Commentary Magazine

ENTER LAUGHING: The Savile Row Suit Joke

Every month in this space, Joseph Epstein relates a Jewish joke and invites you, the COMMENTARY reader, to offer an exegesis of it in 250 words or less. First off, this month’s new joke.


The Savile Row Suit Joke

Trevor Pomeroy — Tevye Pinsky —having recently been made a full partner in the London solicitors firm of Clarendon, Larimer, and Ayer, wants to mark the event by doing something special for his dear father, who worked so hard at his small grocery store in the East End to put him through Charterhouse and then Cambridge. The old man insists he wants nothing, needs nothing, his son’s success is all he requires.

“Papa,” he says, “you must let me do something. Without you, Papa, none of this would have been possible.

“Not necessary, mine dear boy,” Pinsky, the father, says. “Not necessary.”

But the son persists, and the fatherfinally agrees to let him have a suit made for him where his son has his own suits made, at the firm ofAnderson and Sheppard, haberdasher in their day to the Prince of Wales and Fred Astaire, Anderson and Sheppard, the summit of English tailoring.

A buttery soft charcoal cashmere fabric, with a faint gray stripe, is chosen. The suit is to be single-breasted, with a vest with its own lapels, all handstitched. The garment costs £2,375. The son accompanies his father to no fewer than seven fittings. At the final fitting, son and tailor are both satisfied, and the old man, at his son’s request, wears the suit out of the shop.

Once out on Old Burlington Street, Mr. Pinsky breaks down, and begins weeping profusely.

“Papa,” asks his son, “are you crying because you are so proud of my being able to buy you such a magnificent suit? Is that why you are crying?”

“Not at all, idiotke,” says the old man. “I’m crying because we lost India.”


Now here’s the joke that ran in our September issue.


The Cohen Wedding Joke

On the train from Chicago to Los Angeles, the conductor, walking down the aisle collecting tickets, comes to a small, aging, distinctly unprosperous-looking man dozing over his newspaper.

“Forgive me, conductor,” says the man, with a slight foreign accent, “but I don’t have a ticket.”

“What do you mean, you don’t have a ticket?”

“Allow me to explain,” says the man. “My name is Bernard Cohen, and my son, David, my only child, is getting married on Sunday in Los Angeles. His mother, olev ha sholom, died two years ago, and I am the boy’s only surviving relative. He is just starting out in life, my son, and I couldn’t let him pay for his father’s ticket, though he offered to do so. I myself live on Social Security, nothing more, and barely get by. I didn’t have the money for a train ticket, yet how could I let my son be married without his father present? I hope, sir, you will find it in your heart to understand.”

The conductor, not a heartless man, pats Mr. Cohen on the shoulder. “I do understand,” he says. “Forget about the ticket. Consider it my wedding present to your son. Enjoy the wedding, Mr. Cohen.”

“Thank you so much,” says Mr. Cohen.

Two cars up, the conductor comes upon another aging man, also dozing.

“Ticket. Ticket please,” he says.

“Ticket?” says the man.  “What ticket? I don’t have any ticket.”

“No ticket,” says the conductor, impatience edging into anger in his voice. “What do you mean, you don’t have a ticket? What’s going on here? Explain.”

“Oh,” says the man. “Cohen invited me to the wedding.”


The Winning Explication of Last Month’s Joke…

…Alas, there is no winner for this month’s Enter Laughing competition. Might it be that “The Cohen Wedding Joke” made readers a touch nervous, with its slight suggestion of anti-Semitism? A winning entry might have considered that Mr. Cohen is, in the good Yiddish word, a schnorrer, or mooch. But he is a schnorrer of so high a power—the power imbued, let it be said, by his effrontery—that there is almost a grandeur to his schnorring. Not only has he an impressive sob story for being unable to pay for his train ticket, but he invites along a friend, who he presumes is to travel at the same rate. Why not also, one wonders, a small Klezmer band, all traveling gratis, the guests of Mr. ­Cohen and, of course, his benefactor the railroad? There is craft, if not art, even in schnorring, and Mr. Cohen is nothing if not a craftsman in this line. So let us salute Mr. Cohen and wish his son and his beautiful young wife mazel tov.


Again, please e-mail your exegeses of “The Savile Row Suit Joke” (250 words or fewer) to:

[email protected] Entries must be received by December 1.

About the Author

Joseph Epstein is a regular contributor to COMMENTARY.

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