If Jews can’t understand a Jerry Seinfeld “Jew-joke,” what have these thousands of years of struggle been for?
During “Norm Macdonald Live!” this week, a segment that surely will be the topic of many a millennial Jew’s future dissertation featured Seinfeld telling what he calls “the greatest Jew joke I’ve ever heard” while insisting that non-Jews won’t get it — which he says is “part of the joke.”
Watch the clip without reading the comments. Pretend it’s Yom Kippur, take a good look inside yourself and be honest: Do you get it?
Seinfeld insists that if “you’re young… you might not get it.” We asked Forward staffers under the age of 30 if they “got it.” Here’s what they said:
Jenny (Me): I’m so Jewish that before I go through security at Ben Gurion I have to rehearse my list of prior trips to Israel so I don’t seem like a liar, and I still didn’t get this joke. I would say the real joke here is that this has caused me anxiety about my Jewish identity.
Erica (News Intern): So the joke assumes that no Jewish businessman would simply answer “Great!” when asked how’s business doing — they would launch into a full rant.
Steven (Opinion Fellow): Clearly, only gentile business owners would be like, “Oh, business is going great!” If they were Jewish there would be something to complain about. At least that was my interpretation.
Laura (Contributing Network Editor): Yes — the joke is, everyone in business is Jewish so you have to specify when they’re not (***Editor’s note: This is not the joke.)
Jeff (Social Media Editor): No entiendo.
Talya (Culture Fellow): The point of the joke is, of course, that no Jew would ever respond to the question “How’s business?” with the bland, impersonal term “great”; they would respond with a list of complaints that, if left uninterrupted, might continue into eternity. It’s a joke about Jewish humor, and it’s a joke about Jews.
Aiden (Swing Editor): The joke is that when asked, “How’s business?” the Christian says, “It’s great!” A Jew would never say, “Business is great!” He or she would complain instead.
Jesse (News Intern): It’s the perfect Jewish joke. My dad has been telling this one for years. Succinct, and just for us.
George (Social Media Intern): I didn’t get it.
Michael (Opinion Intern [not Jewish]): I didn’t get it, and it scared me.
Okay, sure, sure, but once you got it, did you think it was funny?
Aiden: Yes, I thought it was very funny. I literally laughed out loud. I mean, the joke itself is good-but-not-great, but Seinfeld really sold it.
George: Once I [understood,] it was funny, relying on old-school Jewish humor/dark humor that might not be so popular with Jews these days, which is why I missed it.
Laura: Like a solid 2.5/10. It’s a great joke for JINOs (Jews in Name Only) to feel great for understanding.
Jesse: It’s funny the way, like, “Orange you glad you didn’t say banana!” is funny. I’ve heard it so many times, it’s just funny for its familiarity at this point, I think.
Steven: I found it pretty weak.
Talya: This millennial Jew thinks Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner told 20 funnier Jewish jokes in the first 10 minutes of “The 2000 Year Old Man.”
Erica: The joke is threadbare and the video was so awkward! I honestly cringed at this video because it was so unfunny.
Michael: Eh, not really. But I don’t think Seinfeld is that funny anyway.
Jeff: Yes — my friend Michael here insulted Jerry Seinfeld, and I can’t stand for that.
Things In This Clip That Are Funnier Than Jerry Seinfeld’s “Favorite Jew Joke”:
-Seinfeld saying, on a TV show, with no irony, “I’m Jewish”
-Seinfeld explaining his joke before he tells it
-Norm Macdonald gesturing to his co-host, Adam Eget, and identifying him as Jewish
-Macdonald and Eget haggling over how Jewish the latter is
-The entire studio, Seinfeld and Eget laughing about Eget being called a Holocaust denier
-Eget fake-laughing to prove his Jewish credentials (same, Eget, same)
-Eget being caught and shamed for not getting the joke
-Seinfeld’s smugness surrounding Jewish humor
Jenny Singer is a writer for the Forward. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter, @jeanvaljenny.