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

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another


Jewish Comedy, Then and Now

Cranky essayist prefers the early, funny stuff

Print Email

They’re both opening this Friday, but, otherwise, Aviva Kempner’s documentary Yoo Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg and Sacha Baron Cohen’s mockumentary Brüno have little in common. One’s a reverent tribute to Gertrude Berg, who the filmmaker argues was the inventor of the sitcom; the other is—well, you know. But an essay in the New York Press contends that, viewed side by side, the two films trace the decline of American Jewish comedy from the “time-honored humanity” of Berg to Baron Cohen’s “familiar snark.” Writer Armond White is right to note that Berg’s comedy was warm and empathic while Baron Cohen’s is spiky and sometimes cruel, but is this really, as he would have it, because of “contemporary Jewish comedy’s lack of ethnic confidence”? If anything, American comedy became so confidently Jewish so long ago that characters like Berg’s Molly Goldberg, a loud, proud Jewish mother, have been reheated ad infinitum. A cover story in New York magazine several weeks ago went so far as to say that, in the Forward’s paraphrase, Jews have in fact become “too secure” to be funny. Just like Berg in her day, Baron Cohen and prickly Jewish contemporaries like Sarah Silverman are pushing the envelope of Jewish representations beyond what’s already been done.

Homo Panic! at the Cinema [NYPress]
Related: Sitmom [Tablet]

Print Email

Excellent post as always, thank you for posting all this helpful stuff on a regular basis.



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.

Jewish Comedy, Then and Now

Cranky essayist prefers the early, funny stuff

More on Tablet:

11 Non-Jewish Celebrities—and 2 Jewish Ones—Show Off Their Hebrew Tattoos

By Marjorie Ingall — You don’t have to be Jewish to sport Hebrew ink. But some of these stars should have thought twice before going under the needle.