Jews and Humor
Publication Year: 2007
Published by: Purdue University Press
Title Page, Copyright
Table of Contents
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Just the other day something very funny happened to me on my way to work. And it wasn’t long ago that I heard a great joke. How about that really humorous movie I saw last month? I guess that I can admit it: I’m pretty good at identifying—and appreciating— humor when I hear it...
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Humor in the Bible
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Understanding the world of the Bible can seem daunting for those of us who live in the twenty-first century. Not only are we confronted with an ancient language radically different from modern, especially Western tongues, but we also face a bewildering assortment of customs and cultural conventions that...
Why Did the Widow Have a Goat in Her Bed? Jewish Humor and Its Roots in the Talmud and Midrash
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In the 1930 movie Animal Crackers, Captain Spaulding, played by Groucho Marx, regales the audience with his adventures in Africa: The principal animals inhabiting the African jungle are moose, elks, and Knights of Pythias. Of course, you all know what a moose is...
But Is it Funny? Identifying Humor, Satire,and Parody in Rabbinic Literature
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The following joke is told in some Jewish circles: Moses is standing at Sinai and God says to him, “You shall not boil a kid in its mother’s milk.” Moses asks, “So are You saying that we shouldn’t eat milk and meat together...
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My focus in this essay is on what I regard as a very striking example of classical rabbinic Jewish humor—namely, “Masekhet Purim,” or “Tractate Purim,” a medieval parody of the Babylonian Talmud. There are a number of different approaches one could take for analyzing this remarkable work. One approach...
Jewish Humor as a Source of Research on Polish-Jewish Relations
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Joseph Telushkin, a rabbi and author of the book Jewish Humor: What the Best Jewish Jokes Say about the Jews, observed that “Jewish humor reveals a great many truths about Jews, but no one great truth.”1 One obvious fact is that Jewish humor mirrors the Jewish condition. It has served as a coping mechanism...
Jewish Jokes, Yiddish Storytelling, and Sholem Aleichem: A Discursive Approach
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To begin with the straightforward statement that “laughter is universal; humor is local” is to assert that humor is an area in which cultural resonances feature quite prominently. However, although cultures do have humor, and although humor is not exclusive to the Jews, within the Jewish cultural system...
Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Karl: Immigrant Humor and the Depression
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During the mid-1930s the Marx Brothers became the darlings of a particular set of American intellectuals, who in turn set the tone for the Marx Brothers’ reception within the wider worlds of criticism and ideas. Dorothy Parker, Haywood Broun, Alexander Woolcott, Harpo Marx, and others, some with one...
Nuances and Subtleties in Jewish Film Humor
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From a purely an American viewpoint, people might think Jews became “funny” in this country or perhaps in relatively modern times. But such has not always been the case. As we know from documented studies, Jews and other minorities have borne the brunt of jokes for a long time. However, only...
The Bad Girls of Jewish Comedy:Gender, Class, Assimilation,and Whiteness in Postwar America
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In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the bawdy humor of Belle Barth, Pearl Williams, and Patsy Abbott, a trio of working-class Jewish stand-up comics, enjoyed enormous popularity in the United States. Today largely forgotten or dismissed, they released bestselling LPs known at the time...
One Clove Away From a Pomander Ball: The Subversive Tradition of Jewish Female Comedians
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“Let the fat girl do her stuff!” yelled the audience one night as a young Sophie Tucker came on stage. Even then, Tucker knew that size didn’t matter “if you could sing and make people laugh.”1 Tucker is one of six veteran comedians profiled in the Jewish Women’s Archive’s documentary...
Heckling the Divine: Woody Allen, the Book of Job, and Jewish Theology after the Holocaust
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The biblical book of Job has troubled Jewish thinkers for more than two millennia. The story of the righteous sufferer has resonated even more strongly for its readers since the Holocaust. The book and its title character appear not infrequently in the creative oeuvre of Woody Allen, especially in his 1974...
Tragicomedy and Zikkaron in Mel Brooks’s To Be or Not To Be
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Much has been made of Mel Brooks’s The Producers (both film and Broadway musical),1 yet little critical attention has been paid to To Be or Not To Be (1983),2 which Brooks produced and in which he played the leading role of Frederick Bronski. It has most often been (mis)understood as a mere remake of...
“They Ain’t Makin’ Jews Like Jesus Anymore”:The Musical Humor of Kinky Friedman and The Texas Jewboys in Historical and Geographical Perspective
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For the past three decades or more, it has been difficult not to be aware of the name of Kinky Friedman, a Texan country singer of controversially humorous lyrics, the first full-blooded Jew to have sung at Nashville’s Grand Ol’ Opry, the leader of a country band offensively named The Texas Jewboys, a successful...
The New Jewish Blackface: African American Tropes in Contemporary Jewish Humor
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American Jews have often articulated their ethnic identity in relation to African Americans. At times—such as during the socialist movements of the 1930s or the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s—this has manifested itself through Jewish identification with the oppressed status of African Americans...
Page Count: 216
Publication Year: 2007
Series Title: Studies in Jewish Civilization
Series Editor Byline: Leonard Greenspoon