Thursday, 17 November 2011

On Humour


You mean you haven’t heard about ‘Old Jews Telling Jokes’ yet?

It’s a You Tube hit and BBC4 have begun to serialise half hour programmes.


An Italian, a Frenchman and a Jew are waiting to be killed by a firing squad. They are given the choice of last meal. The Italian asks for a bowl of pasta, he eats the pasta then they shoot him. The Frenchman asks for a fillet steak, he eats the steak then they shoot him. The Frenchman asks for a bowl of strawberries. ‘Strawberries?’ the prison-warden asks in amazement, ‘where can I get strawberries, strawberries don’t come back in season until the summer.’ ‘That’s OK,’ the Jew responded, ‘I’ll wait.’


More like this at

 (but beware, some of the jokes and much of the language is hardly rabbinically appropriate)


Of course Jews aren’t alone in being proud of our ethnic humour but … well I think Jewish humour is pretty special. Remarkable among the sub-genres of the Jewish joke is the joke where the Jew triumphs over adversary. Many are the jokes told at the expense of Polish guards and others who, at various times, have presented all too real physical threats. Perhaps the secret of Jewish humour lies in the ability to find an area in which the Jew can triumph. We may be attacked, in the ‘real’ world. But in the world of humour we can find a way to triumph and defeat, or at the very least, cheat an uncomforting fate. Humour cannot change outcomes, but it can lighten our tread and lift up our hearts. Actually that reminds me of a story.


A Jewish grandmother thrusts her way to the front of a crowd gathered around a man, lying prostrate at the side of the road, ‘Give him some chicken soup, Give him some chicken soup,’ she demands. ‘Madam,’ responds a doctor, ‘I’m afraid it is too late for chicken soup, this man is already dead. Chicken soup cannot help.’ ‘Give him some chicken soup,’ the woman insists. ‘It wouldn’t hurt!’


Shabbat shalom


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