Is comedy universal? Brass knuckles interfaith hard ball comedy. The dilemma of comedy being “pure” without the baggage of tradition and history. The recent trip of Mark Breslin and Yuk Yuks on “goodwill” tour of Israel is proof is that comedy and peace is at hand, albeit still mainly a sleight of hand.
For centuries Jews had been living in the old ghettos of Eastern Europe and the West. During the nineteenth century, most Western Jews such as in Germany decided to assimilate themselves to the prevailing emancipated culture around them,secularism, in the belief and desire,they could discard the image of the “other” and gain rights and status normally denied them. This shedding was part of the “new jew” envisioned by Zionism, free from the burden of tradition and conforming to the ideal of the non-Jewish male bourgeoise that arose with the template of the Enlightenment. But the old jew, the idiom of Fiddler on the Roof, was also the source of Jewish comedy, yiddish theatre and long tradition of storytelling; the transmission of experience. The seculars dumped the old clothes, the “exotic” types of behavior and even encouraged the attributions of a whole construction of behavior to them: fast talking, effeminity, limp, diseased, noisy messianism, absence of hygiene, barely legal marriages, etc. to distinguish themselves and justify this jewish pecking order. Along the way, from about 1860, much of the centuries of heritage and traditions were evaporated.
Eastern Jews, known as the “Ostjuden”, for some reason did not try to assimilate, holding on to old ways and means of living. The leaders of their more “civilized” Jewish brethren in Germany, Austro-Hungary, France and England considered them basically an embarrassment, wanting to create “lebensraum” between them and what was considered a barbaric past, such as Hasidism and orthodoxy. On the other hand, there was also an interest in the old ways shown by much of the population, and novels of ghetto life were very popular, despite broader efforts to de-legitimize Eastern Jews.
( see link at end) …A visit here by popular Canadian comedians meant to enhance Canadian-Israeli friendship turned controversial in more than one way.
Mark Breslin, founder and CEO of Yuk Yuk’s, Canada’s national standup comedy company, brought six of his top comedians – Aaron Berg, Nikki Payne, Rebecca Kohler, Jean Paul, Sam Easton, and Michael Khardas – to perform for an Israeli tour from May 30 to June 7, …
…Yet a few days later, performing at the Legacy Hotel in east Jerusalem, the experience with a Palestinian audience turned unpleasant, according to an op-ed in the Jerusalem Post by Canadian Professor Gil Troy….
…“They put on a raunchy, funny show – for free – showering the crowd with dirty words – and descriptions of dirtier actions. But, as Breslin explains, ‘while we thought we might get into trouble over the darker stuff we do about sex, death and bodily functions, that’s been no issue. It was one word, one word, that got everybody up in arms. And that word was ‘Israel.’”
Comedian Rebecca Kohler “was ‘accosted in the bathroom’ and told to remove her Canada-Israel flag pin,” Paul said. Easton, the comedian who initially inflamed the audience by saying they were all having a great time in Israel, apologized, according to the Post story. “This is a very confusing city,” he said. “I am sorry if I insulted or offended anybody.” Even the Canadian diplomats there claimed that Israel stole Palestinian land, Breslin told Troy, adding: “We weren’t trying toe a political statement. There was just a little bit of ignorance on our part.”…
…American-Israeli Nomi Gutenmacher claimed that none of the advance publicity “alluded to the fact that the attendees would be exposed to pornography. I’m not even talking about the vulgarity, or the altogether not-very-funny performances. The last gig was absolutely pornographic, by any standards….
“Mark Breslin said that he brought this group to Israel because his Jewish identity is tied up with his humour. I have no idea how this ties in to being Jewish in any way.”…
“Performed by George Carlin or Lenny Bruce, potty mouth can be brilliant,” said Toronto native Ruth Warzecha. “It makes the listener think. Performed by a low-talent exhibitionist, it’s just embarrassing and awkward to sit through.”…
A writer like Kafka was drawn to the Yiddish theater after seeing a traveling troupe in Prague in 1911. The plays were kitchy, lowbrow, schmaltzy and risque for the time, but he was transfixed anyway. His father disapproved, even mortified by this interest in Jewish Jew culture. He became good friends with one of the actors, Isaac Löwy,and they hung out with Lowy telling him about his childhood and life in Poland, White Russia, the world of yiddishkeit were German was not spoken and Berlin was off the radar. Kafka even gave a lecture, “Speech on the Yiddish tongue.”
( see link)…They hung out in bars or in Berta Fanta’s salon – upstairs from her husband’s pharmacy; they drank absinthe, they had sex with actresses (I’m sure they did; I don’t have historical data at my fingertips, but believe me, they did); they stayed up all night and talked about Expressionism and Modern Music; they discussed the ideas of Einstein and Freud, who were both kicking up their heels around this time.
These are my people – artistic, passionate, brilliant, a bit louche and always horny. Read More:http://notesfromaculinarywasteland.com/2011/06/24/bohemia/
Kafka’s father, as mentioned, was not impressed with this Jewish archeology of rummaging through the closet touching the mysticism and spirituality that were outside the pale of Liberal democratic thinking in the West. Hermann Kafka had avoided a destitute Jewish upbringing in Wossek, about fifty miles from Prague, and had made a reputation with a store, and was following the mobility route by assimilating; he looked disconcerted by this fascination with what he perceived as backwards, not really catching the Walter Benjamin nuance of emancipation of the discarded object and its revolutionary potential. Franz brought up Judaism in his “Letter to His Father,” and astutely noted that the push towards secularism, atheism made Judaism into a cultural object feeding the sentiments of inferiority by relegating it to the role of unfortunate birth defect. He called the residue after assimilation, “insufficient scraps” , and “a joke not even a joke,” but Kafka as well had a great deal of ambivalence towards Judaism; something that could be mined and vampired for literary framework but not something to be engaged in on a profound level….
(see link at end)… “If I honestly believe it is out of ignorance or their intention is not to be malicious with it, I am OK with that. But when I honestly believe that that’s what somebody believes, that’s when I have a problem with what somebody is saying,” Paul says. For Easton, that is precisely the point. “Some people say, ‘These are just jokes.’…
But jokes are so powerful,” he said. “You begin to understand the power that you hold in simple phrases.” Read More:http://www.haaretz.com/weekend/anglo-file/canadian-comics-struggle-to-get-a-laugh-in-israel-1.435149a
…(see link at end)…The advice “don’t cross your legs when meeting an Arab” was part of a list of tips issued by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) police in an advisory for non-Arab expatriates on how to deal with Emiratis and other Arab citizens.
According to the news site “Emirates 24/7″ on Thursday, the tips were published in the first issue of the Ministry of Interior’s English language monthly police magazine 999, released this week.
The police explained that crossing one’s legs and pointing one’s feet at a companion’s direction is seen as an insult….”The Arab sense of humor is well-developed and can provide a useful bridge to establishing a relationship,” the report said. However, expats must not belittle or make a joke of the Arab.Read More:http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/249106/pinoyabroad/when-meeting-an-arab-don-t-cross-your-legs
(see link at end)…“It’s not harmless, you don’t know the culture of the people,” one responded. Another accused this black man of being “racially insensitive.” “Sometimes people in thinking that they are helping, are not helping,” the softspoken comedian says. “It seemed like there was an agenda here. They came out to scold. These weren’t Palestinians or Israelis, these were white people trying to tell me they were offended on behalf of others.”…
…In East Jerusalem, Easton did not “blow” anything; the rude Palestinians did. Once again, Israeli democratic openness defeated Palestinian totalitarianism. A gracious response explaining the Palestinians’ position without humiliating their guests would have worked. But Palestinian public culture cannot tolerate such flexibility – even as off-the-record events, private interactions, life itself, invite more malleability. The brittle, aggressive reaction, echoed by Canadian diplomats violating their mission to be honest brokers, let alone defend democracy, reinforced by white people calling a proud black man “racist” when the conflict is national not racial, lost their audience, the visiting comics….Read More:http://giltroyzionism.wordpress.com/2012/06/05/when-canadian-comedy-confronts-palestinian-enmity-israeli-democracy-wins/
(see link at end)…My personal favourite is one Lebanese stand-up comedian’s hilarious take on the chaotic discovery of people power in the region. In the video titled “Demonstrations Delivery”, the comedian poses as the provider of a full protesters service (“wonderful protesters, men, women, youth, whatever is required”) from the comfort of his office and the end of a telephone line.
“You want 300 protesters in front of the electricity company? No problem, I will find the perfect sample . . . and if you pay more, I can offer 10 who can shout slogans in French and will throw in another five English speakers for free,” he tells a caller.
When the electricity company calls shortly after, having heard of an imminent protest against it, the comedian is delighted. He offers to rent out another 300 demonstrators to counter the anti-company ones already booked. “They won’t clash, don’t worry,” he says. “I’m sending all 600 protesters from here and they will get divided once they get there.”
Of course the clip is partly about the manipulation of protests (and the efficiency of Lebanon’s service economy). Mostly, however, it is a brilliant take on the wonders and excesses of Arab youth empowerment.Read More:http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/e672c208-71c3-11e1-b853-00144feab49a.html#axzz20KAc84WY