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Joan Rivers: humor with a Jewish touch

Joan Rivers: humor with a Jewish touch

As people remember the life of Joan Rivers, Cathy Lynn Grossman of the Religion News Service reflects upon the Jewish cultural aspect of some of her humor. Grossman reports:

Rivers would say, “Comedy is truth. … You’re going to get what I think is the truth and it’s going to be raw.”

How raw? Last year she was called out for making a Holocaust joke at the expense of German supermodel Heidi Klum.

Admiring Klum’s Oscar gown, Rivers said, “The last time a German looked this hot was when they were pushing Jews into the ovens.”

Later, she told CNN: “It’s a joke. … That’s the way I remind people about the Holocaust. I do it through humor. … My husband lost his entire family in the Holocaust, so let’s just start with that. Your generation doesn’t even know what I’m talking about.“

Go after the real anti-Semites, she said. She was equally fierce in support of Israel.

For the full article, please visit the Religion News Service here.


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Knowing how close she was to her passing, I’m choosing to see the vile remarks (mentioned by GPG) as indicators that there were mental health issues at work here.

At her best, I think Joan was THE comic of (what’s known as) the Sexual Revolution. NO ONE *exposed* the changing dynamics of men and women over the past 50 years the way Joan did.

A old fave:

“First Husband: fake furs, real orgasm.

Second Husband: real furs, fake orgasm.”

[Disclaimer: joke not PETA approved. Possibly among others!]

JC Fisher

Gary Paul Gilbert

Toward the end of her career many people no longer found her funny such as when she said the Obama is the first gay President or the First Lady is transgender. She may have had the Gay Men’s Chorus at her funeral, but she had begun to alienate gay fans.

Although she was working within a genre where the comedian sees how far they can go in insulting the audience, there are limits, such as when she joked in August that the 2,000 Palestinians killed by the Israeli military deserved to be dead. She backtracked on that one and wrote that it was just a joke.

Freud taught that a joke is more than just a joke.

I prefer to remember her jokes from many years ago, when, in front of a prosperous audience in the Catskills, she looks at a woman with a big diamond ring and says to the couple, “It’s fake!,” playing on the group’s social insecurities. A group which had recently risen in society still feared it might one day be shown to be unassimilable. And one can go further and say that she joked about insecurities shared by all Americans as offspring of immigrants.

Gary Paul Gilbert

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