What Would God Say? A Comedy Date with David Javerbaum and Michael Krasny

How would God spin 21st-century problems? Emmy award-winning comedy writer David  Javerbaum, former head writer and executive producer of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, has a few ideas! Javerbaum serves as “God’s ghost writer” in his new book, The Book of Pslams: 97 Divine Diatribes on Humanity’s Total Failure and is a veteran of other “God collaborations”—the Broadway show An Act of God and the popular twitter account @TheTweetofGod. He is in conversation with Michael Krasny, an award-winning journalist and retired public radio host of KQED Forum and the author of Let There Be Laughter: A Treasury of Great Jewish Humor and What It All Means. Come prepared to laugh your heart out!

Continue reading

Calvin Trillin

Things Calvin Trillin Forgot To Say

In 1975, journalist and humorist Calvin Trillin wrote about Jacob Schiff and his uncle Ben Daynovsky in the first issue of Moment, trying to figure out why his family entered the United States through Texas and not Ellis Island. Join Calvin, in conversation with Moment’s opinion and book editor Amy E. Schwartz to hear an update on his Jacob Schiff adventures all these years later and what he’s thinking about and working on today.

Continue reading

Screenshot of an Israeli comedy show

Israeli Humor in the Time of Coronavirus

Like most first-world people stuck in their homes, Israelis are using traditional and social media to connect with others and distract themselves. And like everyone else, they are sharing humor to pass the time. We have the run of English-language humor, from Jimmy Fallon to Broadway spoofs to memes to pithy one-liners.  We have our Hebrew one-liners, too: As the world became aware of the crisis in Wuhan, Israelis, who are among the world’s biggest buyers on cheap sites in China, quipped that the virus would never make it here because the mail from China takes so long. As people were told to self-quarantine, we warned each other that the Messiah won’t come, because he’s in quarantine. And while throughout the world people are singing from their balconies, Israelis are using their balconies to play matkot (a bizarre form of...

Continue reading

Book Review | The First Book of Jewish Jokes edited by Elliott Oring

The First Book of Jewish Jokes Edited by Elliott Oring Translated by Michaela Lang Indiana University Press 2018, 176 pp, $65 It’s the inherent vice of joke books that their jokes are stale, wizened, practically in full beards. Paper doesn’t just flatten the delivery; it kills. (Take my joke—please!) There’s no joke teller, no emphasis on sound or detail, no voice. Lenny Bruce’s now-canonical “Jewish and Goyish” is funny because of the rhythm, and because of the intense personality it barely restrains. Joke books have no rhythm and no persons; they are disembodied words. The surprise of The First Book of Jewish Jokes is that a joke book from 1812 still sometimes shows a faint pulse. After all, when’s the last time you heard a good one about the learned philosopher Moses Mendelssohn? Edited by Elliott Oring, an anthropologist and...

Continue reading

Graphic Details edited by Sarah Lightman

The Last Laugh: “Graphic Details: Jewish Women’s Confessional Comics in Essays and Interviews” Reviewed

by Andrea Greenbaum In 1996, I spent a year in smoky comedy clubs in Tampa, Florida to document the rhetorical style of standup comedians. I paid close attention to their narratives, their body language, and then, after their sets, interviewed them about their craft—how they integrated writing and speaking in a public space. I discovered that women standup comedians used different strategies to win over their audiences, because humor has always situated itself in the realm of the masculine, and women must overcome the social taboo of speaking with authority in a public forum. My research, published in American Studies, “Women’s Comic Voices: The Art and Craft of Female Humor,” concluded that there are two themes that play throughout women’s standup performances: 1) They use the feminine body as a site of discourse and 2) they establish uniquely...

Continue reading

Auslander in the Attic

by Sala Levin The Holocaust, as Michael Scott so wisely taught us, is one thing we just can't joke about. (Scott's other taboos? JFK and AIDS, though the Lincoln assassination was only recently crossed off that list.) But Shalom Auslander, well, bless him, he's trying. The angry writer behind Foreskin's Lament recently released a series of book trailers (entitled "The Attic Calls") for his forthcoming novel, Hope: A Tragedy. In the trailers, Auslander pleads with fellow Semite Ira Glass and friends-of-the-Jews Sarah Vowell and John Hodgman to shelter him and his family if--let's be real, in Auslander's mind  it's when--there's another Holocaust. Auslander isn't the first Jewish writer to wade into the world of book trailers: Last year, Gary Shteyngart released a hilarious trailer featuring everyone's favorite post-graduate-degree-collecting Jewish dreamboat James Franco and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Jeffrey...

Continue reading