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They Should Live So Long

A new website archives the best of a disappearing art: old Jews telling jokes.


On the Internet, humor comes in many forms: viral videos, funny photos, snark. But is there still room for an actual long-form two-Jews-walk-into-a-bar joke?
Apparently. Since Sam Hoffman launched in January, he has had 2 million page views and secured a DVD deal. The site, for which he filmed family members and friends telling 30-second-to-three-minute stories, is a labor of curatorial affection for Hoffman, a 42-year-old producer and assistant director (among his credits is Woody Allen’s Curse of the Jade Scorpion). “I like the idea of trying to capture a portrait of a certain generation having fun,” he says. The joke-tellers—a pediatrician, a dentist, a garmento, a lot of lawyers—are all over 60, and almost all are men (an exception: his mom, Diane).

A quarter of the site’s visitors are under 35. “For them, it’s comfort food,” says Hoffman. “It’s a visit with Uncle Steve, who isn’t around anymore. And it channels an element of the culture that isn’t religion but still makes them feel connected.” It’s also a window to a world where certain topics never went out of style: food, sex, aging, analysis, misdiagnosis, couples who hate each other, eating while dying, eating while shtupping, shtupping while dying. Most of the gags emanate from “rue and nebbishiness and self-deprecation, which are probably the strongest elements in most Jewish humor,” says writer and editor Daniel Okrent (pictured above, bottom row, far left), who’ll be seen in the site’s second season this month. (So will the 84-year-old Ed Koch.) They’re Proust’s madeleines, kosher for Passover. So go already. Be grateful someone is serving them.

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