Still Laughing

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

Just before the election a video went sweeping around the internet via
email, especially in the Jewish community in Florida. It was a comic,
get-out- the-vote for Obama playful thing called Call your Bubbe/Call
Your Zeyde that was, I thought, very funny. I like the young people
cared enough about voting and that they wanted to communicate with
their elders. I showed it to lots of people in my building. Some of
course discounted me because they know I have voted Democratic in
every election since 1942. But I was really shocked when one of my
good friends took me to task because “it’s really anti-Semitic!!” She
thinks I got taken in by cute and am blind to stereotype. What do you

Still Laughing

Dear Still Laughing:

One option is that your friend was not planning to vote for Obama and
resented anything that might have persuaded people to do so.
Watching people’s moods and faces the day after the election was a
pretty good indicator of how they’d voted. Another is that she was
genuinely offended by a comic video laced with Yiddishisms and playful
stereotypes. People have very different standards about both what
they see as funny and how sensitive or not they are about perceived

There are certainly generations of comedians who’ve made millions
happily playing all manner of Jews, including self-deprecating ones.
But there are lots of ways to make people laugh without making fun or
oneself or one’s culture. But not all Jewish/Yiddish characters are there
to be made fun of. They can be wise as well as funny, noble if not
nobility. In this case I saw the video and laughed, in part because I
love the generational bond and also because the actors were so clearly
playing elders with deep affection. There are lots of great sites on the
internet. Try some with your friend; you can start by googling old Jews
telling jokes. See what tickles your funny bones when politics isn’t part
of the mix.