Jewish Humor

Poking fun of religious groups through stereotypes can be very funny. Sometimes it can be very not-funny.

Last night I saw the Second City show “Jewsical the Musical” in Novi, Michigan (outside of Detroit). Jewsical claims to be a “hilarious blend of classic Second City sketches and songs, along with new material all providing an irreverent and comic look at Jewish life and culture, certain to resonate with audiences young and old. Scenes include a peek at the first Kosher Thai fusion restaurant; a visit to the video rental store that turns into a diatribe on Hollywood’s famous anti-Semites; and an ode to J-date.”

Admittedly I only some some of these sketches and songs as I felt compelled to leave the theater early. None of the material — trite Jewish stereotypes and cliches — was offensive; just not funny. The acts were amateurish and the schtick got very old very quickly. The only skit that was remotely funny was the J-Date parody (Webmaster, webmaster make me a match to the tune of “Matchmaker, Matchmaker” from “Fiddler on the Roof”).

Suffering through the first half of the production, I couldn’t help but contrast this show to Jewtopia which I saw on Broadway a year-and-a-half ago. Jewtopia successfully pokes fun at Jewish sterotypes without being trite. It comes off as a fresh form of laughing at oneself for the Jews in the audience and a way for the non-Jews to laugh as well without feeing self-conscience. Jewsical seems overly staged and the jokes forced.

Jon Stewart was able to poke fun at the pandering Presidential candidates who all spoke at AIPAC using just about every Jewish stereotype in the book without his jokes coming off as forced as the humor in Jewsical. Here’s the video clip of Stewart from “The Daily Show”.