Jewish Humor: A History

Print this page Print this page

And yet, from Joey Adams to Jon Stewart, with hundreds of comedians in between, Jews continually dominated the comedy business in every area of media, from stand-up to television to literature to film. Jews cultivated the mainstream forms of cultural satire (think Lenny Bruce and Jon Stewart), self-flagellation (think Woody Allen), and audience flagellation (Jackie Mason, Don Rickles); nurtured American literary humor (Philip Roth, Jonathan Safran Foer); invented and sustained television comedy (Milton Berle, Roseanne Barr, Larry David); dominated stand-up comedy (Rodney Dangerfield, Jerry Seinfeld), and on and on.

Some wonder whether Jewish humor will continue to flourish in the years ahead: Will the Jewish funny bone calcify with assimilation? Will the old Jewish comic themes--biting social commentary discomfiting satire, the undermining of the high and mighty, arguments with everyone, including God, the sheer cleverness--continue to drive the Jewish jest?

The traditional answer to all these questions is, "Who knows?" Better we should go directly to the business at hand: Two Jews walk into a shul.... ah, but you heard that one already, no?

Did you like this article?  MyJewishLearning is a not-for-profit organization.

Please consider making a donation today.