Everyone knows Jews are funny. But the question is, why? With a history fraught with trauma and persecution, the Jewish people have historically used humor as a “release valve,” and even as a tool of survival. Jews have used their outsider status and the distinctive characteristics of Jewish humor – self-deprecation, challenging authority, and audacity – to rise disproportionately in the American comedy scene.
00:46 Humor in ancient Jewish texts?
02:42 Jewish persecution in the Diaspora
03:34 The Jewish Enlightenment and “outsider” status
05:14 Fiddler on the Roof
05:56 Sigmund Freud’s theory on humor
06:34 Unpacking intergenerational trauma with comedy
06:55 So-called “chosenness”
09:42 Anti-authoritarian and audacious comedy
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Image and footage credits:
Saturday Night Live
Jim Carrey – Unnatural
Chris Rock – Total Blackout
Robin Williams – HBO’s Weapons of Self Destruction
History of the World Part 1
History of the World Part 2
The Ten Commandments
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
A Night at the Opera
Modi at the Comedy Cellar
Fiddler on the Roof
Picture Alliance/Heritage Images, Fine Art Images
Pictorial Parade—Archive Photos/Getty Images
The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon
Netflix is a Joke
Comedy Club Network
I Think You Should Leave
Jewish Review of Books
Just for Laughs – Elon Gold
Ahamed Weinberg – Don’t Tell Comedy
Conan on TBS
Dale C Sander
Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee
— Barry Skolnick
— Shmuel Katz
About Explainers: From ancient Jewish traditions to the modern State of Israel, we explain it all. Diving into anything and everything related to Jewish culture, history, and even religion.
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About Unpacked: We provide nuanced insights by unpacking all things Jewish. People are complex and complicated — yet we’re constantly being pushed to oversimplify our world. At Unpacked we know that being complex makes us more interesting. Because of this, we break the world down with nuance and insight to drive your curiosity and challenge your thinking.
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