The creators of the American Yiddish theater also provided what earlier entertainers had given to the Irish and the Germans: the immense gift of laughter. They used gags, skits, slapstick, and wit to make fun of one another. Romanians made fun of Hungarians. Both made fun of Poles. All made fun of Russians. They skewered the greenhorns, the pompous nouveau rich, the greedy landlords, the humorless goyim, the corrupt politicians; and they added something else, an attitude that forever shifted the New York mind: irony.
That is, they made jokes out of the difference between what America promised and what America actually delivered. Irony remains the essence of American humor to this day.
8 thoughts on “from Downtown: Pete Hamill on American humor”
I used to have a Yiddish/English dictionary titled YIDDISH, THE LANGUAGE WITH HUMOR BUILT IN. I foolishly gifted it someone who didn’t appreciate it. 😦 Oh well, so it goes. 🙂 🙂
There was a very popular one by Leo Rosten (sp?) called The Joys of Yiddish back in the days of my bookstore. I’m not sure if it’s still in print. I don’t know the one you mentioned but growing up in NY exposes you to a lot of Yiddish words and phrases.
Reblogged this on Leonard Durso.
When I was a kid, I thought irony was a chore my mom did. Turns out that was only partially correct.
Your comment is a good example of American humor. I’m still chuckling about it.
My mom would have loved this. thanks for posting.
Hamill and Jimmy Breslin are two of my favorite writers of NY from the era I remember. From an earlier time there would be Joseph Mitchell.