Curtis Dahlgren
Ethnic humor and the audience of many colors
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By Curtis Dahlgren
July 8, 2024

“Jewish humor is gentle, philosophical, and illogical.” – Jim Bishop, 1970s

ORIGINALLY, I had a different topic in mind, but I changed my mind after rereading one of my Facebook topics. It reminded me of happier times when people laughed more easily. In my part of the country, we heard Ole and Lena jokes and dumb Swede jokes, along with dumb blonde jokes. Shoot, we used to tell polock jokes to Poles, and they laughed harder than we did.

Then there was Archie Bunker and Meathead, Don Rickles, the Jeffersons, and Sanford & Sons. They were all relished by people of many colors. Back then, people worked harder and laughed harder.

I was always a clipper and saver of newspaper items, when I used to read them. Just found an old Jim Bishop column, probably from the 70s, on Jewish humor: "It is ironic that the people who have wept the most have also laughed the most" (if you google Jewish comedians, you will find 300+ names). Jokes from the Bishop piece:

An El Al plane takes off from JFK for Tel Aviv, but asks for emergency clearance to come back. The tower asks what the emergency is and the pilot says:

"We forgot the pickles."

An old man is sunning himself at the beach. Another guy asks him, "May l join you?" The first guy says:

"Why? Am I coming apart?"

Some of Bishop's jokes were from "Some of My Best Jokes Are Jewish" by Gerry Blumenfeld:

A Catholic kid and a Jewish kid are playing marbles. The Catholic kid says, "My priest knows more than your rabbi." The Jewish kid says:

"He ought to; you tell him everything."

A guy passes out drinking at a party. His friends carry him out to a Jewish cemetery. The drunk wakes up in the morning and says:

"If I'm alive, what am l doing here? And if I'm dead, why do I have to go to the bathroom?"

I think my phone heard that one before.

In Jewish jokes, all females are little old ladies. One walked into a kosher shop and picked up a chicken. She feels the neck, the legs, every part of it. The butcher says:

"Ma'am, l'd like to see you pass an inspection like that."

Sorry ma'am, one more. One night a wife says to her husband, "Why don't you close the window? It's so cold outside" and he says:

"If l close the window it will get warmer outside?”

Good humor has to have an element of truth to it. Either that or an illogical punch line that no one can see coming. What’s so terrible?

Leah comes home from college and tells her parents that she's pregnant. Her father says, "Who's the father?" and she says don't know. The father looks at his wife and says:

"With all the education we gave her, she couldn't say 'With whom l had the pleasure?'"

An old man is going bankrupt. He no longer wanted to live. His friend says, "Cheer up, Yankel. Things could be worse." The old guy says 'How' and his friend says:

'You could be one of your own creditors."

Two guys are sitting on a park bench. One of them says, “You know, Moishe, life is a bowl of cherries” and Moishe says Why? The first guy slaps the side of his head and says:

“Why, he’s asking me. What am I, a philosopher?”

They have a million of them, and at the moment I can’t think of one Ole and Lena joke.

P.S. James Alonzo Bishop (November 21, 1907 – July 26, 1987) was an American journalist and author who wrote the bestselling book The Day Lincoln Was Shot. To quote the column I mentioned:

“Although my ancestors were Irish, I have always been partial to the Jewish joke. It is ironic that the people who have wept the most have also laughed the most.”

PPS: What’s so hard to understand? Through the magic of the Internet, we can all share a few jokes with an audience of many colors, Joseph.

© Curtis Dahlgren

 

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Curtis Dahlgren

Curtis Dahlgren is semi-retired in southern Wisconsin, and is the author of "Massey-Harris 101." His career has had some rough similarities to one of his favorite writers, Ferrar Fenton... (more)

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