On the Horizon: The Dialect Comedian Should Vanish
Henry Popkin, in his article “The Vanishing Jew of Our Popular Culture,” in the July COMMENTARY, laments the fact that hypersensitive people in considerable numbers have protested so vehemently against Jewish dialect humor that as a result it has had to go into hiding. I say that it should stay there. Jewish humor and popular Jewish culture will not be the poorer for it. As a practicing humorist, I have come to the conclusion that to mimic broken English is as painful to the immigrant as mimicking a limp is to the cripple. There are even worse implications.
Mr. Popkin feels that by rejecting dialect we are “sha-sha-ing,” Aryanizing, that we are dishonestly eliminating a section of Jewish humor which should be given free play. I admit that in my own work I have deliberately expurgated dialect stories. I’ll tell you why, too. I was in the audience of a night club while a famous “dialectician” was regaling a predominantly Gentile audience with stories of shrewd Jewish businessmen, of fat and uncultured Jewish women in mink coats, stories of Jews who outwit Gentiles—and the audience howled. Their laughter frightened me. The entire scene recalled the Nazi beer hall where comedians with derby hats and beards told the same type of story to those who later were to become the executioners of our people. This may sound extreme, but it is my belief that any Jew who, in humor or otherwise, strengthens the misconceptions and the prejudices against his own people is neither a good Jew nor a responsible human being.
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