Live from the Lilith Blog

March 6, 2007 by

No Laughing Matter?

We all know the joke about how many feminists it takes to screw in a lightbulb. (“Just one–and it’s not funny.“) You would think this stereotype might be combated by the assumption that we Jews are so inherently funny (as so many have worked so hard to prove). But I imagine in this case, feminist trumps Jew in public opinion. So maybe it’s time to talk about a specifically Jewish sense of feminist humor.

In an age when Eddie Murphey in a high-tech fat suit qualifies as standard comedic fare, it may be safe to say that our society’s standards have slipped. But what about aggressive, edgy, in-your-face comedy? Is it good for the Jews? Is it good for the women?

I don’t want to spark a debate on whether Sacha Baron Cohen or Sarah Silverman are positive or negative influences in society (I happen to be an occasionally uncomfortable fan of both), but I do want to talk about–and hear about–how the dueling assumptions about Jewish humor and feminist humor collide in pop culture and people’s lives.

The recent JewSchool kerfuffle over Maya Escobar’s JAP video really brought home for me the touchiness of the subject and made me wonder where my own sense of humor (which I like to think of as sophisticated, dry and in favor of cleverly offensive absurdism) runs crashing into an indignant self-righteousness. Writing from a generation that simultaneously values “taking a joke” at all costs and teaches us to scream bloody murder at the slightest offence, I think how we understand humor says a great deal about us.

So…what’s Jewish feminist humor? What does it look like? What does it permit? Can it exist as an understood canon? Or should we be happy when the occasional funny-woman comes along who fits the criteria?

Please leave your thoughts, or send them in to be published here. We want to hear you talk back!

Cheers,
Mel Weiss
Blog Moderator

Update
After receiving an email from Maya Escobar herself–in which I learned that her art is intended to evoke, provoke and do all manner of other -vokes to people’s thoughts, and not just to get the cheap laugh–I am ever the more thoughtful about how humor and offence can intersect at our most sensitive spots.

On her blog, Maya asks, “What does it feel like to be called a JAP?” Check out a range of interesting answers, and be sure to add your own, here.

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  • Anonymous

    a column about this subject in last Friday’s Haaretz magazine (English) http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/834853.html

  • Sue

    I expected a lot of responses to this – because I think Jewish feminists are often hysterical. In fact, I thought my Passover posting was pretty funny. It’s called Holy Reefer at http://www.suekatz.com.
    Sue

  • Jenny Luukkonen

    Hello

    I’m doing a short thesis on Sarah Silverman in reference to feminist and jewish humor! Unfortunaly it’s hard finding good material in Sweden ’cause, let’s face it, it’s not a big issue here. So if you have any tip or any ideas on where to find sources of information I will be forever thankful! jenny.luukkonen@faltbiologerna.se

  • Anonymous

    faulty link for-
    Maya Escobar JAP video: click here for video

  • http://uthink.tv/ public opinion

    Very nice post. Thank you very much.