25 Funniest Jewish Comedians in History
Celebrating the rich variety of Jewish humor.
In 1978, Time magazine claimed that 80 percent of all stand-up comedians in the United States were Jewish. And this at a time when Jews made up only 3% of the U.S. By way of explanation, psychologist Samuel Janus told a meeting of the American Psychological Association that, “Jewish humor is born of depression and alienation from the general culture. For Jewish comedians, comedy is a defense mechanism to ward off the aggression and hostility of others." Or as Mel Brooks put it: “If they’re laughing, how can they bludgeon you to death?”
In 1978, 80 percent of American standup comics were Jewish.
Freud’s “Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious,” which was published in 1905, drew almost exclusively on Jewish stories, because, he maintained, they were the funniest and the most interesting. Salcia Landmann, a scholar of Yiddish, argued that Jewish humor is “more acute, more profound and richer in expression than that of any other people.”
A 2013 survey from the Pew Research Center, "Portrait of Jewish Americans," found that humor is one of the main qualities that four in 10 of the nation's 5.3 million religious and cultural Jews say is essential to their Jewish identity.
All this comedic examination brings to mind E.B. White’s wonderful quote, “Analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog. Few people are interested and the frog dies of it.” Therefore, let us instead celebrate the rich variety of Jewish humor from 25 of the funniest Jewish comedians in history. And for the love of God, let the poor frog live!
“We've come from the same history – 2000 years of persecution – we've just expressed our sufferings differently. Blacks developed the blues. Jews complained; we just never thought of putting it to music.”
“Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read.”
“At 60, I could do the same things I could do at 30, if I could only remember what those things are.”
“My parents didn't want to move to Florida, but they turned sixty and that's the law.”
“My grandfather always said, ‘Don't watch your money, watch your health.’ So one day while I was watching my health, someone stole my money. It was my grandfather.”
“My wife and I were happy for twenty years. Then we met..”
“Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die.”
“If you live in New York, even if you're Catholic, you're Jewish.”
“Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city.”
“Well it just goes to show you, it’s always something, you either got a toenail in your hamburger or toilet paper clinging to your shoe.” (as Roseanne Roseannadanna on SNL)
“I hate housework! You make the beds, you do the dishes and six months later you have to start all over again.”
“Room service is great. If you want to pay $500 for a club sandwich.”
“The guy who invented the first wheel was an idiot. The guy who invented the other three, he was a genius.”
“My wife and I have a perfect understanding. I don't try to run her life, and I don't try to run mine.”
“When I was a kid, I said to my father one afternoon, 'Daddy, will you take me to the zoo?' He answered, 'If the zoo wants you, let them come and get you'.”
“I don't deserve this award, but I have arthritis and I don't deserve that either.”
“I was in Kashmir last weekend. Went to visit one of my sweaters.”
“I’m not going to vacuum ’til Sears makes one you can ride on.
“I'm very loyal in a relationship. Any relationship. When I go out with my mom, I don't look at other moms and go, "I wonder what her macaroni and cheese tastes like."
“I was in the De Witt Clinton High School marching band. One of the worst bands ever formed. When we played the national anthem, people from every country stood – except Americans.”
Nichols & May
“No doubt you are as alarmed as I by the tragic decline in America's language skills. If 10 people read the following sentence: ‘Two tanker trucks have just overturned in Alaska, spilling a total of 10,000 gallons of beer onto a highway,’ two would find an error in subject-verb agreement, two would find an error in spelling, and six would find a sponge and drive north.”
“Okay, now be quiet, I will pay $1000 to any woman that will beat me in this ring. I will not only do that, I will shave my head completely bald if I am beaten here. And any woman that will beat me has an extra prize she will get to marry me. Right here. She will take my hand in marriage. I will offer my hand in marriage if she beats me right here.”
“If you've never met a student from the University of Chicago, I'll describe him to you. If you give him a glass of water, he says, ‘This is a glass of water. But is it a glass of water? And if it is a glass of water, why is it a glass of water?’ And eventually he dies of thirst.”
“Most people past college age are not atheists. It's too hard to be in society, for one thing. Because you don't get any days off. And if you're an agnostic you don't know whether you get them off or not.”
“I am lazy, but for some reason, I am so paranoid that I end up working hard.”