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10 Simple Tips for Making Jews Laugh

January 12, 2017 | by Stephanie D. Lewis

Don’t resort to Fiddlerization or Yentl-ication.

Ever since my article “Mattel Releases 13 New Jewish Barbies” was published right here, I’ve had many humor writers ask me for advice on making their own stuff specifically funny for Jewish readers. I apologize for ignoring your emails and texts all these months, but I already have enough competition with all the other clever wit and intelligence surfacing weekly on Jewlarious. Additionally, I’m constantly feeling challenged to write younger than my years so my strict Jewlarious editor won’t consider me an old fogey. Even now, just using the outdated phrase “old fogey” was a risky choice for me and I could be cleaning out my author drawer as of today.

Nevertheless, because one of my secular New Year’s resolutions is to be more altruistic, I will graciously put aside feeling vulnerable and threatened by your obvious talent and youth long enough to divulge the following 10 Tips:

  1. Figure out a unique theme that hasn’t been overdone in the Jewish community: A good way to do this is to make a list of everyday categories and then Jewicise them. Note: If you google “Jewicise” you won’t find a definition saying, “Verb: Jewish form of exercise comprised of chair-lifts during the hora.” And Jewicise isn’t related to “Circumcise” either (even though they share the same root suffix) but it can’t hurt during editing to make a few sharp cuts in places you have unfunny skin err shtick. The fact is I just invented the word, “Jewicise” two minutes ago. There’s no better way to describe a technique I implement which involves taking random, but clearly NON-Jewish subject matter like board games, Barbie dolls, Super Bowl Sunday parties, flowers, men’s clothing, romance, or food (alright, so that last one is a poor example) and subtly morphing it into ingenious satire or parody that only Jews will comprehend. (See the rest of my tips below for more details on Jewicising, but hands off ‘Super Bowl Sunday Parties’ because I’m calling dibs on writing this one for early February!)

  2. Don’t think just tossing in a few Hebrew words, some Yiddish expressions, or retelling a famous Jewish anecdote will make your stuff automatically giggle-worthy. That’s known as getting ‘Seinfeldian’ on your readers and will immediately result in people calling you an ‘Anti-Dentite’ like Tim Whatley, the gentile dentist who converted to Judaism in episode 19 of Season 8 just so he could make Jewish jokes to his patients.

  3. Don’t resort to Fiddlerization. This is the tendency to want to capitalize on scenes or dialogue from the movie/musical Fiddler on the Roof because there are valuable nuggets and golden moments to be mined (and spoofed) from Tevye. No! Never steal from my friend, Tevye. As if he’s a rich man, sheesh.

  4. Yentl-ication won’t work either. Anything Barbra Streisand related is passé and again will result in the Jewlarious editor deeming you ancient and putting you out to pasture.

  5. Make up lots of new lingo. Seinfeldian, Yentlication, Fiddlerization, Jewicise. Right?? Could I be any more uproarious?

  6. Don’t try to heal people with your trademark Jewish humor. Seriously? Who do you think you are? A bowl of chicken noodle? Just because most people cannot easily spell Refuah Shleima doesn’t mean they don’t believe in speedy recoveries.

  7. Peppering prose w/ prolific puns. And heavy use of alliteration. Yes, do this! Jewish people always love excess.

  8. Add the suffix “–ish” to any of your words and it’s sure to get a huge chuckle, like “nebbish.” Better example -- “Q) What time will dinner be served? A) Around six o’clockish.” That’s a hysterical bit right there. Particularly if you believe that showing up at 6:05 means there will be any dessert left.

  9. Don’t poke fun at yourself to elicit easy laughs. Especially by acting like you’re not as intelligent as most Jews. Very cliché. Even moreso if you pretend you don’t know what fancy, large words mean. I recommend using self-deprecation instead. See? Not funny.

  10. Steer clear of anything that might be construed to be in bad taste. Jewish people are schooled in all things delicious and your brand of ill-flavored drollness will be eschewed faster than a jar of spoiled gefilte fish. And should you become even slightly heavy-handed with your jokes, your stuff will be compared to Bubbe’s light and fluffy matzo balls and deemed unkosher. Wait? Did I already advise that food is a topic grossly overdone in Jewish comedy?

You’ll thank me later for all these guidelines. Okay, alright . . . so possibly I’ve deliberately misadvised you on a few things because I don’t want my future writing competition to be too fierce. Is that such a crime? Just figure out which ones they are and do the opposite. And meanwhile, I’ll already have a few small sins to cast off during 2017’s Tashlich ceremony when our New Year arrives on September 20th.

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