I think a break from the all the issues of the world that disturb and/or challenge us is in order. Why not a little humor for a change? A few weeks ago New York Magazine had a big spread on the 100 greatest jokes in American history. It is interesting that 50% were (according to a JTA count) by or about Jews, who constitute 2% of the population on a good day. What makes us so clever? And it’s not a passing thing. It was noted that we Jews have remained a consistent comedic force, showing up in every decade: Vaudeville in the teens and 20s, the Marx Brothers in the 30s, the Borscht Belt in the 40s and so on — all the way up to Jerry Seinfeld, John Stewart, Judd Apatow and Amy Schumer.
Of course you want to hear some of my favorite jokes, so let me share a few on my most current list. Not all Jewish. Not too tired. Partly a window in to my odd sense of humor. You can write back with your favorite if you wish, I might publish the best of them. Just please make them short.
An MIT linguistics professor was lecturing his class the other day. “In English,” he said, “a double negative forms a positive. However, in some languages, such as Russian, a double negative remains a negative. But there isn’t a single language, not one, in which a double positive can express a negative.” A voice from the back of the room said, “Yeah, right.”
A guy is sitting at home when he hears a knock at the door. He opens the door and sees a snail on the porch. He picks up the snail and throws it as far as he can. Three years later there’s a knock on the door. He opens it and sees the same snail. The snail says: ‘What the hell was that all about?’
Two campers are walking through the woods when a huge brown bear suddenly appears in the clearing about 50 feet in front of them. The bear sees the campers and begins to head toward them. The first guy drops his backpack, digs out a pair of sneakers, and frantically begins to put them on. The second guy says, “What are you doing? Sneakers won’t help you outrun that bear.” “I don’t need to outrun the bear,” the first guy says. “I just need to outrun you.”
A young child is sitting on a bench in a park eating a huge bag of candy. An old man walks up to him and says “You shouldn’t eat so much candy, it’s bad for your health!” The kid replies, “Well, my grandpa lived to be 106 years old!” The old man is shocked. “What was his secret? Did he eat a lot of candy?” ”No,” the kid replies. “He minded his own business!”
A Jewish man took his Passover lunch to eat outside in the park. He sat down on a bench and began eating. A little while later a blind man came by and sat down next to him. Feeling neighborly, the Jewish man passed a sheet of matzo to the blind man. The blind man ran his fingers over the matzo for a few minutes, looked puzzled, and finally exclaimed, “Who wrote this crap?”
When Izydor Epstein from Poland applied for an American driver’s license he was asked to read the eye chart. The clerk pointed to the first line with the letters “P O W Z Y N S K E Y.” “Now sir,” said the clerk. “Can you read this?” “Read it?” replied Izydor, “the man used to be my next-door neighbor!”
The main course at the big civic dinner was baked ham with glazed sweet potatoes. Rabbi Cohen regretfully shook his head when the platter was passed to him. “When,” scolded Father Kelly playfully, “are you going to forget that silly rule of yours and eat ham like the rest of us?” Without skipping a beat, Rabbi Cohen replied “At your wedding reception, Father Kelly.”
Enough for now. There is a lesson or value attached to almost every joke. See what you can figure out. And have a good day, a good Shabbat, and a nice weekend. Best, Bill Rudolph