Old Jews Telling Jokes
5,000 Years of Funny Bits and Not-So-Kosher Laughs
A grasshopper walked into a bar and ordered a drink.
The bartender looked at him and said, “You know we have a drink named after you?”
The grasshopper replied, “You have a drink named Stanley?”
Schtick happens. For five thousand years, God’s chosen people have cornered the market on knee-slappers, zingers, and knock-knock jokes. Now Old Jews Telling Jokes mines mothers, fathers, bubbies, and zaydes for comic gelt. What we get are jokes that are funnier than a pie in the punim: Abie and Becky jokes; hilarious rabbi, doctor, and mohel tales; and those bits just for Mom (Q: What’s the difference between a Jewish mother and a Rottweiler? A: Eventually a Rottweiler will let go!). Some are just naughty and some are downright bawdy—but either way you’ll laugh till you plotz. With Borscht Belt gags from Brooklyn to Bel Air to Boca, Old Jews Telling Jokes is like chicken soup for your funny bone. I mean, would it kill you to laugh a little?
Anyone with fond memories of great-uncle Sol telling bad jokes after that fourth glass of wine at the Passover seder will probably find a chuckle or at least a groan of recognition in one or two of the creaky old chestnuts offered here. Sam Hoffman offers introductions to each joke topic and brief bios of the tellers, all prominent Jews aged 60 or older (including former New York City mayor Ed Koch), most of whom deliver their own joke, accompanied by a laugh track and the occasional sting of klezmer. Topics covered include immigration, Jewish mothers (naturally), and sex (two chapters). Because jokes were recorded in various locations, the sound quality varies. Taken as a whole, the collection is amusing, but a little goes a long way. A Villard paperback.