Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Silverman Manifesto (2012)

Webposted Silverman Everyman

Email him at : bubbie.zadie@gmail.com

Enough of this self loathing and self hating! Enough of Jews
themselves denigrating themselves in public shows
of comedy or books! Enough of dysfunctional families
and ghetto Jews from the past!

We are now living in 2012
and we are no longer dysfunctional people nor do we live
in dysfunctional families anymore and Jewish mother jokes
and Jewish Princess jokes and distasteful Joan Rivers' Anne
Frank jokes should be thrown out the window.

The Bronx and Brooklyn
ghettoes are things of the past.

Wake up, fellow Jews and cast
off your self loathing and self hatred with these terrible jokes
about dysfunctional mothers and weak fathers and antisemitic tropes
that are sometimes even worse than Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice
schtick! Wake up, people!

We are a normal people now, successful, middle-class, no longer in the
New York City ghettoes where much of the old sick humor came from.
Sure, in the 1930s, those jokes had a purpose. Sure, in the 1950s,
after the war, maybe some of those jokes still had a purpose. But now,
in 2012, they have no purpose! Those jokes should be retired and you
know exactly what jokes I am talking about!

We don't live in dysfunctional families anymore and we have success
stories all around, in an entirely new and loving way. It's time for Jews
in America to wake up and smell the new air of happiness and life.
It's time to stop the self loathing and self hating Catskills and Borscht
Belt jokes of the 1950s and celebrate the joyful reality of 2012.

Stand up and create
a new kind of warm, life enhancing and positive humor that goes beyond
the old stereotypes of yore. Rise up and rejoice, O Jews of America,
you have nothing to lose but your long-suffering neuroses. We are  no longer a
neurotic people. Stop the Jewish mother jokes, stop the JAP jokes, stop
the sick Anne Frank jokes (and books!), stop the dysfunctional family jokes,
stop the victimization. We are no longer victims. We have made it. Wake up
and celebrate success, joy, happiness, normalness.

Enough already. We are normal. We have arrived. Leave the past alone. Where
it belongs. Stop the Jews are cheap jokes; some of the most philanthropic
people on Earth are American Jews: they build hospitals, museums, fund
scientific research, professorships,
educational initiatives. Focus on the good and the positive; leave the
past where it belongs: in the past!

Wake up and smell the sunshine. We don't all live in the Bronx or
Brooklyn anymore, or Queens
or Beverly Hills. American Jews must evolve. Be nice, all ye who are
comedians and humor
writers. Respect yourselves. Respect what we have become now in 2012.

Stop the old, out-dated
stereotypes. We can write a new chapter in American Jewish history in
the creative arts
of comedy and film and literature and it does not have to be Portnoy's
Complaint anymore.
Nor does it have to be Old Jews Telling Jokes off-Broadway anymore.

Mirror the present,
stop mirroring the dysfunctional ghetto past. Get past the past!
Embrace the now!

68 comments:

Anonymous said...

Badkhn Belt? Jewish humor was born in 1661, prof says
By SUE FISHKOFF / JTA
03/03/2011
Years of terror during the Chmielnicki massacres and the badkhn's appearance led to the canonization of what we know as Jewish humor.

BERKELEY, Calif. - The Chmielnicki massacres weren’t particularly funny.

From 1648 to 1651, nearly 100,000 Jews were slaughtered throughout Ukraine by Bohdan Chmielnicki and his roving bands of Cossacks. It was arguably the worst pogrom in history, leaving hundreds of Jewish communities in ruins.

Yet according to Mel Gordon, a professor of theater arts at the University of California, Berkeley, those years of terror led to the canonization of what we now know as Jewish humor. Much of what we'll be laughing at during Purim festivities, this year starting on March 19, stems from that horrific period.

And it happened on one day in July 1661 when the badkhn -- a kind of cruel court jester in East European Jewish life -- was spared a ban on merrymakers.

“We’re funny because of the badkhn,” Gordon told JTA.

Gordon, who has authored numerous books on theater, cinema and popular culture, lectures widely on his badkhn theory at Jewish and non-Jewish venues.

“Everyone says that Jews are funny because they suffered so much,” he said. “That’s ridiculous. You think the rest of the world hasn’t suffered? What about the Armenians, the Biafrans, the American Indians? None of them are known for their humor.”

Nor are Jews funny because they’ve “always been funny,” another common falsehood, Gordon says. It’s only in the past 100 years, with the rise of Hollywood and nightclub society, that Jewish humor has become a staple of American popular culture.

“At the turn of the 20th century, the Jews were commonly perceived to be a humorless, itinerant nation,” he wrote in “Funnyman,” a 2010 book co-authored with Thomas Andrae about the short-lived Jewish comic book superhero.

So it’s not genetic, and it’s not because of suffering or social marginalization, that led to this thing we call Jewish humor -- it's the badkhn.

The badkhn was a staple in East European Jewish life for three centuries, mocking brides and grooms at their weddings. He also was in charge of Purim spiels in shtetl society.

His humor was biting, even vicious. He would tell a bride she was ugly, make jokes about the groom’s dead mother and round things off by belittling the guests for giving such worthless gifts. Much of the badkhn’s humor was grotesque, even scatological.

dan said...

“They would talk about drooping breasts, big butts, small penises,” Gordon said. “We know a lot about them because they were always suing each other about who could tell which fart joke on which side of Grodno.”

It’s that same self-deprecating tone that characterizes the Yiddish-inflected Jewish jokes of the 20th century, Gordon points out. Who is the surly Jewish deli waiter of Henny Youngman fame if not a badkhn, making wisecracks at the customer’s expense?

Before the 1660s, there were at least 10 different stock comic types in shtetl life, Grodon says. One would rhyme, one would juggle, one might sing. Wealthy folks would hire a variety for their simchas, or festive celebrations.

But in the summer of 1661, a decade after the Chmielnicki massacres and its resultant famines, leading rabbis from Poland and Ukraine -- the “Elders of the Four Councils” -- met in Vilna to discuss why such evils had befallen the Jewish people.

The elders decided the Jews were being punished by God. A return to strict observance was the only solution. Levity and luxury were to be avoided.

As one of the new conditions, wedding festivities became much more somber, and holidays such as Purim and Simchat Torah less raucous. The traditional Jewish comics were outlawed.

During one discussion on July 3, 1661, Gordon relates, a rabbi asked his colleagues, what about the badkhn? He’s not really funny, the rabbi said. In fact, he’s abusive.

The elders agreed, and the badkhn was exempted from the ban -- he wasn't a merrymaker and wasn't encouraging levity. And that’s how the badkhn became the only Jewish comic permitted in the shtetls, Gordon says, and how his particular brand of sarcastic, bleak humor set the tone for what we know today as Jewish comedy. Before the 1660s, the badkhn was the least popular Jewish entertainer – now he was the sole survivor.

“Jewish humor used to be the same as that of the host country,” Gordon said. “Now it began to deviate from mainstream European humor. It became more aggressive, meaner. All of Jewish humor changed.”

The badkhn’s role was secure from the 1660s to the 1890s and the beginning of the great Jewish migration to America and to the larger cities of Russia and Ukraine. Gordon’s father, who came to America in 1929 from the Polish shtetl Bielsk-Podlasky, remembers the badkhn of his youth.

“He was always drunk in the cemetery, telling jokes to kids,” Gordon recalls. “He came out of hiding for Purim and weddings.”

Little remains of the badkhn today outside Chasidic communities, where they are the stars of the yearly Purim spiels. When Gordon lived in New York in the 1980s, he would take journalists to Chasidic synagogues in Brooklyn every spring to witness these raucous celebrations.

But the badkhn’s influence is still felt in mainstream culture, Gordon says, from the Borsch Belt humor of the 1920s and ‘30s, to contemporary Italian and African-American comedians who trade in barbed insults and self-deprecation.

“Even today, almost all Jewish entertainers have badkhn humor," Gordon said. "Sarah Silverman is completely badkhn.

“What did my father find funny? Dirty jokes. Because that’s the badkhn humor he grew up with.”

Anonymous said...

Please - you and I are on different wavelengths. I'm not going to persuade you, and you're not going to persuade me. We're simply going to disagree.

Anonymous said...

I support your viewpoint, Danny, but I fear you will have an uphill
battle!

Anonymous said...

Dan,


Silverman obviously doesn't know my relatives.


Mr R says in NYC, the son and relative of Holoaust survivors

Anonymous said...

Hey Dan.... How about interviewing some Jewish comedians on this topic, and perhaps some Jewish sociologists, and give us
some insightfuk reporting on why SOME Jews paint false pictures of themselves?

Kul tov,

Signed
EDITOR

Anonymous said...

The producer lives in New York and on Cape Cod with his shikse wife, a poet ....

Anonymous said...

''To be honest, sir, this is one of your crusades that simply does not grab me. Popular culture has so little lasting impact that it's not worth your intelligence or energy.''

dan said...

says a Jewish Mensch with High EQ and sense of all this:

''Why do some Jewish creative artists and writers and comedians and film producers PAINT NEGATIEV PICTURES of JEWS? Lack of imagination. We were handed the 'victim' role on a piece of matzoh so stuck with it, whether or not it applied. And playing the victim makes you crazy, and say and write crazy things.''

-- Jewish writer who is SANE said that to me today

Anonymous said...

JOSH LAMBERT of TABLET MAGAZINE, Jewish writer, says

Josh Lambert
josh_
harvard.edu

to me


Dear Dan
I Disagree.

You wrote: "Enough of Jews themselves denigrating themselves in public shows
of comedy or books"?

Nope: not enough for me, because denigrating oneself and one's own culture is the essence of almost all the great comedy and great art, Jewish or not.

(And it doesn't indicate that the author/comic is self-loathing, not at all. Read my piece on Myron Kaufmann, a novelist denounced as self-loathing... who served as the shammes of an Orthodox shul for almost half a century: http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-arts-and-culture/books/945/regatta-land/.) But thanks for asking!''

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