Worth Considering

In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review August 4, 2008 / 3 Menachem-Av 5768

A black and a Jew walk into the White House…

By Andrew Silow-Carroll

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Why Lieberman can be made fun of and Obama can't

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | I wasn't going to bother with the whole Obama "humor deficit thing," until I began wondering if anyone has compared Obama jokes to Lieberman jokes.

In talking about the late-night comedians' inability to get a comedic "handle" on Obama, it's a useful compare-and-contrast. Like Obama, Lieberman as vice presidential candidate under Gore was breaking ethnic ground — the first in his ethnic group to be considered for so high an office. And like Obama, Lieberman had a virtuous, even sanctimonious, reputation in 2000.

So why were there more Lieberman jokes? Could it suggest that America is more willing to mock Jews than blacks, and Jews are more accepting of such jokes? The short answer is yes. The long answer is — well, first consider what was funny about Lieberman the First Jewish Vice Presidential Candidate.

There were basically two categories of Lieberman Jewish jokes. First there were the old-school ethnic jokes, playing off (fairly mild, but sometimes uncomfortable) Jewish stereotypes: Jews drive a hard bargain. Jews have guilt. Jews eat funny foods. Jews have strange holidays.

Consider one of the "Top 21 Results of Having a Jewish Vice President," which wandered around the Internet: "U.S. never to pay retail again for nuclear warheads." Or this one from freelance writer Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe: "Although Lieberman has not yet mapped out his full domestic agenda, he did say that all the White House furniture will be covered in plastic slip covers."

Cute. Offensive? Told among Jews, no big deal. If Leno told them, we could live with it. I wouldn't want to hear such jokes from Pat Buchanan, but they're not exactly a blood libel.

Second were the insider-y jokes, told by Jews themselves, who juxtaposed the worlds of observant Judaism and the Executive Branch. About minyanim (prayer quorums) in the Oval Office, for example, or a kosher supervisor aboard Air Force One. These are the kinds of jokes Jon Stewart told. Lieberman "has promised to build that bridge to the 58th century," quipped Stewart, and will work for the American people "24/6."

Again, fairly harmless — and funny to about 740 people who happen to live on the Upper West Side.

Now Obama. If late-night talk show hosts were to tell jokes about him using even mild ethnic stereotypes, they would keep wandering into dangerous territory. First, the hosts are all white. It's low-risk for Jon Stewart to tell Jewish jokes, because he is a Jew. And it's safe for a non-Jew like Leno to tell Jewish jokes because — well, the entertainment industry is Jewish, in the sense that Jews are represented disproportionately not only on the creative side, but on the content side. Jewish stereotypes abound in entertainment, but they are largely benign. At worst, we're pushy and ethnic. At best, we're the truth-telling outsiders, like Judd Hirsch in Independence Day or Jeff Goldblum in every movie he's ever made.

Jewish jokes have also lost their sting thanks to our community's great economic, professional, and academic success. In that sense, to use a phrase popular in the academic press, Jews have become white people.

White hosts have a problem with black humor because so many black stereotypes — and let's face it, humor demands stereotypes — are weighed down by historical baggage and the continued perception of racial inequality. A black comedian like Chris Rock can riff on single motherhood, black-on-black crime, and 100 other close-to-the-bone stereotypes, but Jay Leno can't. So he's relegated to gags like this one, about Obama's prowess on the basketball court: "Let me tell you something. If shooting baskets now is a requirement to be president, a white guy may never have that job again."

Leno managed to find perhaps the least touchy stereotype about blacks and make it funny. But where else can he go?

Finally, there's Obama himself. It is not that he is humorless. It's that he confounds black stereotypes, and comedians haven't found an alternative. To joke that Joe Lieberman would serve gefilte fish at the White House works as a (not very funny) joke because you can imagine Lieberman as a typical older Jewish guy. But to say that 50 Cent will be Obama's secretary of defense rings false, because comedians sense, rightly or wrongly, that Obama isn't "that kind" of black man. Their audiences perceive his background as too diverse, his education and demeanor as too "white," for the black stereotypes to get much purchase. And perhaps in confounding black stereotypes, Obama is helping to knock them down.

None of this has to do with "political correctness." It's really about the authenticity of joke-telling — that a joke works only if it is grounded in something we suspect or acknowledge as "true." That Lieberman is "Jew-y." That Gore is stiff. That Bill Clinton is a rogue.

Comedians, who've tagged McCain as "old," are still struggling to find that unshakeable comedic label for Obama. They've tried smug, messianic, self-righteous. Jackie Mason calls him an empty suit, a "doorman." And still Obama slips the punch line.

But give it time. Presidential races have a way of making a joke out of everybody.

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JWR contributor Andrew Silow-Carroll is the editor in chief of the New Jersey Jewish News, where this article first appeared. To comment, please click here.

© 2008, Andrew Silow-Carroll