Jews are just funny*

There’s no two ways around it, I’m a starfucker.  (For those of you who are my mother, that means that when I encounter famous people, become obsequious, and then tell the world that I met so-and-so.)  This is still true for me despite having spent some years working in the entertainment industry.

Speaking of, this weekend I met the hilariously wry Paul Rudnick!  He was at the bookseller convention promoting his new book, “I Shudder.”  You can buy it here:

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(The blurb on the back of the book is from Steve Martin, who I met once, btw.)

As I was saying, Paul Rudnick, author of “I Hate Hamlet” and all the good parts of The New Yorker, was at the book show in Baltimore this weekend.  And since he makes me laugh, my goal was to make him laugh (and notice me, and converse with me and recommend me to his agent and his editor and anyone else who will make me famous.)  But mostly I wanted to make him laugh.  I bet you’re dying to know if I succeeded.  Reader, I did.

He and a bookseller at my table were talking about Jews and being Jewish and how being Jewish is automatically funnier than anything else.  *I’m not Jewish, but my great-great grandmother on my mother’s side was, making me eligible for Judaism if I want, I think.  I also think that also gives me permission to make the occasional good-natured generalization, like I did in the title.   To safely use negative sterotpyes for humor, I think you have to be raised Jewish, or at least have a Jewish grandmother.

Anyhoo, Mr. Rudnick and the bookseller were talking about how they knew wonderful old Jewish women who would find the most wonderfully ridiculous ways to complain.  That’s when I knew I had to tell the story of the greatest worst awfulust complaint I had ever heard.

Years ago, I used to work at a retail store in New York.  In my tenure there, the owner of the store converted to Judism so that she could be buried in the same Jewish cemetery as her deceased (non-practicing at the time of his death) husband.  You know what they say about converts…  Once she finished her conversion, there was not a single conversation where she couldn’t find a way to bring up being Jewish.  At first it was annoying, but after a while, I began to appreciate the art of it.  For instance, she’d wish a staff member a happy birthday but only with the reminder that she would have eaten some of the birthday cake if only someone had thought to cut the cake with a kosher knife.

If you asked her how she was doing, she’d often say something like, “as good as anyone can be with the state of Israel these days.”

But the best story of all, the one that made Paul Rudnick and the rest of the table laugh, was the one that took place on a really hot day one summer.  I was standing at the front counter with Ira, a Brooklyn resident, who was Jewish by association and first name more than anything else.  I don’t think he ever gave his heritage much thought, and never mentioned anything, and could always be counted on to work on Yom Kippur.  As we stood there, the convert/owner of the store walked by at the same time a guy came into the store, dripping with sweat.  We greeted him and he grimaced and said, “geez, the heat out there!  It’s oppressive!”

To which the store owner/convert replied. “Well, Ira and I know what it’s like to be oppressed.”

You can’t make this stuff up.  But you can convert to it.

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7 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by elizabeth on October 7, 2009 at 7:31 am

    I was a witness……Paul Rudnick did laugh at this – heartily, I might add.

  2. He should laugh at that, that was hilarious. I hope you and Ira laughed at it too when she said it.

  3. Posted by Courtney on October 7, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    Ha! Awesome.

  4. Ha!

    One of my friends is Jewish and I’ve spent a random Sabbath and Rosh Hashanah with her and her family. I feel like I’m part Jewish. Or at least just more informed about their religion. (All my previous knowledge came from Sex & The City when Charlotte converted.)

  5. Ha! Good one! I will agree, they are pretty funny. Except when they speak in Hebrew, but that may only be because I don’t speak Hebrew.

  6. That’s hysterical! And I totally have to read that book now. 🙂

  7. Hahaha! Awesome. And I’m so jealous that you met Paul Rudnick and made him laugh!

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