The Humor Corner

Jewish Comedy. Seriously.

Jewish Humor. What is it?  A joke? A story? A statement of a problem? An approach to solving a problem? How do YOU, reader, describe Jewish Humor?

Steve Allen referred to American comedy in 1981 as “a sort of Jewish cottage industry,” putting Jewish participation in the field approaching 80%.

Some, though by no means all, of the approaches advanced those efforts  –  arguments focusing on language, on sensibility, on history are hinted at above.

But Jewish comedy tends to resist any single explanation. So, at your next gathering, discuss Jewish Humor or is it Jewish comedy? Hmm.

“All comedy has humor, but not all humor is comedy.”

Then, be sure to check back next month for more Jewish Comedy. Seriously.

Excerpted from the book Jewish Comedy by Jeremy Dauber

    Humor Corner - September 2019

    In the tradition of legal arguments of the Talmud, one prominent type of Jewish humor involves clever, often legalistic, solutions to Talmudic problems, such as:

    Q: Is one permitted to ride in an airplane on the Sabbath?
    A: Yes, as long as your seat belt remains fastened. In this case it is considered that you are not riding, you are wearing the plane.

    Aboard an El Al plane from Israel to America was a grandma taking her very first flight. They had only been aloft for a few minutes when the lady complained to the flight attendant that her ears were popping. The girl smiled and gave the older woman some chewing gum assuring her that many people experienced the same discomfort.

    When the plane landed in NY, Grandma thanked the flight attendant. “This chewing gun worked fine,” she said, “but please tell me how I get it out of my ears?” (“Yes” we hear the guffaws and hisses…but this is a true story. Well, maybe not.)


    Is Jewish comedy serious business? Well, isn’t it almost as massive in scope, as meaningful in substance as Jewish history itself? It’s a tradition with a history. The story of Jewish comedy - what Jewish humor did - and meant for the Jews at different times and places, as well as how, and why, it was so entertaining, is the story of American popular culture; the story of Jewish civilization; a guide to an essential aspect of human behavior. The fact it happens to be immensely entertaining to read, talk and teach about is a bonus.

    …continued next month. From JEWISH COMEDY (A SERIOUS HISTORY) by Jeremy Dauber


    Humor Corner - August 2019

    Arnold is very nervous as he goes up to his girlfriend's father and says, "Mr. Joseph, you know I've been dating your daughter, Esther, for over 9 months now. Well I'm happy to tell you that we've both fallen madly in love with each other and want to get married. I'm here to ask you kindly for your daughter's hand in marriage. What do you say?"

    "What do I say?" beams the father.  "This is what I say. Mazeltov, my boy! I've been waiting for this to happen for some time. Of course, you can marry Esther, but only on one condition."

    "What condition is that?" asks Arnold, looking a bit worried.

    "On condition that the hand you're asking for, replies the father, with a mischievous grin, "is the hand that is always in my pocket."


    Humor Corner - August 2019

    The sign in the theater box - office read: Service Men special today - 90 cents.

    Anita Wonder went up to the window, laid down a five dollar bill and said, "I'll take two marines, two sailors and a paratrooper!"

    (WW II humor - politically incorrect today?)


    Senator Jacob Javits of New York was in England on one of those fact-finding junkets so beloved by Congress members.

    A constituent happened to be in D.C., and decided to stop in to see his senator. After wandering around the cavernous Senate Office Building for awhile, he finally located the proper office and introduced himself.

    "I'm sorry," said the secretary, "but Senator Javits has gone to the United Kingdom."

    "Oh, my goodness!" exclaimed the visitor, clearly taken aback. "Is it too late to send flowers?"

    Classic Jewish Humor in America
    Henry D. Spalding|


    Humor Corner - June-July 2019

    An elderly man refuses to leave for the air raid shelter until he can find his dentures. His wife yells at him,
    "What, you think they are dropping sandwiches?"


    Q: Is one permitted to ride in an airplane on Sabbath?
    A: Yes, as long as your seat belt remains fastened. In this case,
    it is considered that you are not riding, you are wearing the plane.


    Israelis view of themselves:

    An Israeli, a Brit, a Russian, a Vietnamese man
    and an American are sitting in a restaurant.

    A reporter comes by and asks. "Excuse me, but can I get your opinion
    on the recent grain shortage in the third world?"

    The Brit asks: "What's 'shortage'?"
    The Vietnamese asks: "What's 'grain'?"
    The Russian asks: "What's an 'opinion'?"
    the American asks: "What's the third world?"
    The Israeli asks: "What's 'excuse me'?"

    ...and you ask?


    Humor Corner - May 2019

    Is Laughter Really the Best Medicine?

    A little comedy can even lift the darkest mood – and now it appears that a good laugh can work wonders for the body too.

    Researchers have uncovered the most conclusive evidence yet of a link between laughter and the ability to fight disease.

    In a study the researchers found roaring with laughter can boost the immune system up to 40%. They now believe health professionals should look more seriously at humor as a complementary therapy.

    The research at Indiana State University involved 33 healthy women, half of whom watched a comedy video together, while the others watched a dull video on tourism. The comedy watchers could choose from films starring comedy stars, Tim Allen. Robin Williams and others. When the films were over, scientists took samples of the women’s immune cells, known as natural killer cells, and mixed them with cancer cells to see how effectively they attacked the disease.

    They found that the women who had found the comedy funny enough to laugh out loud had significantly healthier immune systems afterwards than those who had watch the tourism film.

    Dr. Mary Bennet, the lead researcher, said, “This could be clinically important. The use of humor to stimulate laughter could be an effective complimentary therapy to decrease stress and improve the natural killer cell activity in persons with viral illness or cancer.”

    Humor workshops are already marketed for self-healing and stress relief. Complementary health experts believe this research shows the need for more services.

    Edzard Ernst, Britain’s only professor of complementary medicine, said: “there is increasing evidence that laughter does more than just improve the mood. It is already being used in some pediatric wards. They bring people in to cheer up the kids. There is scope to expand this. We laugh too little.”

    This article appeared in the Evening Standard, London, 10 April 2003.

    Don’t stop now. Read more from 2017


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