Let’s hear it for Moses and Jay
You know how people say that if Shakespeare were living today he’d be writing scripts for EastEnders? Or that if Mozart had been born 30 years ago he’d be composing advertising jingles?
Well, maybe if Moses were being handed the Ten Commandments in 2009 and he was worried about how tough it might be to sell such a menu of self-discipline to the Israelites, he, too, might opt for a more contemporary way to reach his target audience. Maybe he would follow the example of Barack Obama.
Obama turned up on Jay Leno’s The Tonight Show. The strategy behind the first guest appearance by a serving US president on a chat show was to sketch out — in a less formal setting than a White House lectern — the belt-tightening American people face if they are to survive the financial tornado ripping through their economy.
Maybe Moses selling the Ten Commandments would go like this…
Jay Leno: Ladies and gentleman, a warm welcome for… Moses!
(Moses, wearing a fashionable 473-day growth of facial stubble, enters to applause and whooping. He acknowledges the band, which is playing the theme from Exodus, shakes Leno’s hand and sits in the seat just vacated by Angelina Jolie)
Leno: So, Moses, I hear you’ve been doing a bit of travelling.
Moses: That’s right, Jay, I’ve been on the road for a few months since leaving Egypt.
Leno: I’ve seen some paparazzi paintings of you in the gossip mags. One, by Rembrandt, shows you holding aloft a couple of mysterious, inscribed slabs of stone.
Moses: Yeah, Jay. I got those slabs when I climbed Mount Sinai.
Leno: Mount Sinai? Is that named that after the famous hospital in New York?
Moses: I guess it must be, Jay.
Leno: And there’s a shop up the mountain selling stone tablets?
Moses: No, no. God gave me the tablets.
Leno: How long did your climb take?
Moses: About 40 days and 40 nights. Long enough for my crazy brother Aaron to make a golden calf and an altar. God was so angry he nearly wiped out the Israelites.
Leno [to a stagehand]: Do we have a clip of that exchange between God and Moses we can show the audience? No? Oh, ok. You’ll just have to talk us through it, Mo.
Moses: Basically, Jay, everything’s in a mess. Possibly a bigger mess than any the world has known. What God has given me are some rules that will help fix things.
Leno: Like a religious fiscal stimulus package, is it? So what, exactly, is God proposing?
Moses: Things like not working every day of the week …
Leno: Looks like our motor industry in Detroit is ahead of the curve on that one.
Moses: … also not killing, or stealing. And not coveting your neighbour’s house, or his ox.
Leno: The house part is easy enough. With prices falling as they are, who’s envying their neighbour’s house? But the ox bit! Wait till McDonald’s hear about that!
Moses: Tell me about it!
Leno: Can we really observe such stringent commandments?
Moses: Yes we can.
Leno: Funny, that’s what all my guests say these days.
Joe Joseph is a writer for The Times