aka: Alter Kacker
"Heh?"A senior citizen with a Yiddish accent. In fiction, Yiddish accents are common for old characters, even if their families are of a completely different culture. Alter Kockers are most common in comedies, due to the influence of Jewish comedians. Many Borscht Belt comics had immigrant parents with thick Yiddish accents. Sometimes, a character shown in the future or undergoing Rapid Aging will inexplicably gain a Yiddish accent and stereotypical Alter Kocker mannerisms, following Rule of Funny. Incidentally, the phrase alter kacker literally means "old shitter." It's the Yiddish equivalent to the American slang phrase "old fart." Also incidentally, it means the exact same thing in German (which is the basis of Yiddish). Related to Informed Judaism. Compare Grumpy Old Man. Likely to exhibit Jewish Complaining and Jews Love to Argue.
—Old Jewish Man
—Old Jewish Man
open/close all folders
- The Goldfish Under the Couch Cushion.
Anime & Manga
- In Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, when Chazz is under the control of the Society of Light, Jaden duels him using Chazz's favoured Ojama cards against him. One card causes Ojama tokens to appear on Chazz's side of the field, which look like elderly versions of the normal monsters. In the English dub, they sound Yiddish.
- Silex and the City has the "archeo-Yiddish" Madame Finkelstein.
- Miracle Max and his wife in The Princess Bride. Miracle Max is explicitly written "old Jewish coot" in the original book. William Goldman the author (who remember, claims he is adapting a centuries-old story) even hangs a lampshade on it on several levels. The movie version of Miracle Max was, on VH-1's I Love The 80s, referred to as "a little Jewish troll." Max's being played by the then thirty-something Billy Crystal only makes it funnier...
- Arthur from The Holiday...though he's one of a handful of old Jewish guys hanging out in LA, and he even refers to himself as an "old Kocker".
- Mel Brooks is fond of playing these:
- The Two Thousand Year Old Man is a very alter kocker.
- Two characters pretend to be this in High Anxiety in order to get through customs, hoping that being as loud and obnoxious as possible will make people ignore them.
- Yogurt in Spaceballs is played as an old Jewish alien.
- The Indian Chief in Blazing Saddles even speaks Hebrew.
- Eddie Murphy plays one in Coming to America. The character, seen the image above, is a regular at the barbershop and tells a classic Jewish joke.
- In Snatch., the Jewish gangsters in the opening credits dress up like Alter Kocker, with Hasidic dress and Yiddish accents. Frankie Four Fingers' natural accent, however, is very Yiddish.
- Jud Hirsch's character in Independence Day is an old Jewish man who kvetches constantly and speaks Yiddish as a Second Language.
- Dan Lauria's character in The Spirit, Commissioner Dolan, lampshades this trope: "I'm just an alter kocker, ya gotta gimme something to work with here."
- When the Spirit has to explain to Officer Morgenstern what this means, Dolan complains "Jews these days don't even know their own language."
- Jackie Mason, in everything he's ever done.
- Eddie Murphy's character pretends to be one in The Distinguished Gentleman when campaigning for Congress when his van drives through a Jewish neighborhood, throwing around Yiddish words. Of course, he is earlier revealed to be fluent in Yiddish.
"I learned it from Morris Elfbein, da Gin King of Miami Beach! He taught me dat, and he also taught me ya don't always haff to haff da best cards ta win da hand."
- Sleeper has two old Jewish robots who run a clothing shop, complete with yamulke-like head covers.
- Nana, the feisty old lady from New York in the Madagascar films.
- In Isaac Asimov's Second Foundation (volume 3 of the original Foundation Trilogy), Preem Palver appears to be a rustic farmer - and speaks with an Immigrant Yiddish accent (which Asimov was completely familiar with). Subverted, as far from being an unintelligent hick, Palver is the First Speaker of the Second Foundation.
- In Ethan, Suspended, the title character's grandparents are this.
- The Guns of the South: Mr. Goldfarb, a German immigrant and an associate of Judah P. Benjamin, is recruited by Lee to translate the Afrikaner language books.
Live Action TV
- The phrase was mentioned on The Nanny. Interestingly, despite star Fran Drescher's Jewish heritage, the phrase is mistranslated, likely for the sake of the joke. She instead says that it means "Old Cock...er Spaniel."
- In an early episode of Boy Meets World, where Cory and Shawn imagine what they would be like some sixty odd years from now. Quite inexplicably, they are shown talking with Yiddish accents, despite being explicitly shown as Christian in earlier episodes.
- The same thing happened on Ugly Betty, when the title character dreamed of her and Daniel in the far future. Betty is Latina, and Daniel certainly isn't Jewish either.
- Ha Pijamoth, an Israeli kid-sitcom of all things, suggested that "at some age, people just start speaking Yiddish. It's a medical fact."
- In an episode of The Good Wife, Will and Diane, in their plot to oust Julian, bring back two equity partners whom they refer specifically as "the alter kockers" in order to get their votes.
- In the final few episodes of Soap Jodie (Billy Crystal) did some past life regression hypnosis and got stuck as a 90 year old Brooklyn Alter Kocker originally from Minsk.
- On Northern Exposure transplant Joel mentions them back in his "old country" of Queens, NY from time to time.
- Several older characters on Seinfeld, including the Mandelbaums and at times Jerry's own father, Morty. At one point they have an argument which degenerates into nothing but the word "ehh!". Jerry's Uncle Leo is probably the most stereotypical of an old, grumpy Jew.
- Mayer in Lost Girl.
- Ginsberg's father on Mad Men.
- Monster Bash: The Mummy, oddly enough.
- Mushnik from Little Shop of Horrors, though some cottage productions give him a German accent just for fun.
- This was how Gravis Mushnik was played by Mel Welles in the original film..."Gravis" sounds like an Old Country name — enough to be used as the surname of Andy Kaufman's character in Taxi — but it is rather of a piece with the "sick" jokes in the film, many of which reference illness and medicine, the last particularly in the scene involving Seymour's mother. (Yes, he has a mother; let a man start singing, and all of a sudden he thinks he's an orphan...and he never calls.)
- Iroh in Avatar: The Abridged Series. Bear in mind, the original has a Japanese accent while everyone else in the Fire Nation has a standard American one.
- Maybe he had a stroke at some point (in the context of the original series). Sometimes after strokes or other trauma that affects the brain, people recover the ability to speak but gain an accent (sometimes it's definitively Spanish/German/Japanese/what have you, most of the time it's just "generically foreign").
- ...or maybe it's due simply to Iroh being voiced by Mako, and he didn't even bother to hide his accent.
- There is an entire website dedicated to this concept: Old Jews Telling Jokes.
- Doggy in his "review" show spin-off of The Cartoon Chronicles of Conroy Cat.
- Pa Grape in Veggie Tales, which is kind of odd because he was originally introduced as the patriarch of a hillbilly family, and none of the other members of the family sounded Jewish.
- This may be from the limitations of placing most characters on the shoulders of Phil Vischer and Mike Nawrocki, due to limiting most characters to whoever they can record in-house.
- One of Grandpa's housemates at the retirement home in The Simpsons is known solely to fans by the nickname "Old Jewish Man" on the basis of his accent.
Old Jewish Woman: "Our son Schlomo is working on a kibbutz in Haifa, and we're schlepping him some kreplach."Old Jewish Man: "Yep, we're Jewish, alright!"
- King Tooten Pooten from The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, despite being of the ancient race that supposedly enslaved the Jews, speaks in this accent, complete with Yiddish phrases, like threatening to potch his grandson's tuchas.
- On Rugrats, Boris and Minka, Tommy Pickles' maternal grandparents, who actually are Eastern European (presumably Russian) Jews.
- Walter Wolf, the scheming nemesis of Slappy Squirrel on Animaniacs.
- Slappy too. Even if she isn't explicitly Jewish, she's been in show business so long she's picked it up.
- On Futurama, every single Decapodian is, at least to some extent, an Alter Kocker, though Harold Zoid and the ambassador take it Up to Eleven.
- Truffles from Chowder.
- In the two-part South Park episode "Do the Handicapped Go To Hell?"/"Probably", Pope John Paul II speaks this way - despite being the leader of the Catholic Church!
- Murray from The Cleveland Show.
- In the Rocko's Modern Life episode where Rocko gets appendicitis, he's being taken to his hospital room, and an old goat with this accent says, "So you think you're sicker than me, eh? I've got boils on my bottom bigger than you! You wanna see?"
- On Danny Phantom, Vlad Plasmius's ghostly hench-vultures all have Alter Kocker voices and mannerisms.
- Vlad: I don't suppose you could move any faster?Vulture Ghost: We are two thousands and eight years old, be happy we're moving at all!
- Mervin the magician in The Super Mario Bros. Super Show episode "King Mario of Cramalot".
- Mixels has Nurp-Naut, a character made up of two entities: a baby and an elder, in one body with a swapping head. To emphasize that Naut is the elder, he's given this accent.
- In an episode of Superman: The Animated Series where Mr. Mxyzptlk's fifth-dimensional powers are taken away from him, the ruling council has a definite flavor of "old Jewish men".
Oy, you should only live so long...