Jewish Comedy: A Serious History

W. W. Norton & Company
Free sample

Finalist for the National Jewish Book Award

“Dauber deftly surveys the whole recorded history of Jewish humour.” —Economist

In a major work of scholarship that explores the funny side of some very serious business (and vice versa), Jeremy Dauber examines the origins of Jewish comedy and its development from biblical times to the age of Twitter. Organizing Jewish comedy into “seven strands”—including the satirical, the witty, and the vulgar—he traces the ways Jewish comedy has mirrored, and sometimes even shaped, the course of Jewish history. Dauber also explores the classic works of such masters of Jewish comedy as Sholem Aleichem, Isaac Babel, Franz Kafka, the Marx Brothers, Woody Allen, Joan Rivers, Philip Roth, Mel Brooks, Sarah Silverman, Jon Stewart, and Larry David, among many others.

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About the author

Jeremy Dauber is the Atran Professor of Yiddish Language, Literature and Culture at Columbia University. He is the author of several books on Jewish literature, including In the Demon’s Bedroom: Yiddish Literature and the Early Modern, Antonio’s Devils: Writers of the Jewish Enlightenment and the Birth of Modern Hebrew and Yiddish Literature, and The Worlds of Sholem Aleichem, which was a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award. He lives in New York City.

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Additional Information

Publisher
W. W. Norton & Company
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Published on
Oct 31, 2017
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Pages
416
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ISBN
9780393247886
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Humor / Topic / Religion
Performing Arts / Comedy
Social Science / Jewish Studies
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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"Jews and humor is, for most people, a natural and felicitous collocation. In spite of, or perhaps because of, a history of crises and living on the edge, Jews have often created or resorted to humor. But what is "humor"? And what makes certain types, instances, or performances of humor "Jewish"? These are among the myriad queries addressed by the fourteen authors whose essays are collected in this volume. And, thankfully, their observations, always apt and often witty, are expressed with a lightness of style and a depth of analysis that are appropriate to the many topics they cover. The chronological range of these essays is vast: from the Hebrew Bible to the 2000s, with many stops in between for Talmudic texts, medieval parodies, eighteenth century joke books, and twentieth century popular entertainment.The subject matter is equally impressive.In addition to rounding up many of the "usual suspects," such as Woody Allen, the Marx Brothers, and Gilda Radner, these authors also scout out some unlikely comic resources, like the author of the biblical book of Exodus, the rabbinic writer of Genesis Rabbah, and the party records star Belle Barth. Without forcing any of these characters into a pre-constructed mold, the scholars who contributed to this collection allow readers both to discern the common features that make up "Jewish humor" and to delight in the individualism and eccentricities of the many figures whose lives and accomplishments are narrated here. Because these essays are written in a clear, jargon-free style, they will appeal to everyone-even those who don't usually crack a smile!" -- P. [4] of cover.
Part of the Jewish Encounters series

The first comprehensive biography of one of the most beloved authors of all time: the creator of Tevye the Dairyman, the collection of stories that inspired Fiddler on the Roof.
 
Novelist, playwright, journalist, essayist, and editor, Sholem Aleichem was one of the founding giants of modern Yiddish literature. The creator of a pantheon of characters who have been immortalized in books and plays, he provided readers throughout the world with a fascinating window into the world of Eastern European Jews as they began to confront the forces of cultural, political, and religious modernity that tore through the Russian Empire in the final decades of the nineteenth century.
 
But just as compelling as the fictional lives of Tevye, Golde, Menakhem-Mendl, and Motl was Sholem Aleichem’s own life story. Born Sholem Rabinovich in Ukraine in 1859, he endured an impoverished childhood, married into fabulous wealth, and then lost it all through bad luck and worse business sense. Turning to his pen to support himself, he switched from writing in Russian and Hebrew to Yiddish, in order to create a living body of literature for the Jewish masses. He enjoyed spectacular success as both a writer and a performer of his work throughout Europe and the United States, and his death in 1916 was front-page news around the world; a New York Times editorial mourned the loss of “the Jewish Mark Twain.” But  his greatest fame lay ahead of him, as the English-speaking world began to discover his work in translation and to introduce his characters to an audience that would extend beyond his wildest dreams. In Jeremy Dauber’s magnificent biography, we encounter a Sholem Aleichem for the ages.

(With 16 pages of black-and-white illustrations)
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The compelling, inspiring, and comically sublime story of one man’s coming-of-age, set during the twilight of apartheid and the tumultuous days of freedom that followed

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY Michiko Kakutani, New York Times • USA Today • San Francisco Chronicle • NPR • Esquire • Newsday • Booklist

Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.

Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother—his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.

The stories collected here are by turns hilarious, dramatic, and deeply affecting. Whether subsisting on caterpillars for dinner during hard times, being thrown from a moving car during an attempted kidnapping, or just trying to survive the life-and-death pitfalls of dating in high school, Trevor illuminates his curious world with an incisive wit and unflinching honesty. His stories weave together to form a moving and searingly funny portrait of a boy making his way through a damaged world in a dangerous time, armed only with a keen sense of humor and a mother’s unconventional, unconditional love.

Praise for Born a Crime

 “[A] compelling new memoir . . . By turns alarming, sad and funny, [Trevor Noah’s] book provides a harrowing look, through the prism of Mr. Noah’s family, at life in South Africa under apartheid. . . . Born a Crime is not just an unnerving account of growing up in South Africa under apartheid, but a love letter to the author’s remarkable mother.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

“[An] unforgettable memoir.”—Parade

 “What makes Born a Crime such a soul-nourishing pleasure, even with all its darker edges and perilous turns, is reading Noah recount in brisk, warmly conversational prose how he learned to negotiate his way through the bullying and ostracism. . . . What also helped was having a mother like Patricia Nombuyiselo Noah. . . . Consider Born a Crime another such gift to her—and an enormous gift to the rest of us.”—USA Today

“[Noah] thrives with the help of his astonishingly fearless mother. . . . Their fierce bond makes this story soar.”—People
Introduces readers to comic and tragic masterpieces spanning 150 years of Yiddish drama.

Offering snapshots of a pivotal era in which the Jews of Europe made the transition from a traditional to a more modern world, the Yiddish plays translated and collected here wrestle with issues that continue to concern us today: changing gender roles, generational conflict, class divisions, and religious persecution. In their introduction to the volume, Joel Berkowitz and Jeremy Dauber place the plays in the context of the development of modern drama and Yiddish drama and examine their treatment of social, political, and religious issues. The many ways in which the plays address these issues make them transcend their own time, exciting a new generation of readers and theatergoers.

“‘Landmark Yiddish Plays’ is itself a landmark. It brings to English audiences expert and carefully annotated versions of some of the finest Yiddish plays produced.” — The Jewish Daily Forward

“This is one of the freshest, liveliest works I have seen in contemporary Yiddish studies. The plays are important, yet little known, adding immeasurably to Jewish literature in translation. The introduction would be valuable as an independent work—it is the finest essay on the Yiddish theater currently available in English.” — Ruth R. Wisse, author of The Modern Jewish Canon: A Journey through Language and Culture

“This book presents these plays to English-speaking audiences for the first time. Such a translation is well overdue. The translators place the development of Yiddish theater within the context of the Enlightenment from which it emerged and demonstrate the relationship between the changing mores of Jewish society and the theater that reflected these changes.” — Jeffrey Veidlinger, author of The Moscow State Yiddish Theater: Jewish Culture on the Soviet Stage
Can I get a “ramen” from the congregation?!

Behold the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM), today’s fastest growing carbohydrate-based religion. According to church founder Bobby Henderson, the universe and all life within it were created by a mystical and divine being: the Flying Spaghetti Monster. What drives the FSM’ s devout followers, a.k.a. Pastafarians? Some say it’s the assuring touch from the FSM’s “noodly appendage.” Then there are those who love the worship service, which is conducted in pirate talk and attended by congregants in dashing buccaneer garb. Still others are drawn to the Church’s flimsy moral standards, religious holidays every Friday, or the fact that Pastafarian heaven is way cooler: Does your heaven have a Stripper Factory and a Beer Volcano? Intelligent Design has finally met its match—and it has nothing to do with apes or the Olive Garden of Eden.

Within these pages, Bobby Henderson outlines the true facts– dispelling such malicious myths as evolution (“only a theory”), science (“only a lot of theories”), and whether we’re really descended from apes (fact: Humans share 95 percent of their DNA with chimpanzees, but they share 99.9 percent with pirates!)
See what impressively credentialed top scientists have to say:

“If Intelligent Design is taught in schools, equal time should be given to the FSM theory and the non-FSM theory.”
–Professor Douglas Shaw, Ph.D.

“Do not be hypocritical. Allow equal time for other alternative ‘theories’ like FSMism, which is by far the tastier choice.”
–J. Simon, Ph.D.

“In my scientific opinion, when comparing the two theories, FSM theory seems to be more valid than classic ID theory.”
–Afshin Beheshti, Ph.D.

Read the book and decide for yourself!
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