"Holocaust jokes are never cool"

"I Need Laughs" Part 2, posted yesterday, features excerpts of my email exchange with a lady who didn't like a joke I told. Here's the rest.

On Feb 22, 2009, at 10:32 PM, [redacted] wrote:

Saw you tonight at Three of Cups... doesn't matter if you're Jewish... Holocaust jokes are never cool. They're just not. Add it to your Feng Shui list...

On Feb 23, 2009, at 1:27 AM, Matt Ruby wrote:

Hmm, too soon still ya think? Or do you think the fact that I'm pro-holocaust shows through in the joke?

Did you know that Roberto Benigni made a whole movie about the holocaust and it's a comedy? Totally uncool. You should contact him too! Even worse, he won an Oscar for that movie! That never would have happened if Jews had some influence in Hollywood. Don't you agree? The whole thing is clearly mashugana.

Thanks for taking the time to express your disappointment in me and give me a guilt trip. You really are a good Jew.

On Feb 23, 2009, at 9:43 AM, [redacted] wrote:

"Life is Beautiful' is so not a comedy.

I don't care if you talk about the Holocaust... but trying to get laughs with ovens and gas is really just tasteless. Evidence... no one laughed. Consider your audience. This is New York, not Oklahoma. I bet at least 1/4 of the room last night was Jewish.

AND... even if you were someplace with no Jewish population and the audience found your heinous 'jokes' funny... at best you'd just be an ignorance-perpetuating material-starved mercenary. Trivializing people's personal tragedies is one of the lowest forms of comedy. And no, I'm not a survivor (clearly) but my grandfather was and the rest of his family WASN'T. So haha, ovens and gas, that's really hilarious. And for those who don't have a personal connection to the Holocaust... how dare you make them think it's something to be made light of.

On Feb 23, 2009, at 3:40 PM, Matt Ruby wrote:

Sandy, I'm sorry you're so ferklempt about this. But actually, some people (maybe even Jews!?) did laugh at the joke. In fact, a few even applauded at the end of it. The chutzpah of these people for having a sense of humor. They're clearly kakameyme.

I get you didn't think it was funny. But you don't get to make the rules for everyone else. Unless you're some kinda fascist dictator. And we know how you feel about those.

Anyway, you're right that personal tragedy is nothing to base comedy on. Everyone knows the best comedians focus on topics that we can ALL agree are safe, tasteful, and inoffensive. On that note, I'm off to work on a joke about how crazy the flavors of Dentyne Ice are. Arctic Chill!? C'mon, that's not even a real thing to taste like! It's like having gum that's flavored "Ice Cube." GOLD I tell ya!!!


soce said...

My general rule for jokes is that it's only offensive if it's not funny :-) The more offensive the topic, the funnier it has to be to pull it off..

Also some people protested Saw II because there's some scene where someone gets roasted alive in an oven..

myq said...

At least this person didn't say that Holocaust jokes can never be FUNNY... they just said they are never COOL.

Which is fair.

When's the last time someone said to you, "Matt, that Holocaust joke you said was totally cool"?

PS I think the joke where you called them a fascist is pretty cool.

PPS This statement is of interest:

"Trivializing people's personal tragedies is one of the lowest forms of comedy."

Is that true?

Certainly, trivializing one's OWN personal tragedies is some of the highest form of comedy that I've seen.

But the Holocaust isn't anyone's PERSONAL tragedy. It's a fairly public tragedy. (Albeit one that caused lots of personal tragedies, sure.)

Ultimately, some people don't like to think about sad things, and they think that other people ALSO don't like to think about sad things, so they send emails.

But this is worth noting--remember a couple years ago when an Iranian paper (I think) had a Holocaust joke contest? (True story.) Where the most offensive, anti-Jew, Holocaust-denying stuff was rewarded?
And Israeli paper (I believe) responded to that not by having an anti-Iran contest, but by having their OWN anti-Jew/Holocaust joke contest.

Because they had a sense of humor about it.

Point is, Jews are funny, and it's puns and wordplay that are the lowest form of comedy.

PPPS Did you know if scramble the letters in "gas oven" you get "nose vag"?

Anonymous said...

As an Irish-Catholic comic married to a lovely Jewish woman, I think have a good perspective on this topic. Frequently, when I'm with my wife, we joke about Jewishness and the stereotypes involved with it. I've also made a few Holocaust jokes with her AND her mom, and both of them have laughed and haven't taken offense. This is probably because they have great, warped senses of humor but not everyone takes offense to that kind of material.

Mel Brooks wrote The Producers which includes "Springtime for Hitler." He's one of the defining voices of Jewish comedy. I read somewhere a quote he said about why he did something so relatively shocking. His response was that by making jokes about Hitler and the Holocaust, you're taking away the power that the Nazi's have. And, despite being a defeated party after a World War, they still do have power since that topic still gets people very angry and upset.

Also: you can make jokes about anything. If they're good jokes, they're good jokes.

Doogie Horner said...

I'm more offended by hacky jokes than offensive jokes.

There's a comic in Philadelphia right now who has a Holocaust joke that's been killing, I haven't heard anyone go "ooooh" at it yet. But the joke kind of winks, it sort of makes fun of Holocaust deniers. It's so over the top that it's obviously a joke.

Interesting related story (hopefully): I have a friend who's a Latino comic. A lot of his jokes make fun of Latinos, but it's okay, because he's Latino, right? BUT it turns out he has a writing partner, who's an old white man. And that guy writes a lot of the Latino jokes. So to that guy, they're just honestly racist jokes. Which I find hilarious.

Mo Diggs said...

I don't know Matt I think you should change your act because of one angry e-mail. That's what Richard Pryor did. He was onstage in Vegas, checked his email on his Blackberry and abruptly walked offstage.

myq said...

I think that only black people should be allowed to make Blackberry jokes.

Also, I deny that there are any Holocaust deniers. I'm a Holocaust denier denier.
(Has anyone else ever made that joke? If so, I deny them also.)

Abbi Crutchfield said...

The Holocaust...I should know what that is.

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