Mitch's super-Jewy column

March 15th, 2010

At some birthright israel Web site. Check it out here or read below. It’s funny. Obviously. 

If You Ask Me…

By Mitch Rothenberg

“Jewish Humor,” if you ask me, is mainly a product of the environments that many Jewish people grow up in – domineering/fatalistic mothers, passive/nerdy fathers, overbearing/outspoken grandmothers, too much food, and zero sense of privacy. The lack of privacy factor may be the most important. Jewish mothers think that it is their birthright to know every single detail about their children, examine such details, and give their opinion on each detail. Nothing is taboo. I remember once my mother had a conversation with me (at the breakfast table) about the loudness of the noises that I apparently made when I had a bowel movement in the house. Her tone was concerned more than anything, and she wanted to discuss my diet and possibly make a doctor’s appointment. I had to assure her that my bowel movements were fine – and that I would try to keep it down in there.

Another story that jumps to mind involves my mother overhearing a conversation I was having with a female friend. I had been doing errands earlier that day, and I had randomly seen her at the gas station and then again at the grocery store. We were joking about it, and I said something like “Hey – sorry for stalking you today.” After I got off the phone, my mother burst into the room, all flustered, and began explaining to me how “stalking is prohibited by Maryland law and punishable with Jail time.

These stories were once traumatic, but now they are funny; especially to non-Jewish people. But more than that, as a result of this upbringing, I am extremely comfortable in areas of conversation that most people find uncomfortable, and I think that helps me be funny more than anything else. I have no filters, no lines I won’t cross in order to make a joke, no forbidden topics of conversation. I will make a Holocaust joke on the first date (which has had surprisingly positive results), I can tell an Asian girl at a bar that I forgive her for Pearl Harbor (she turned out to be Korean), and I will openly explain to a coworker what Icebergs are in the online dating world (Icebergs are girls that don’t look fat from the neck up, but are huge from the neck down).

But is any of this Jewish humor? Granted, few non-Jews can get away with a Holocaust joke, but still. I don’t really consider my sense of humor to be “Jewish.” None of it involves jokes about Judaism. None of it involves jokes that can only be appreciated by Jewish people. Hell, I don’t even consider myself to be all that Jewish. I do not keep kosher, I go to work on Yom Kippur, I refuse to date Jewish girls on principle, I do not care what happens to Israel, and I will gladly spend hours discussing the problems with the Jewish religion and why intermarriage and assimilation should be encouraged. But the funny thing is that considering the way I look (super duper Jewwy – think Zach Braff meets the kid from that movie “Waiting” and maybe a little Chris Kattan) and my last name (I have one of the most obviously Jewish names imaginable (it has both a Roth and a Berg in it; I used to joke that I wanted to marry a girl named Goldstein and have our names hyphenated) people consider these views to be part of some sort of humorous schtick; and then they try to set me up with some super Jewwy looking girl that they describe as “really nice.”

It all makes me go a little crazy. I want to scream: “Are you not f’ing listening to me!?! I’m being serious, I refuse to go into a Synagogue unless it’s a wedding or a funeral, I may actually be a little bit anti-Semitic, and I really only want to date blonde girls. Find me someone completely waspy, who belongs to a country club, where I can sit around and drink scotch with her dad on their family boat and talk about the markets! I subscribe to Kiplinger Personal Finance and can drink Johnny Walker Black like it’s going out of style. No really! The older money the better. This is actually the type of girl and life that I’m looking for.

And so I do tell them this.  To which they respond, “Mitch, you’re hilarious. Okay, now you’ve got to meet Rachel. Come over Friday night?”

And somehow, this is all classic Jewish humor.

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