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Congregation Beth HaTephila

An Engaging, Inclusive, Reform Congregation in the Blue Ridge Mountains


Social Distancing in Effect. No gatherings at the Temple.
Click here for more info on the Temple's Covid-19 status And the Rabbi's Public Service Message.

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." https://www.almostanauthor.com/the-difference-between-comedy-humor/

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

Excerpted from the book Jewish Comedy by Jeremy Dauber


Humor Corner - February 2021

Starting thee Home Stretch of Mental Flosses’ Top 20 Jewish Comedians of All Time

10. Mel Brooks

Photo by Valerie Macon / Getty Images

 

Like Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, born Melvin Kaminsky, started out as a comedy writer for Sid Caesar's Your Show of Shows. He eventually moved on to film where he wrote, directed and starred in some of the most revered comedies of the last half-century, including 1981's History of the World Part I, which spawned the unlikely dance hit, "It's Good to Be King."

3 Reichs and you're out: His directorial debut, 1968's The Producers, is about the staging of a play called "Springtime for Hitler".

 

11. Lenny Bruce

The most obscene comic of his day covered a variety of themes, but mostly anything deemed inappropriate. Born Leonard Alfred Schneider, Lenny Bruce was never far from controversy and was arrested on obscenity charges several times throughout his career. By the time of his death of a drug overdose in 1966, nearly every nightclub in the country had blacklisted Bruce. He's lately received somewhat of a resurgence and in 2003 was granted the first posthumous pardon in New York history.

Lenny Bruce on being Jewish and living in New York: "If you live in New York, you're Jewish. If you live in Butte, Montana, you're going to be goyish even if you're Jewish."

 

12. George Burns

At the spry young age of 79, George Burns, born Nathan Birnbaum, enjoyed a career resurrection few performers ever experience. He won an Oscar in 1975 for Neil Simon's The Sunshine Boys, and followed that with Oh God! in 1977. Although Burns had not acted in a film since 1939, Neil Simon was adamant about having a Jewish comedian in the role. Clearly the gamble paid off.

Shame, shame, shame: His 1926 marriage to Gracie Allen, who was Irish Catholic, was considered daring for those times and had to be done in secrecy.

 

13. Gilda Radner

The Detroit native became famous as one of the original "Not Ready for Prime Time Player," on the first season of Saturday Night Live. Throughout her five-year run on the show, Radner created such memorable characters as Roseanne Roseannadanna, Baba Wawa, and Rhonda Weiss, the "Jewish American Princess." Although few details were made public at the time, Radner had a brief fling with fellow SNL cast mate Bill Murray. Details of the failed relationship are recounted in her autobiography, It's Always Something .

Gilda Radner as Rhonda Weiss: "You don't have to be Jewish to wear Jewess Jeans. But it wouldn't hurt."

 

14. Bette Midler

Central Press / Getty Images

Bette Midler was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, where she was one of the few Jewish girls in a mostly Asian neighborhood. At the age of 20, Bette relocated to New York, where she would go on to play Tzeitel in the Broadway version of Fiddler on the Roof. She would later hone her comedic acting chops in Down and Out in Beverly Hills and Ruthless People.

Bette Midler on childhood: "I grew up an ugly, fat little Jewish girl with problems."

 

15. Moe Howard

Born Moses Harry Horwitz, Moe Howard became famous as the helmet-headed member of the greatest slapstick comedy team of all time. He acquired his unusual bowl cut hairstyle as a boy when he impulsively clipped off his curls. The Stooges just wouldn't be the Stooges with two Curlys.

N'yuck, N'yuck, N'yuck: His favorite Stooges film, You Nazty Spy! was one of several topical anti-Nazi movies they made during the 1940s.

Wed, March 3 2021 19 Adar 5781