Thursday, April 23, 2009

Jewish Humor

A patron recently checked out a number of books relating to Jewish humor, for a paper that he planned to write on the topic. When I checked the books back in from the book drop, a few of them caught my attention.

One, titled The Jokes of Sigmund Freud, by Elliott Oring, analyzes Freud's use of humor in his writings. Apparently, as the book discusses, Freud used humor to support some of his ideas in his works. Turns out that he told some pretty good jokes.

Also of interest was Shtick Shift, by Simcha Weinstein (also author of Up, Up, and Oy Vey, about Jews and comic books), which talks about Jewish comedians and the changes that have undergone Jewish comedy in the 21st century from previous times.

I also took a look at A. Stanley Kramer's World's Best Jewish Humor, which, as it promises, provides a compendium of Jewish jokes in various categories: one-liners, Rabbi jokes, Chelm, shadchens, NY, Israel, and others.

Television's Changing Image of American Jews (by Neal Gabler, Frank Rich, and Joyce Antler) deals with the obvious--images of Friends, Seinfeld, and the Nanny illustrate the cover--and includes photographs from the Jews in Prime Time Television Conference, an event about which I had never heard.

Finally, for a Leo Baeck Institute memorial lecture (45) Ruth Wisse presented "Some Serious Thoughts about Jewish Humor," which discusses the general phenomenon of Jewish humor and the unique nature that it can take. Wisse points out the ability of Jews to turn even suffering into ironic humor, as evidenced by Broadway's The Producers--"Springtime for Hitler and Germany..." Wisse too makes mention of Freud's use of humor, and brings jokes by various classics such as Saul Bellow, Isaac Bashevis Singer (from his work titled Gimpel the Fool), and Shalom Aleichem. One self-reflective joke, brought by humorist Royte Pomerantsn: "when you tell a Jew a joke, he says, 'I've heard it before. And I can tell it better'."

This all should make for a very interesting paper. My thanks to the student who checked out all of these books.


  1. freud the funnyman...go know...

  2. I would recommend Rick a friend of Freud and wrote a big study about Freud and Jewish humor.

    You could also find an interesting lecture (in yiddish) on Yivo's website about Freud's humor.

  3. Did anyone look into humor in primary texts?
    The Talmud teaches us that on rabbi began his teachings with a joke. It might be interesting to investigate humor in the Talmud, Midrash, etc.