February 21, 2013
CBC Sunday Morning revisits the Borscht Belt
Which was killed off by air conditioning (and the Civil Rights Act) by the way.
BONUS: Reform Judaism Magazine accidentally notices… something — before backing away slowly:
However, a “laughter-through-tears” theory fails to account for the fact that other persecuted peoples, such as the Tibetans, Native Americans, and Armenians, cannot chalk up comparable achievements in the wit arena. If genocidal menace is the primary catalyst for in-group humor and bitter sarcasm, then there should be at least a couple dozen uproarious Rwandan or Bosnian standups pacing across our global
Anyway, did you know?
In a single stroke, the July 3, 1661 decree did away with all the freewheeling Jewish jokesters (leytsanim), inventive master rhymesters (payats), playful showmen (marshaliks), and sleight-of-hand jugglers (shpilmanern) from Odessa to Warsaw and all the shtetlach in between.
But on that fateful day, one matter still had to be settled: What to do about the badkhns (rhymes with “Maude wins”)—the ragtag Jewish insult artists known for their abusive, unpleasant, and rude in-your-face repartee?
Because the badkhns were neither funny nor popular, the council decided to exempt them from the decree.
Thus, inadvertently, the elders boosted a unique comic sensibility— hyper-aggressive jousting and obscene effrontery—that would evolve into contemporary Jewish humor as we know it.
PS: Nice Trilogy of Terror joke…