An open letter to New York Magazine
“Tone down the Jewishness so everybody can enjoy it,” says the studio exec played by Ricky Gervais in the recent indie-film-within-a-film For Your Consideration. “I don’t go around saying I’m a gentile.”
While I was writing my book Shtick Shift: Jewish Humor in the 21st Century (Barricade Books: 2008), those lines kept coming back to me. As I write in the book – and as New York magazine pointed out in its May 24 story on Woody Allen’s latest film – the “Jewish” aspect of “Jewish comedy” is now so all pervasive it’s become nearly invisible.
Unlike their forebears, today’s Jewish comics – Sacha Baron Cohen, Sarah Silverman and Judd Apatow’s Jewfro’d ensemble – aren’t trying to assimilate with the mainstream. It’s the mainstream that’s been assimilated, with Apatow & Co. playing the role of the comedy Borg.
Recently, Vanity Fair put Jonah Hlll, Paul Rudd, Jason Seigel and Seth Rogen on the cover, without feeling the need to mention that all four actors were Jewish. Meanwhile, TIME just picked its hottest summer comedies; each one – Bruno, Year One, Funny People and Allen’s Whatever Works – was made by a Jewish performer.
Throw in the continuing popularity of Jon Stewart, and the gr owth of post-post-modern Jewish humor magazines and websites, and it’s clear we’re witnessing a new “Golden Age” of Jewish comedy, as your article demonstrates.
New York magazine’s writer can’t quite believe that “(n)either Allen nor David sees anything particularly Jewish about their comedy.” At first, that does seem absurd, even stubbornly contrarian.
Yet maybe those two second-generation Jewish humorists were simply ahead of their time in more ways than one.
Simcha Weinstein is an award-winning author, whose latest book is Shtick Shift: Jewish Humor in the 21st century (Barricade Books: 2008) is out now.