The Big Book of Jewish Humor

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Press:Harpercollins William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (October 31, 2006)
Publication Date:2006-11
Author Name:Novak, William


Two rival businessmen meet in the Warsaw train station. 
"Where are you going?" says the first man."To Minsk," says the second."To Minsk, eh? What a nerve you have! I know you're telling me you're going to Minsk because you want me to think that you're really going to Pinsk.
But it so happens that I know you really are going to Minsk.
So why are you lying to me?"Four men are walking in the desert.The German says, "I'm tired and thirsty.
I must have a beer." The Italian says, "I'm tired and thirsty.
I must have wine." The Mexican says, "I'm tired and thirsty.I must have tequila."The Jew says, "I'm tired and thirsty.
I must have diabetes."


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Comment List (Total:14)

  •     The Big Book of Jewish Humor, Edited & Annotated by William Novak & Moshe Waldoks; Harper & Row (paperback 1981)"Tiresome!" THAT certainly wasn't anticipated.And then the publisher's binding glue (vintage 1981) staggered & now I'm the owner of two books - a marvelous, lightweight & outsized front-&-back cover adorned in blue background with gold & white lettering --- & The Contents Of Within.I blame all this on the 47 Republicans who recently invited Bibi to address our U.S. Congress without the expressed written consent of Major League Baseball.Seriously, the unresolved tension of the book was apparent almost immediately. This was possibly due to two constituencies, both of whom Novak & Waldoks attempted to please (their 1990 anthology "The Big Book of American Humor" has a single-minded purpose & is highly recommended).Obviously there were those who wanted humorous entries. And, evidently, there were those who wanted stories & other entities that, in this context, could be considered to be humorous, but more importantly, would feature, in depth, the culture of the people about whom the stories were written.The humorous entries are self-explanatory. The best example is the brilliant, untitled story (author unknown) told early on:"Levinger, a businessman from Utica, goes to the train station to catch the eleven-thirty express to Philadelphia..."And there are many others in the same vein (although I was somewhat surprised by the "duds" - usually in the annotation columns - that made the cut).The culture-in-the-guise-of-humor line of thought also made its presence known quickly with Sholom Aleichem's "On Account of A Hat" on page 8 --- the point of which, if humor is intended, completely eludes me.I simply could not feel sympathetic for the downtrodden, sputtering Sholem Shachnah, who by accident alone comes into the possession of & ends up wearing a government official's hat in the course of a hectic railroad journey home to Kasrilevke, one that must be completed in time for him to be able to be with his family during Passover.Margin note: "The point of the story eludes me because Sholem didn't have a lifelong reputation for lying." Now, the story's flaws are twofold: it isn't humorous & the storyteller's logic failed him.Next up: Stanley Elkin's "The Meaning of Life," featured the world's greatest buildup to a punchline wasted on a story... without one. Seriously. Not even the annotation to the right side of the story can bail it out. Ouch.(This might remind you of having seen Jay Leno in the tailspin of his late television career when, flailing during the monologue, he'd tell the same joke twice - if it bombs the first time, tell it again; the second time it WILL be funny.)Philip Roth's "Letters to Einstein," a few pages later, lifted all boats from the previous silence without laughter, even if I had read it previously in Gene Shalit's "Laughing Matters " (1987), which is the risk we run when books arrive at our doors not in the order of their birth (this is why Literary Primogeniture died out after the creation of Amazon deliveries)."Laughing Matters" also features the Big Book's "Antenna On The Roof," the Mad magazine spoof of "Fiddler On The Roof," drawn & written by Frank Jacobs & Mort Drucker. Big Book's much larger pages, hence much larger artwork, wins the comparison by ten lengths.I am indebted to Dan Wakefield, whose memoir "New York in The 50s" (1992) alerted me to the existence of Marion Magid, whose excellent review of Theodore Reik's "Jewish Wit" was read prior to my encountering the introduction of Mr. Reik's book in the annotations starting on page 50. Marion lends perspective to Reik's apparently ill-fated venture into the quicksands of humor & comedy (& follows this review as a posted "comment").In all, there is much to recommend in The Big Book of Jewish Humor. What can top a cartoon with the caption, "The despondent Russian novelist planned to hang himself by leaping from atop his suicide note"? (which runs 500 pages & is three feet tall).I just wish that my sense of humor had aligned more harmoniously with the selections that found favor with William Novak & Moshe Waldoks, whose depth of character & goodwill visible in the tenor of their work, I admire.
  •     funny. I gave this to my Jewish friend. She reads on the John. Cant get her off the can now,
  •     the best seller and the best book
  •     This book came out a while ago yet it remains the best collection available. The various Jewish joke and humor anthologies published recently don't even come close and some are quite shoddy. This definitive, well-illustrated and definitely very "big" volume covers all types of humor from literary to stand-up to historical and more, with jokes, literary excerpts, yiddish curses, and representative selections from famous humorists and comedians as well as from obscure ones. You will find all your favorites here and you will discover some new favorites too. Perhaps the time has come for these authors to do a sequel? No one since them seems to be up to the task.Addendum: I posted the paragraph above a decade ago for the original edition of this book. There's a new 25th Anniversary edition now. While the humor is just as good as before, I must say that this new edition is possibly a missed opportunity. There has been quite a lot of excellent new Jewish humor in the past 25 years, some of it worthy of inclusion here, but the editors have chosen just to reprint the old edition with a different colored cover and an updated preface. Maybe they didn't want to tinker with a classic, but it may be time for a "New" Big Book of Jewish humor that acknowledges new humorists and new targets for satire.
  •     I got this book confused with Zvi's book on Jewish humor, which I didn't even read, but it's a scholarly treatise on the subject. Can you rectify my mistake? THIS is the large collection that I enjoyed so much reading and also found educational.
  •     Great jokes
  •     A good value, wood do business again
  •     Gotta have it. Buy it. You'll see what I mean.
  •     Honestly, the best book on Jewish humor and jokes.
  •     OK
  •     Good service and not a bad price either. Well satisfied with price as well as quality of merchandise. They produced what they promised.
  •     Birthday gift to a man that always has a joke to tell you...thought he needed new material..waiting for the new Humor....
  •     very used.
  •     Extracted from "Jewish and Goyish" by Lenny Bruce, in the 25th Anniversary Edition ofThe Big Book of Jewish Humor:"Dig: I'm Jewish. Count Basie's Jewish. Ray Charles is Jewish... If you live in New York or any other big city, you are Jewish. It doesn't matter even if you're Catholic; if you live in New York, you're Jewish. If you live in Butte, Montana, you're going to be goyish even if you're Jewish.""Kool-Aid is goyish. Evaporated milk is goyish even if the Jews invented it. Chocolate is Jewish and fudge is goyish. Fruit salad is Jewish. Lime Jello is goyish. Lime soda is very goyish. All Drake's Cakes are goyish. Pumpernickel is Jewish and, as you know, white bread is very goyish. Instant potatoes, goyish... Celebrate is a goyish word. Observe is a Jewish word."Butte, MT, happens to boast a beautiful onion-domed, historic synagogue, perched on a hillside near the Continental Divide, underOur Lady of the Rockies. Whether goyish or Jewish, this book is guaranteed to provide a few good laughs!

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