Three comic writers delve into what it means to be Jewish.
Barry, Mansbach, and Zweibel (For This We Left Egypt? A Passover Haggadah for Jews and Those Who Love Them, 2017) team up again in an irreverent take on Jewish life, culture, and lore. No topic is off limits for jokes that range from silly to sophomoric: the Holocaust (“there was still, in the end, a positive side of the Holocaust,” the authors declare, before abruptly changing their minds); the Arab-Israeli conflict (Israel has won all wars since 1948 “because militarily the Israeli armed forces are the Harlem Globetrotters of the Middle East”); and anti-Semitism. “Are you an anti-Semite?” the authors ask, providing a quiz to test which of many Jewish stereotypes a responder believes. Are Jews “opinionated, pushy, and prone to butting in?” Or are they “clannish, secretive, and reclusive”? Either answer will brand you as an anti-Semite. More Jewish stereotypes fuel jokes about Jewish customs, holidays, food, attitudes toward interfaith marriage, teachings of the Talmud, and, not least, sex: “Q. What is Jewish foreplay? A. Three hours of begging.” Of the three authors, Barry, a Presbyterian married to a Cuban-Jewish woman, is not “technically Jewish,” but he admits that he has attended many High Holiday services, “some of which lasted longer than the Korean conflict.” The authors found that they had to bone up on the Old Testament and the “incredibly weird shit” in the Torah to make fun of biblical stories, people, and God’s sometimes-incomprehensible commandments, such as the requirement that every male newborn be circumcised. “A surprising amount of research goes into the crafting of every single cheap dick joke we write,” Mansbach reveals. Although some readers might be offended by the repeated characterization of Jews as cheap, argumentative, and opinionated—“two Jews, three opinions” the saying goes—Barry sees self-deprecating Jewish humor as “an important psychological mechanism for coping with misfortune, and Jews have had a LOT of misfortune, especially when you compare them to the Presbyterians.”
Following their previous collaboration, this is another zany book for Jews and those who love them.