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Are Jews Funny Without The Neurosis?

A new Jewish comedy manifesto.

Irin Carmon
June 15, 2012

Winner gets a free Nextbook Press book appropriate to his or her comment (if he or she emails Jacob Silverman, [email protected], with his or her mailing address).

This week’s winner goes by the name of EggMan and comes in response to Josh Lambert’s “Non-Jews Telling Jokes.” Here’s an excerpt:

I sat down the other day and wrote what I call “The Silverman Manifesto (2012).” The date is important. It’s not 1950 anymore, and it’s not 1975 anymore either. It’s time for Jewish humor to become more life-affirming and positive. Goodbye Catskills, goodbye Borscht Belt, goodbye self-loathing. We are a normal people now, successful, we made it. Cut the self-loathing. I have no agenda here, and I am all ears. I am interested in hearing from all points of view on this — even from Mel Brooks, even from Sacha Baron Cohen, even from Sarah Silverman! As I wrote it, ”The Silverman Manifesto (2012)” is an alarm bell, awake up call for Jewish writers, comedians, film directors, artists, screenwriters, producers, actors and others to re-examine the state of Jewish humorin 2012 and where it’s headed….

”Enough of this self loathing and self hating! Enough of Jews themselves denigrating themselves in public show sof comedy or books! Enough of dysfunctional families and ghetto Jews from the past!” We are now living in 2012 and we are no longer dysfunctional people nor do we live in dysfunctional families anymore and Jewish mother jokes and Jewish Princess jokes and distasteful Joan Rivers’ Anne Frank jokes should be thrown out the window.

The Bronx and Brooklyn ghettoes are things of the past. Wake up, fellow Jews and castoff your self loathing and self hatred with these terrible jokes about dysfunctional mothers and weak fathers and antisemitic tropes that are sometimes even worse than Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice schtick! Wake up, people! We are a normal people now, successful, middle-class, no longer in theNew York City ghettoes where much of the old sick humor came from. Sure, in the 1930s, those jokes had a purpose. Sure, in the 1950s, after the war, maybe some of those jokes still had a purpose. But now,in 2012, they have no purpose!

…We don’t live in dysfunctional families anymore and we have success stories all around, in an entirely new and loving way…. Stand up and create a new kind of warm, life enhancing and positive humor that goes beyondthe old stereotypes of yore. Rise up and rejoice, O Jews of America,you have nothing to lose but your long-suffering neuroses.”

The question is, is “life enhancing and positive” funny? While we ponder this, EggMan gets a copy of David Mamet’s Wicked Son: Anti-Semitism, Self-Hatred, And The Jews.

Irin Carmon is a senior correspondent at New York magazine and co-author of The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Her Twitter feed is @irin.