even cartoons, get made into movies— everything from The Wild Thornberrys to SpongeBob Squarepants. So why it took almost 20 years to get a movie made from The Simpsons we don’t know, but all we can say is: We loved it!

It just came out, which is why we are writing about Julie Kavner. She does the voice of Marge Simpson, and also her grouchy sisters, Patty and Selma. It takes about two half-days a week, about seven hours, to voice an episode. Not a bad gig! She won an Emmy for it, too. Harry Shearer and Hank Azaria are two other Jewish actors who do tons of voices on The Simpsons, and for the movie, they also brought in Albert Brooks.

Julie's other voice work includes Timon’s mom in The Lion King 1 ½, which is The Lion King but from Timon and Pumbaa’s point of view… and a talking pigeon in the Eddie Murphy version of Doctor Doolittle.

Onscreen, Julie has been in a whole lot of Woody Allen movies with, as you may guess, loads of other Jewish actors. She was in Deconstructing Harry with Billy Crystal, Amy Irving, Bob Balaban, and Richard Benjamin. She was in one our Movies of the Month, Radio Days with Wallace Shawn and Seth Green. She was in Hannah and Her Sisters with Carrie Fisher and Daniel Stern. And she was in Woody’s movies Shadows and Fog, New York Stories, and Alice.

She was even in a TV version of his play Don’t Drink the Water with former child star Mayim Bialik, which is sorta funny because “mayim” is Hebrew for “water”! (Actually, we think the only ones who really could drink their co-star would be Meatwad or Frylock, because their co-star, Shake, is a milkshake! What, you’ve never seen Aqua Teen Hunger Force?)

Julie has been in other people’s movies too, of course. She was just Adam Sandler’s mom in Click, one of our Movies of the Month. She tells Debra Winger to date Billy Crystal in Forget Paris. She’s also in I’ll Do Anything with Albert Brooks and in Awakenings with Robin Williams… who is not Jewish, but here he plays a character based on famous Jewish psychologist Oliver Sacks.

The Simpsons started as a once-in-a-while cartoon on a TV show showcasing the comedy talents of a British actress named Tracey Ullman. Julie was an actor on that show— she won an Emmy for it— so it was natural for her to do one of the voices. Of course, no one expected the cartoon to be such a hit, and she did not expect to be doing the voice for 20 years!

But The Tracey Ullman Show was not Julie’s first regular TV role. Ever hear of The Mary Tyler Moore Show? Well, Mary had a Jewish friend named Rhoda who was so popular they gave her her own show.

That’s called a spin-off; some other famous spin-offs include The Jeffersons (spun off from All in the Family), Frasier (from Cheers), Angel (from Buffy), and Boston Legal (from The Practice).

On Rhoda, Julie played a woman named Brenda, Rhoda’s sister. Julie had auditioned for a part on Mary Tyler Moore and didn’t get it, but the producers liked her so much they created a character just for her on the spin-off! And she won and Emmy for that… that’s three!


Julie’s parents were from New York, but she was born and raised in LA and went to Beverly Hills High School. As you might guess, some other people went there who became famous after graduating, including David Schwimmer, Richard Dreyfuss, Nicolas Cage and Angelina Jolie.
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