LIFE IS LIKE A GLASS OF TEA
Studies of Classic Jewish Jokes
This is the first book on Jewish humor in which individual jokes are singled out for comprehensive study.
An entire chapter is devoted to each of six major jokes, tracing its history and variants, and looking closely at the ways in which the comic behavior enacted in the punch-line can be interpreted.
Throughout the book, an attempt is made to demonstrate that one of the unique properties of classic Jewish jokes is their openness to radically different interpretive options (having nothing to do with wordplay or double entendre). This openness to alternate interpretations, which has never before been discussed in the literature on Jewish humor, is a property which gives classic Jewish jokes their special flavor, as they leave us wondering which of several possible attitudes we are expected to hold toward the comic figure.
An additional chapter is devoted to the ways in which Jewish jokes tend to evolve. No earlier study has dealt with these jokes in a developmental perspective, showing the pathways through which anti-Semitic anecdotes are sometimes transformed into authentic Jewish jokes, as well as the processes Jewish jokes undergo over the decades as their comic potential is unfolded in successive stages, and when they are transplanted from European to American soil.
The research for this book was carried out over a seven-year period at specialized libraries in New York, San Francisco, Paris, London, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Copenhagen, as well as at the Danish State and University Library in Aarhus, where hundreds of collections of Jewish jokes - published from about 1820 to the present, in English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Danish and transliterated Yiddish - were systematically combed for variants of the jokes singled out for study.
This a book that will appeal to the general reader, as well as to readers especially interested in Jewish culture, the psychology of humor, religion, ethnography and folklore.
The History and Variants of the Joke 14
Three Interpretations of the Joke 17
Interpretive Properties of the Classic Jewish Joke 23
Publication History 33
The History and Variants of the Joke 46
Competing Jewish Conceptions of Man's Relationship to God 50
Two Interpretations of the Joke 56
Publication History 61
The History and Variants of the Joke 72
The Issue of Ethnic Self-Disparagement 77
The Parodistic Triad 88
Publication History 95
The History and Variants of the Joke 102
Interpretive Options 108
A Final Note 112
Publication History 114
Annie Hall 123
The Friar's Club Incident 125
Quotation Record 130
The History and Variants of the Joke 132
Interpreting the Dying Rabbi Variant 150
Publication History 155
From Non-Jewish to Jewish Joke 167
Improving the Joke 173
The Development of Parallel Variants 177
1. Another Doctor 186
2. Cardplayer 189
3. Dachshund 190
4. Dead Shames 201
5. Dying Merchant 203
6. Funny, You Don't Look Jewish 213
7. Job Announcement 217
8. Left-Handed Teacup 222
9. Live Under Water 230
10. Mother's Manoeuvre 233
11. Who's Counting? 235
12. Umbrella 238
In Europe, Life Is Like a Glass of Tea can be ordered from:
at the price of 198 Danish crowns per copy.
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