When Jews Were Funny

February 20, 2014 | By | Add a Comment

WhenJewsWereFunny_poster_sAlan Zweig’s doc When Jews Were Funny recently finished its run at the Bloor Cinema, and I’ve uploaded a review of his fairly engaging examination as to whether there’s been  a loss of culture as the icons of comedy, many of whom were Jewish, pass away, and younger generations may have become more homogenized with a blander sense of culture.

Zweig’s stance is steeped in a nostalgia for the cultural aspects he feels are disappearing, and to an extent, he may be correct, but human nature never changes. The need to laugh, satirize, and point out the absurdities of friends, family, and foes continues to push forward.

Pompeiian_graffitiI took a great Roman history course in 4th year university, and was stunned that ancient Romans were prone to scribbling satirical, profane, and sometimes sexually provocative graffiti. Never mind they had indoor plumbing, heating, aquaducts, highways, concrete roads, and high literature. That stuff is cool, but not as groundbreaking as scribbling ‘Lucius Aurelius got me pregnant!’ or ‘Gaius Octavius has the smarts of a poodle drunk on cheap Phoenician swill!’ (Yes, I made those up, but these translations are real.)

Romans knew people could be annoying, families could be packed with cartoons relatives, and double entendres were funny.

The need to be silly in private and public and feed off the good vibes from laughter are human and eternal, but Zweig does his best to correlate specific comedic views with Jewish culture, especially those shared by the first wave of Europeans who emigrated to North America. Neither of my émigré parents were Jewish, but they could probably complain within the lower parameters as Howie Mandel’s relatives, who needed to weigh current and past states of discord before answering a common and really simple question.

I’m pretty sure I got the two puzzle parts that make up the curmudgeon gene from each parent, making me 100% potent (and if I were to marry a 100% curmudgeonette, at least one of our kids would explode. The crater would be filled with a cloud so sour, you wouldn’t touch citrus fruit for a decade).

So while my parents could’ve easily answered ‘How are you?’ without hesitation, I have to weigh things before a hesitant ‘Okay.’ Even if yesterday’s lottery ticket earned me a lucky $70 [for the record: it didn’t], there’s the neighbour who again, inexplicably, had his 650 watt light on in the basement, which screamed into my unit and kept me awake for an hour. Or the milk that had to be tossed because it was getting funny and robbed me of a cafe au lait.

I’m fine, but things could be better, you know?

Coming next: Gregory Peck is F. Scott Fitzgerald in Beloved Infidel, new on Blu from Twilight Time.





Mark R. Hasan, Editor
KQEK.com ( Main Site / Mobile Site )

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