No Joke: Making Jewish Humor

Ruth R. Wisse. Princeton Univ., $24.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-691-14946-2
Wisse, whose The Modern Jewish Canon: A Journey Through Language and Culture won the 2001 National Jewish Book Award, is well suited to analyzing the history of Jewish humor. Through chapters that divide up the Jewish experience from the early 19th century through the present, the Harvard professor makes good on her goal of demonstrating “how the benefits of Jewish humor are reaped from the paradoxes of Jewish life, so that Jewish humor at its best carries the scar of the convulsions that brought it into being.” In looking at German Jewry during the Enlightenment, she trenchantly notes that “comedy’s predilection for inversion and incongruity was richly served by a society that enticed Jews into conversions that it necessarily distrusted, and Jews who distrusted the society into which they were voluntarily coerced.” That bitter edge is exemplified in jokes Jews told when the Nazi practice of using human fat to make soap became widely known, and she compellingly argues in another section that Israeli Jews used wit as “creative compensation for [the] political impotence” of the newly-formed Jewish state. Accessible to nonacademic audiences as well as scholars, this cultural history is a welcome addition to the study of humor in a sociopolitical context. 14 illus. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/01/2013
Release date: 05/01/2013
Show other formats
Open Ebook - 296 pages - 978-1-4008-4634-4
Open Ebook - 1 pages - 978-1-299-58531-7
Stay ahead with
Tip Sheet!
Free newsletter: the hottest new books, features and more
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
Email Address


Log In Lost Password

PW has integrated its print and digital subscriptions, offering exciting new benefits to subscribers, who are now entitled to both the print edition and the digital editions of PW (online or via our app). For instructions on how to set up your accout for digital access, click here. For more information, click here.

The part of the site you are trying to access is now available to subscribers only. Subscribers: to set up your digital subscription with the new system (if you have not done so already), click here. To subscribe, click here.

Email with questions.

Not Registered? Click here.