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When Jews Were Funny (2013)

Surveys the history of Jewish comedy.

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Alan Zweig's 2013 documentary "When Jews Were Funny" surveys the often colorful history of Jewish comedy in America. The documentary is insightful, often hilarious and packed with one-liners. While taking the viewer on the journey through the history of Jewish comedy, a second journey is taken in the exploration of what it means to be Jewish in America. Written by rleegray

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25 March 2014 (USA)  »

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Jewish Comedy
15 April 2014 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Surveys the history of Jewish comedy...

Is there such a thing as Jewish comedy, or a Jewish-style comedy? For me, if I were to describe it, my first thought would be Woody Allen, who was not even mentioned on here. His delivery and obsession with psychoanalysis is, to me, the cornerstone of modern Jewish humor. (Add on Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David for a trifecta.) There is some attempt to connect the topic to immigrant culture -- they mention how Italians and Irish (the other two big immigrant groups of the time) had their own humor. Oppression breeds humor, perhaps, while assimilation kills it. There is probably some truth in that humor comes from pain, and Jews have known pain like few other groups of the last century.

Many of the bits on here are odd interviews, including "Super Dave", who I would not have suspected as self-identifying as a Jewish comic. There is nothing about his act that screams "Jewish" to me, but maybe I am ignorant to what it really means.

One person (I missed their name) argued that 20th century comedy history is the same as Jewish comedy history. Obviously, there are exceptions like George Carlin and Steve Martin, but the number of prominent Jewish comedians and comedy writers is overwhelming... it is difficult to discuss ethnicity without the risk of making what could be racist comments, but indeed, there may be such a thing as Jewish comedy... although whether or not this documentary found it, I am not so sure.


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