Arts & Culture

What Makes a Jewish Mother Funny

For my last blog this week, I checked in with my comedian daughter, who travels with me doing her show, “What to Wear When You’re Fighting the Patriarchy: Lessons from the Daughter of a Jewish Feminist.” So I arranged a … Read More

By / November 7, 2008

For my last blog this week, I checked in with my comedian daughter, who travels with me doing her show, “What to Wear When You’re Fighting the Patriarchy: Lessons from the Daughter of a Jewish Feminist.” So I arranged a time to chat on the computer:

Lauren: Mom?

Joyce: For my last blog, I’d like your help.

Lauren: OK… discuss.

Joyce: I’d like to do a little survey about the Jewish mother.

Lauren: A survey to determine if people think the Jewish mother is funny?

Joyce: If you had to choose one funny thing about your mother, what would it be?

Lauren: Well, I think that the funniest thing about my mother is that she doesn’t realize how funny she is – as a comedian, that’s comedy gold, so every time you do something that I think is funny, and then I make fun of you and you get angry, it just makes it funnier.

Joyce: I’m glad I’m an inspiration, but what’s Jewish about this?

Lauren: Like when I asked you what to say when I was speaking somewhere – and you said, totally seriously, “Why don’t you talk about how the microphone is a phallus?”

Joyce: I said that?

Lauren: I guess what’s Jewish about it all is the self-deprecating quality to all the humor – even when you get mad at me for making fun of you, you do always laugh at yourself! And when I tell my story about the Jewish mother, I’m really poking fun at myself, not you!

Joyce: I don’t get mad at you!

Lauren: Then what do you call that frowny face, when you say, “Lauren, enough!”

Joyce: Never happened!

Lauren: See – point proven – funny! :)

For further confirmation, see below for a sample of replies I got from the staff of the Jewish Women’s Archive, friends and students, when I asked them to complete the following lines:

My mother is really funny because:

*My mother decided to knit me a hat. She really, really wanted to knit. She asked what color hat I’d like. I said, “whatever you like.” She asked what style I’d like. I said, “whatever you like.” So, she went to the store and bought me a hat. She said, “If none of this mattered to you, I figured why am I knocking myself out?”  Best recovery from Jewish motherhood I can recall, and a much-loved hat.

*She keeps several years of dark brown bananas in the freezer,  just in case someone might wake up one morning and want to bake banana bread with bananas from 1987.

*One year, on Pesach, she made matzah balls that came out exceptionally dense, so she insisted that we put on our pajamas and  play baseball with them in the kitchen (so as not to let them go to waste.)

*She insists she’s not a feminist (she totally is a feminist)!

*You have just induced a nervous breakdown. My mother isn’t funny.

The funniest thing my mother ever said to me is:

*When I was younger, I asked my Mom about how I could become a princess.  She said it would never happen, because despite there being a few cute princes out there, like William and Harry, they weren’t Jewish, so it was out of the question.

*The funniest thing my mother ever said to me is in explaining the board game Blokus: “the rules of the game are: you can touch someone else anywhere you want to but you can only touch yourself (meaning your own pieces) in the corners.”

*Take a snack for the car — how ’bout a lemon or a sweet potato?

*”Please remove your listening device from the entrance of the house. You know, the thing that plays

music – the pod. Is Carol King on your pod?”

*          *          *          *

Thanks to all of who shared their anecdotes. (Note to my daughters: Ok, I surrender! Jewish mothers – like all mothers – are funny!

But as we laugh, let’s remember, especially during this week of extraordinary historic significance, what a profound difference mothers can make, and of course, grandmothers as well (there should be many more books about them!) As President-elect Obama has made clear, his landmark victory was also theirs.

Joyce Antler, author of You Never Call! You Never Write! spent the past week guest-blogging on Jewcy.  This is her parting post.  Want more?  Buy her book!

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