We are in the process of developing the program for our annual JOI benefit which will take place in the fall of 2008. Each year we have scheduled some form of entertainment relevant to the mission of JOI and the theme of the evening. As we were in the process of scheduling this year’s event, we brainstormed as a staff a group of possible performers, some of whom are comedians whose routines discuss the issues facing interfaith relationships. This brainstorming discussion provoked a larger conversation about the role of comedy, in general, in our work. Can we, for example, be serious about our goal of shaping an inclusive Jewish community while, at the same time, taking a moment to laugh at some of the issues that we encounter? Does comedy eclipse the serious nature of our work?
Is it funny to joke “What is the definition of a creche?” The answer, “The sound that a menorah makes when it falls over.” What about the tongue-in-cheek humor of a particular greeting card company that features Hanukkah cards made from recycled Christmas trees? Some people may remember the sitcom “Bridget Loves Bernie,” one of televisions first attempts to capture this humor—even before interfaith marriage was on the rise in the United States.
Or consider the current popularity of the one-man show called “My Mother’s Italian My Father’s Jewish & I’m In Therapy,” written and performed by Steve Solomon. It is about Solomon’s Italian mother and American Jewish father, who met in Europe during World War II and fell in love. From the beginning of their relationship, they were not able to discern the extent of their cultural misunderstandings. Steve Solomon recreates his family situation using voices, sound effects and narration to bring to life the stories that emerged from his unique experience. He fills the stage with characters to tell the stories about his blended family, which turn out to be quite funny. Our own JOI conference last year included a very funny episode of the TV show “The War at Home,” narrated by the show’s creator and head writer Rob Lotterstein. The episode featured an interfaith family whose son decided to have a bar mitzvah.
Laughter has been considered therapeutic, even healing. So maybe we need to take a few moments out of the serious work we are doing and laugh at it all. Or maybe not. You decide.
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