Genius of the Jewish Joke

Arthur Asa Berger, Author
Arthur Asa Berger, Author Jason Aronson $25 (184p) ISBN 978-1-56821-977-6
Reviewed on: 07/07/1977
Release date: 07/01/1977
The numerous jokes in this analysis of Jewish humor will provoke smiles and chuckles, but there is nothing laughable about Berger's scholarly look at the genre of the Jewish joke. Berger dissects Jewish humor from psychological, literary, political and cultural aspects, contending that Jews used humor as a ""survival mechanism"" to cope with suffering, powerlessness and marginality. The jokes reflect an ""existential courage,"" a resistance to persecution rather than an internalization of the victim mentality, he posits. The author of many books on media, popular culture and humor, Berger (professor of broadcast and electronic communication arts at San Francisco State University) cites a host of sources, including Freud, to support and illustrate his theories. He explores humor in both generic and specifically Jewish terms, lists 45 techniques of humor, discusses comic types like schlemiels and schlimazels and examines the role of stereotypes in ethnic humor. In this finely argued study, Berger discounts the theory of Jewish humor as masochistic, arguing instead that the self-criticism in Jewish jokes is ""liberating and life-enhancing."" (Jan.)
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