Jewish humor is serious business

Jewish humor

Wednesday November 3 at 10:45 p.m. on Arte

Exploring the springs of Jewish humor, “From the Torah to international pop culture”, this is the ambition of this documentary. Nourished by testimonies and analyzes of rabbis, authors, sociologists, it lends itself more to thinking than to laughing, despite the jokes delivered by everyone. One recounts the trip of young Moshe to Moscow. A policeman stops him and asks his name. “Moshe”, he replies. “So young, and already Jewish! “, exclaims the Russian policeman. We are not far from the famous lines of Rabbi Jacob …

Squeaky as much as it is funny, Jewish humor “Is a rule of survival”, remind the speakers. They go back to the sources of a fabulous ability to tell funny and terrible stories, in the shtetl, a Jewish village in Eastern Europe before WWII. Isolated, ostracized, persecuted, the Jews developed in these ghettos an incredible capacity for defensive humor.

“I doubt that it is still so common for a people to laugh at themselves at this point”, wrote Freud in 1905 in The Spirit Word and its relation to the unconscious. Rabbi Delphine Horvilleur quotes the biblical times of this humor of “Reconstruction, support of religious and philosophical thought”, evoking the giggles of the centenarians Sarah and Abraham when God announces to them that they are going to have a child.

Exploring a large number of avenues for reflection, this documentary sometimes errs with… excess of seriousness! He finds his tone in the testimonies, including that of Jul. The comic book author draws an obvious parallel between the Gallic village of Asterix imagined by Goscinny, part of whose family was murdered during the Shoah, and the shtetl, to besieged villagers, living in isolation and relying on the authority of a wise man. This example makes one regret that the many manifestations of Jewish humor in the common culture have not been further explored to illustrate its consoling, resilient and universal force.


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