The Genius Of The Jewish Joke

The Genius Of The Jewish Joke

by Arthur Asa Berger
     
 

The Genius of the Jewish Joke focuses on what is distinctive and unusual about Jewish jokes and Jewish humor. Jewish humor is humor by Jews and about Jews, in whatever medium this humor is found. Jokes are defined as short stories, meant to amuse, with a punch line, though Jewish humor exists in many other forms—riddles, comic definitions,

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Overview

The Genius of the Jewish Joke focuses on what is distinctive and unusual about Jewish jokes and Jewish humor. Jewish humor is humor by Jews and about Jews, in whatever medium this humor is found. Jokes are defined as short stories, meant to amuse, with a punch line, though Jewish humor exists in many other forms—riddles, comic definitions, parodies—as well. The book makes a "radical" suggestion about the origin of Jewish humor—namely, that Sarah and Abraham's relation to God, and the name of their son Isaac (which, in Hebrew, means laughter), recognizes a special affinity in Jews for humor. Abraham does not sacrifice Isaac (humor) and, thus, humor and the Jews are linked early in Jewish history.

Berger discusses techniques of humor and how they can be used to analyze jokes. He also compares "Old World Jewish Humor"—the humor of the shtetl, with its fabulous schlemiels, schlimazels, schnorrers, and other characters—and "New World Humor"—the humor of Jewish doctors, lawyers, accountants, and other professional types living mostly in the suburbs nowadays. Jewish humor is contrasted with other forms of ethnic humor, such as Polish jokes and Italian American jokes.

This humor, in addition to providing pleasure, reveals a great deal about Jewish character and culture and, in addition, the human condition. Now available with a new introduction by the author, The Genius of the Jewish Joke is an entertaining and informative inquiry into Jewish humor that explores its distinctiveness, its unique spirit, and its role in Jewish identity.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This is the funniest thing I've read since Freud. It's also funnier than anything on TV. The book finally explained to me why I laugh—not that there is anything to laugh about. Berger is wasting his time in academia. We need him in television." —Marvin Kitman, Newsday "In this finely argued study, Berger discounts the theory of Jewish humor as masochistic, arguing instead that the self-criticism in Jewish jokes is liberating and life-enhancing." —Publishers Weekly
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The numerous jokes in this analysis of Jewish humor will provoke smiles and chuckles, but there is nothing laughable about Berger's scholarly look at the genre of the Jewish joke. Berger dissects Jewish humor from psychological, literary, political and cultural aspects, contending that Jews used humor as a "survival mechanism" to cope with suffering, powerlessness and marginality. The jokes reflect an "existential courage," a resistance to persecution rather than an internalization of the victim mentality, he posits. The author of many books on media, popular culture and humor, Berger (professor of broadcast and electronic communication arts at San Francisco State University) cites a host of sources, including Freud, to support and illustrate his theories. He explores humor in both generic and specifically Jewish terms, lists 45 techniques of humor, discusses comic types like schlemiels and schlimazels and examines the role of stereotypes in ethnic humor. In this finely argued study, Berger discounts the theory of Jewish humor as masochistic, arguing instead that the self-criticism in Jewish jokes is "liberating and life-enhancing." (Jan.)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781412805537
Publisher:
Transaction Publishers
Publication date:
03/01/2006
Series:
Classics in Communication and Mass Culture Series
Pages:
220
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.50(d)

Meet the Author

Arthur Asa Berger is professor emeritus of broadcast and electronic communication arts at San Francisco State University. He is the author of numerous articles, book reviews, and books on media, popular culture, humor, and tourism, and he is the series editor of Transaction’s Communication and Mass Culture and Humor series.

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