Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another

The Scroll

No. 14: The Producers

The origin of the Holocaust joke

Print Email

1968, dir. Mel Brooks. We are lucky enough if a film gives us one fully fleshed out portrait of a classic Jewish stereotype. Within its first 15 minutes, The Producers gives us two: the con man and the nebbish, the Ponzi schemer and the neurotic accountant, the boisterous macher and the repressed schlemiel. (Does anything besides the original Odd Couple boast anything quite like this pairing?) Only this deadly combination could have come up with something so cheap as the gambit they play on their investors. But it’s by the end of the film that its real accomplishments become clear: This movie’s release was the moment it became OK to laugh at Hitler. And it had to be Jews who did it first, to make it OK for everyone else. Which kind of means that we owe every Holocaust joke, for better and for worse, to Mel Brooks.

Print Email

Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180

Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.

Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.

We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.

Scott-Martin Kosofsky says:

One chooses to argue with another person’s “best” list at one’s peril, so I won’t so much as try. Be that as it may, I’d like to add something to Marc Tracy’s remarks about “The Producers.” Mel Brooks’s masterpiece is, without a doubt, the greatest Purimshpil of the post-Holocaust era, a time that really needed a good one. It may well be the greatest ever.

Falling as it does, between Shabbat Zakhor and Pesach, Purim functions as a cleanser for the soul, a time we celebrate our survival by looking our enemies in the eye, chewing them up and spitting them out–at least among ourselves. If I were the Pope of the Jews, I’d mandate the showing of “The Producers” (the original, thank you) to follow the reading of the Megillah. “The Producers” may lack an Esther (sorry, Ulla), but it sure has one hell of a Mordecai, not to mention the lamest Haman ever.

win123 says:

 I am so glad this internet thing works and your article really helped

me.Might take you up on that home advice you!At same time,you can visit

my website:        

Jim Pastreich says:

One of my all time favorites but its 3 Jewish stereotypes in the first 15 minutes not 2. You forgot the Landlord.


Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

No. 14: The Producers

The origin of the Holocaust joke

More on Tablet:

How To Make Middle Eastern Stuffed Vegetables

By Joan Nathan — Video: Filled with warm rice and unexpected spices, they’re perfect for a cool autumn night—as a side dish or vegetarian entree