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December 14, 2006 - Image 56

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2006-12-14

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Arts & Entertainment

Chanukah Laugh-Along

As Jewish joke
book turns 25,
authors reflect on
changing Jewish
humor.

Uriel Heilman

Jewish Telegraphic Agency

H

ere's one: Michael Bloomberg
walks into a diner and orders
coffee and a danish. When the
bill comes in at $14, the flummoxed bil-
lionaire mayor asks, "What, are danishes
so rare in these parts?"
"No," replies the waiter, "but
Bloombergs are." The story is a variation
on a joke about Rothschild and 20-ruble
eggs made famous in the The Big Book
of Jewish Humor, first published a

Parody
Partners

Duo create a
joke book for
Generation X
and beyond.

Gail Zimmerman

Arts & Entertainment Editor

I

f you liked The Daily Show with
Jon Stewart Presents America
(The Book): A Citizen's Guide
to Democracy Inaction, the Comedy
Central host's irreverent take on poli-
tics, and you never miss the mocking
pop-culture hilarity of the network's
South Park, you're sure to appreciate

zrrAMM, VMVWX*MMWM,

quarter of a century ago.
The story also is partly true.
Bloomberg spokesman Stu Loeser — an
avid devotee of The Big Book of Jewish
Humor — was sharing the joke with
BloOmberg when Loeser and the mayor
were overcharged for danish and coffee at
a New York diner. Before Loeser got to the
punch line, however, the Jewish mayor
finished the joke for him.
Whether that's a sign of the diffusion
of Jewish humor into the national con-
sciousness, the success of the 25-year-
old compilation by William Novak and
Moshe Waldoks or simply a telling anec-
dote about the mayor's sense of humor, is
anybody's guess.
What's certain is that a quarter-century
since the publication of Big Book, Jews
are still laughing at themselves — and
Americans are laughing along with them.
"Although many of the people listed on
the cover are no longer around," Novak
and Waldoks write in their introduction

Jewtopia: The Chosen Book for the
Chosen People (Warner Books; $25, but
for you, $24.99).
Authors-editors Bryan Fogel and
Sam Wolfson introduced the Jewtopia
concept as a stage play about young
Jewish singles in a nonstop produc-
tion of bits that mimic
Jewish stereotypes.
In the book, the duo's
brand of humor (with
help from writer Amy
Shearn and original
drawings and illustra-
tions by Drew Beam)
ranges from an analy-
sis of why Jews have a
penchant for freezing
food to a quiz about
Jewish celebrity noses.
"To anyone who
might take offense at our brand of
crazy, whacked-out humor, we swear
we're just a couple of nice Jewish

to the 25-year anniversary edi-
tion ($24.95), which HarperCollins
released last month, "and Sholem
Aleichem is still dead, The Big Book
of Jewish Humor is still very much
alive."
The authors sat down with JTA
recently over a pair of pastrami
sandwiches at Rubin's kosher deli-
catessen in Brookline, Mass., to talk
about the book — and to trade jibes
and wisecracks.

SHE WALDOKS

Beyond Stereotypes
A lot has changed in 25 years, they
said.
"When we first put the book
together in 1981, we were not sure
Jewish humor would continue:'
Waldoks said. "But Jewish humor is
still active. It's more self-conscious,
much more knowledgeable. It goes
beyond the stereotypes."
The pair cited TV programs like

Comedy Central's South Park and The
Daily Show with Jon Stewart, both
mainstream shows laced with Jewish ref-
erences and Jewish jokes. They noted that

boys with way too much time on our
hands," the 30-ish duo writes in the
"Introduction" that precedes the
book's eight chapters, which include:
"Food: Anyone Have Some Zantac?"
"Jewtopia's Guide to Life: From Bar
Mitzvahs to Bowels," "Travel: Planes,
Trains and Diarrhea,"
"Stereotypes:
Look, Ethel, I Found
a Penny" and
"Conspiracy Theories:
Do Jews Control the
World?" - in which the
authors put the kibosh
on the rumor that the
Jews are somehow
responsible for 9-11
("Most Jews don't
know where the fuse
box is in their own
home").
Part-history, part-travelogue, part
introduction to Judaism, Jewtopia

offers useful advice like "alternative
uses for matzah" (roof shingles, mili-
tary body armor, kitchen floor tiles)
and suggested dialogue for the Jewish
traveler to Spain (Donde estan los
knishes Buenos? - where are the good
knishes?).
Warning: This new wave of Jewish
joke book - think performers like Sarah
Silverman - includes obscenities, pro-
fanity and brazen photos as part of the
mix.
Yes, Jewtopia doesn't hold anything
back in its subject matter or in its
illustrations and could be offensive
to some, but anyone who doubts the
authors' taste and talents need look
no further than the book's dust jacket.
There you can find testimonials from
Linda Fogel and Arlene Wolfson - the
writers' two Jewish mothers, whom
they include in the book in their seg-
ment on "Phone Conversations with
Jewish Mothers."

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