Laughing at Ourselves

Laughing at Ourselves

“All Jewish holidays can be described in nine words. These nine words? THEY TRIED TO KILL US. WE WON. LET’S EAT.”

Michael Krasny’s “Let There Be Laughter” is a compilation of over 100 of the best Jewish jokes he has encountered in his lifetime and throughout a career in radio, where he hosts the show “Forum” on National Public Radio.

Let There Be Laughter By Michael Krasny William Morrow, 304 pages, $19.99
Let There Be Laughter
By Michael Krasny
William Morrow, 304 pages, $19.99

Krasny analyzes films, cartoons, comics, jokes, etc., in this amusing book and explains the cultural implications behind the comedy. He has been told the Jewish jokes since his bar mitzvah celebration, and he claims to know more of them than anyone in the world.

Krasny does an excellent job of providing funny Jewish jokes and explaining their meaning.

He references jokes and comedy from such famous Jews as Jerry Seinfeld, Amy Schumer, Joan Rivers and Neil Simon. Krasny also touches on popular TV shows and novels that involve Jewish comedy, including Larry David’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and Philip Roth’s novel “Portnoy’s Complaint.”

The book is divided into topical chapters, such as jokes on Jewish mothers and bubbes, celebrations, suffering, Yiddish, generations, and assimilation.

Some of the references were before my millennial time, but I did learn a lot about the history of Jewish comedy and the stereotypes and stigmas behind the Jewish jokes.

For example, Jewish jokes often portray Jewish mothers as being guilt-dispensing and overprotective while also showing adoration for their children. Many joke topics can be seen on both sides of the spectrum.

There is a paradox about Jewish jokes on sex. It is both celebrated and ridiculed, depending on who tells the joke.

I also learned a few more Yiddish words, such as naches — the joy and pride a parent derives from a child’s accomplishments.

“Let There Be Laughter” (a play on “Let there be light” from Genesis) is entertaining and funny. Some jokes are funnier than others, of course, but each one made me at least chuckle, if not laugh out loud.

Krasny’s writing is eloquent. I enjoyed his dialogue on the meaning behind the jokes, and I would recommend this book to any adult. Some parts are not appropriate for children, such as the chapter on sex and marriage.

Be sure to pick up this funny read. You won’t regret it.

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