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 OldJewsTellingJokes.com 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.
Allen Pinsky, retired pharmacist
Mr. Rabinowitz is suffering from a malady that nobody can diagnose … They finally go to a famous physician at Newark-Beth Israel Medical Center.
He says, “Mr. Rabinowitz, what’s bothering you?”
He runs him through an exhaustive battery of tests and, lo and behold, he discovers what’s wrong.
“Mr. Rabinowitz, is your wife waiting for you?”
“Yes, she’s in the vaiting room?”
“Will you go outside and send her in?”
She comes in and says, “Yes, doctor? What’s the matter with my Irving?”
The doctor says, “Mr. Rabinowitz has a very rare disease, it’s almost invariably fatal, there’s only one cure for it.”
“Yes, what’s that, we’ll do anything?”
“The only thing that will help him is oral sex.”
“Oral sex. You know what that is?”
“Oh sure—oral sex, I know.”
She goes out to the waiting room, and Irving says, “Sadie, Sadie, what did the doctor say?”
“You’re gonna die.”
Harry Macklowe, real-estate developer
A couple is in a supermarket. She has a problem, though—she steals. She’s a kleptomaniac. She steals a can of fruit.
She’s taken before the magistrate. The magistrate says, “Sarah, how could you do something like that? What did you take?”
She says, “Well, I just took one can of peaches.”
“Peaches you took! How many peaches?”
“There were six peaches in the can.”
He says, “Sarah, you are going to jail for six nights. That’s it, it’s final!”
She says, “Oh, my God!”
Her husband stands up and says, “Your honor! She also stole a can of peas.”
Harold Riskin, lawyer
Becky and Jake have been married for 50 years, and they’re at the breakfast table. Becky says to Jake, “Can you imagine? We’ve been at this table for 50 years, and it’s been wonderful being with you.”
And Jake says, “Yes, I can remember. As a matter of fact, I can remember sitting here naked as a jaybird with you at this very table.”
So Becky says to him, “You know what? Let’s relive the old times. Let’s get nude.” So they strip and they get right down to the buff, and they come back to the table and sit down. And Becky says, “Jake, my honey, you know my nipples are as hot for you today as they were 50 years ago.”
And Jake says, “That doesn’t surprise me. One’s in the coffee and the other’s in the oatmeal.”