Humor

Joan Rivers, May 24, 2009

Joan Rivers and Jewish Comedy: A Remembrance

by  Joyce Antler

“I am not the ideal Jewish woman,” Joan Rivers admits in a comedy act filmed in the Jewish Women’s Archive film, Making Trouble. “I love to take [my audience] to the edge,” she says.  “I love to get them upset . . . And ruin their value system.” Known for her aggressiveness and her “unkosher” bawdy style, in critic Sarah Cohen’s words, Rivers (nee Joan Molinsky), Phi Beta Kappa Barnard graduate and daughter of a Brooklyn Jewish doctor, performed for over forty years. 

Topics: Television, Comedy
Shari Short

Jewish Funny

by  Shari Short

It turns out that “Jewish Funny” has become evidence-based. Results from the recent Pew Study “Portrait of Jewish Americans,” four in 10 of the 5.3 million religious and cultural Jews surveyed consider a sense of humor essential to Jewish identity. Having a sense of humor is part of our communications and value system. It’s as if we have a framework for which we see the world that lets us find and enjoy the irony of life’s complications. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the words “irony” and “oy” both have an “o” and a “y”.

Topics: Comedy
Estelle Getty at the 41st Emmy Awards, September 17, 1989

Estelle Getty: Golden Girl

by Jewesses With Attitude

Do I admire her because she's been described as "... evasive about her height, acknowledging only that she was under 5 feet and under 100 pounds?" Well, all the more points to Estelle Getty for being an itsy-bitsy powerhouse, but mostly I admire her for being a genuinely funny, talented woman, who never gave up on her greatest ambitions. In an industry where youth and beauty are often valued far above maturity and wit, Estelle turned the tables. She found success in her later years, cracked wise about it the whole time, and taught young women like myself a few things along the way.

Dinah Shore at the Miami Book Fair International, 1990

Moments in History: Jewish Entertainers of Television

by Jewesses With Attitude

Earlier this month we promised more from our new series Moments In History, which commemorates game changing Jewish women in entertainment.  Our last entry took a look at women on the silver screen—today we’ll explore memorable moments from the lives of four very different Jewish stars of the smaller screen.

Wendy Wasserstein

Making Trouble: Clips from the Cutting Room Floor

by  Steven Myers-Yawnick

While hard at work here at the Archive, I stumbled upon some interviews that ended up on the cutting room floor during production of our prizewinning documentary “Making Trouble”. Take a look at a few clips that feature fabulous Jewish women in entertainment talking about fabulous Jewish women in entertainment.

See Tovah Feldshuh speak about the ahead of her time Sophie TuckerAlex Borstein explore Gilda Radner's beauty,  Adrienne Cooper's take on Molly Picon gender roles, and Wendy Wasserstein's thoughts Jewish entertainers on and off the stage. 

Topics: Comedy, Film, Theater
Jackie Hoffman, September 19, 2011

Jackie Hoffman Doesn't Care If You Find The Feminist Message

by  David Levy

Throughout March, Baruch College Performing Arts Center has been presenting a series of Jewish comediennes in partnership with the Jewish Women’s Arch

Topics: Feminism, Comedy, Theater
Microphone

Lauren Interviews Lauren

by  Lauren Mayer

Singer-songwriter-humorist Lauren Mayer reflects on Hanukkah, Christmas, family, growing up a Jew in Orange County and how all this informs her own, artistic process. May you enjoy this in depth interview conducted by… herself.

What inspired you to write “Latkes, Shmatkes”?

Two years ago NPR did a program on Christmas music, and their expert was talking about how secular songs, like “Frosty The Snowman,” became classics, and then he said, “Some songs should never become classics, like this one”— and used an old recording of mine as an example. It was a novelty song I’d written and recorded years ago, “The Fruitcake That Ate New Jersey,” and when I wrote in to ask how they found it, they ended up interviewing me. I joked that now I was part of the great tradition of Jewish songwriters who create Christmas music, and I really should do a Chanukah album. Once I said it, I realized it could be a fun idea.

"We Killed," by Yael Kohen

"Have you ever considered the girl to be the somebody?"

by  Stephen Benson

Yael Kohen’s new book, We Killed: The Rise of Women in American Comedy, has many revealing tales about how change happens. But one stands out for me: in 1966, the actress Marlo Thomas approached the head of ABC-TV programming with a novel idea. She wanted “to play the person with the problem, not the person who assisted the person with the problem.” She recalled:

I didn’t want to be the wife of somebody, or the secretary of somebody, or the daughter of somebody…”Have you ever considered the girl to be the somebody?” And he said, “Would anybody watch a show like that?” I said, “I think they would.” And so I gave him a copy of The Feminine Mystique, and he read it and kind of became convinced.

Topics: Comedy, Film, Non-Fiction
Joan Rivers, New York City, 2010

Joan Rivers: a woman filled with hate or humanity?

by  Gabrielle Orcha

Joan Rivers: a woman of chutzpadik and chilarity. We either love her, or hate her. She’s either the talk of the town, or fades into red carpet oblivion . . . only to be resurrected again.

Topics: Comedy, Writing
Kosher Camera

pJewishMisanthropy announces "Kosher Camera" that erases women in real time

by  Leah Berkenwald

Yesterday eJewish Philanthropy released a special, satirical Purim edition of their usual newsletter called pJewishMisanthropy. The whole thing is absolutely hilarious--at least it should be to any of us working in the Jewish communal world who read often-vague articles about the future of "peoplehood," "Jewish innovation," "leadership," and "engagement" in the ever-changing Jewish American/Israeli landscape. Still, one story in particular caught my attention.

Sophie Tucker

Sophie Tucker: “You’re Gonna Miss Me, Honey”

by  Stephen Benson

One hundred and one years ago today, Sophie Tucker sang those words from “Some of These Days” onto a four minute cylinder recording device. It became her signature song, and toward the end of her career she guessed that she had sung it over 45,000 times.

Topics: Music, Comedy, Film, Theater

Jackie Hoffman sits down with Judy Gold at the 92 Street Y

by  Leah Berkenwald

Jackie Hoffman is one of my favorite Jewish comedians.

Live from Youtube, it's Gilda Radner!

by  Leah Berkenwald

Twenty two years ago today, Gilda Radner's life was cut short by ovarian cancer.

Topics: Comedy

"I'll be Jewish for Christmas"

by  Leah Berkenwald

Last week I wrote a blog post about the "Merry Christmas/Happy Hanukkah" issue. But now I'm thinking we should all just disregard what I wrote because today I found this video of Katie Goodman of Broad Comedy singing "I'll be Jewish for Christmas," and it says everything I wanted to say and more. In song.

Enjoy!

What's your beef with Sarah Silverman?

by  Leah Berkenwald

Sarah Silverman appeared on Late Night with Conan O'Brien last Friday and shared an important message about vaginal health with the women of America, among other things.

Topics: Comedy

Don't Settle: 5 Life Lessons From Your Red Hot Mama

by  Leah Berkenwald

I have always loved Sophie Tucker, but after seeing the New Rep Theatre's production of Sophie Tucker: The Last of the Red Hot Mamas with our new JWA intern, Gwen, I see her in a new light. What struck me about the show was that it condensed Sophie's wisdom into five important life lessons -- ones that I found particularly relevant to my life as a single woman today.

Topics: Comedy, Theater

Red Hot Yiddishe Mama

by  Gwen

On Friday July 2nd, I had the pleasure of watching the New Repertory Theater of Watertown, Ma put on Sophie Tucker: Last of the Red Hot Mamas. I'd recently discovered Sophie while watching Making Trouble, and fallen in love with her witty and larger than life personality.

Topics: Comedy, Theater

Joan Rivers: "Rediscovered at 76"

by  Leah Berkenwald

There is a lovely piece about Joan Rivers in New York Magazine to mark the premiere of her biographical documentary, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work. Jonathan Van Meter notes that Joan Rivers has been "rediscovered at age 76," despite the fact that she has been in our hearts and minds all along.

Topics: Comedy
"The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee," by Sarah Silverman

The "real" Sarah Silverman

by  Leah Berkenwald

Last Friday I went to a sold-out book reading in Coolidge Corner. Sarah Silverman, probably the most (in)famous Jewish woman comedian today, was reading from her new memoir, The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee. Since she is without a doubt a "Jewess with attitude," I thought it was important that I be there.

Topics: Comedy, Memoirs

In Linda Richman's Footsteps: 'Ronna and Beverly'

by  Elissa Strauss

As much as I love the whole Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, Ben Stiller, Judd Aptaow schlemiel genre I always shudder a bit when finding out, again and again, that their co-star is a semi-serious perky blond. (For the most recent example, see the new movie “She’s Out of My League”, where the real-life half Jew Jay Baruchel pursues yet another, fair-haired and -eyed interest.) Why can’t the woman ever be funny — and not just spunky? Occasionally, a brunette? And, just once, Jewish?

Topics: Comedy

Saying goodbye to Jean Carroll

by  Leah Berkenwald

Legendary comedian Jean Carroll passed away on New Year's Day at the age of 98.  A pioneering stand up comedian, Jean Carroll was a regular headliner in nightclubs and theaters in the '40s and '50s.  She was featured on the Ed Sullivan Show, and she even had her own sitcom on ABC in the 1953-1954 season.

Topics: Comedy

What "Making Trouble" means to me

by  Leah Berkenwald

If you follow JWA on Twitter or Facebook, it should be pretty obvious that we think Making Trouble, the film about six trailblazing Jewish women entertainers, makes a great Hanukkah present for the whole family.  Normally, the idea of pushing a "product" makes me queasy.  Afterall, I chose to work for a non-profit, not an advertising firm!  So I feel that I owe the JWA audience a real and honest explanation for why I think Making Trouble is something you should own.

Topics: Comedy, Film

Rethinking the question: "Why are there so few women in comedy?"

by  Lauren

In a recent interview with Lisa Leingang in the New York Times, Melena Ryzik asks the question: "Why are there so few women in comedy?" To answer it, you have to approach it the way Bill Clinton did during the Monica Lewinsky period. We have to deconstruct the terms.

Topics: Comedy

The Holocaust: Something to laugh about?

by  Leah Berkenwald

The most recent issue of Heeb Magazine is causing quite a stir.  The issue features Roseanne Barr wearing an apron and a Hitler mustache, pulling a tray of “burnt Jew cookies” out of an oven.  The Heeb publisher posted an article explaining the editorial choice, which discusses a cultural shift towards acceptance of “Holocaust humor.”  Heeb argues that old taboos are relaxing. Jews are beginning to embrace the Holocaust in a new way - as something to laugh about. Is this true? Has the Holocaust really become funny?

Molly Picon: A Celebrity for the Ages

by  Lauren

Years ago, when I was working on my undergraduate thesis on Yiddish film, I attempted conversation about the subject at cocktail parties (well, at that point they weren’t yet cocktail parties, but there were definitely M&Ms) –

“Yiddish? Film? What? Like Yentl?”

No. Not like Yentl. They’re in Yiddish! And most of them were originally Yiddish theater productions. Molly Picon? ... No?... Nobody?... Nevermind. Is it hot in here? Pass the M&Ms.

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