Jewish Journal

Jewish joke book ‘Not-So-Kosher’ is oh-so-funny

by Tom Tugend

Posted on Sep. 8, 2010 at 12:30 am

From left: Sam Hoffman and Eric Spiegelman. Photo by James Hamilton

From left: Sam Hoffman and Eric Spiegelman. Photo by James Hamilton

When Sam Hoffman was organizing material for his book “Old Jews Telling Jokes: 5,000 Years of Funny Bits and Not-So-Kosher Laughs” (Villard Books) into chapters, he ran into a problem.

Jewish mother, rabbi and doctor jokes fit neatly into the assigned spaces, but there were so many sex jokes that he was forced to create a separate chapter for “oral sex.”

Still, so many — ah — risqué stories were left over that he sneaked them into such chapters as “husbands and wives,” “moving to the suburbs” and even “death.”

While demographers brood about the low Jewish birthrate, if all the jokes about Jewish sex could be diverted into more productive channels, the Chosen People would soon outnumber the Chinese.

Of course, the stories are told predominantly by old men, so there are some startling male fantasies. Who knew that (allegedly) frigid Jewish American Princesses morph into Girls Gone Wild in their dotage?

By sad contrast, the former (allegedly) passionate Jewish studs are too worn out to play their parts in retirement-home orgies. For example:

“A little old lady in the nursing home goes up to the last remaining man in the place.

Story continues after the jump.

Daniel Okrent, “Schmuck”

“She gets herself all dolled up and says, ‘How would you like some super sex?’

“He says, ‘I’ll take the soup.’ ”

Regrettably, most of the sex jokes are off limits in a family newspaper, but we’ll try to sneak in a borderline case:

“Why are Jewish men circumcised?

“Because no Jewish woman will touch anything that’s not at least 20 percent off.”

To be fair, there are plenty of jokes left over to draw a giggle from your maiden aunt, but some of the most interesting parts are relegated to Hoffman’s (with Eric Spiegelman) introductions to the chapters.

Story continues after the jump.

Ed Koch, “Campaign Stop”

With considerable wit and insight, the authors trace the trajectory of Jewish life in America, from the greenhorn immigrant jokes to success in the suburbs and on to the first (future) Jewish president.

Jokes tend to last longer than other forms of oral communication, Hoffman points out, writing, “[T]he jokes themselves become time capsules, revealing the fears and anxieties and celebrating the joys of all aspects of life, including its end.”

The longevity of jokes, especially the species Judaica, has its risks. If the reader (like this one) has accumulated some four-score birthdays, chances are he/she has heard — and, worse, told and retold — some 95 percent of the jokes in the book.

On the other hand, if Jewish jokes are our ancestral weapons against discrimination and humiliation by a hostile world, will our children and grandchildren — whom the goyim would rather marry than kill — get the point?

We put this question to Hoffman, himself in his early 40s, who was unfazed. The book, which includes jokes from former New York Mayor Ed Koch and former New York Times public editor Daniel Okrent, is largely based on material from Hoffman and Spiegelman’s Web site OldJewsTellingJokes.com, on which your Uncle Abe and Aunt Sarah, who must be over 60, tell — well — old Jewish jokes.

The site has taken off like a rocket, with more than 8 million video plays to date. Hoffman, an assistant director on such films as “The School of Rock” and “The Royal Tenenbaums,” said two-thirds of the site’s viewers are over 40, and one-third under 40. Viewership is not limited to old Jew enclaves in Florida or New York but has fan clubs in London, Nashville and — would you believe? — Salt Lake City.

Hoffman suggests “Old Jews Telling Jokes,” which hit shelves Sept. 7 at $15 per paperback copy, would make the ideal Rosh Hashanah present for any relative or acquaintance, regardless of age, race or virility.

Hoffman and Spiegelman will host a launch event for the book, featuring videos and live performances of old Jews telling jokes, at the Skirball Cultural Center on Sept. 29, 7:30 p.m. Free, however advanced RSVP recommended. For more information, call (310) 440-4500 or visit skirball.org.

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