Jewish humor, magazines dying out?

Not long ago, I linked to some stuff at New Voices, described as a “national Jewish student magazine.”

Now, New Voices has an interesting piece on the state of Jewish magazines, which includes this nugget from J.J. Goldberg, editorial director at the venerable Forward:


For Goldberg, the real problem is the lack of audience. “I learned this a long time ago,” he says. “If you want to sell subscriptions to a Jewish periodical, it tops off at around 60,000. That’s the number of Jews in America that will subscribe to a Jewish publication. Everybody wants to sell to them because Jews read. The publishers keep on publishing Jewish books because they know that so many of their readers are Jewish. But they’re not reading Jewish books. Most of the Jews aren’t that interested in Judaism. There’s this assumption that you can do something great and it will succeed. You can do something great, but [that doesn’t mean it’s going to succeed.]”


On a semi-related note, New York magazine has a cover story this week about Woody Allen’s next movie, which will feature Larry David. The headline is: “Last of the Schlemiels.”

The mag tries to make the case that we are looking at the end of Jewish humor as we’ve known it.

Of the movie, Whatever Works, they write:


This movie is literally vintage Woody Allen. In fact, it calls to mind a brand of Jewish humor that has, in recent years, been all but scrubbed out—neurotic, depressive, abrasive, excluded. And to serve as its embodiment, he drafted Larry David, the guy who, through six seasons of HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, has done more than anyone—even Allen—to keep that sensibility alive for a generation to whom it’s now almost completely foreign.


The story comes with a great two-page spread on the history of Jewish humor. Or, as they put it: “5,769 years of the Jewish joke.”

If you go HERE, and click on “view as a PDF,” you can see the whole thing, from Yiddish theater and the Marx Brothers to the Catkills, Mel Brooks and Lenny Bruce to Seinfeld, Jon Stewart and Judd Apatow.

Gary Stern

Gary Stern covered education in the Lower Hudson Valley for several years during the early 1990s. Now's he back on the beat. He believes that schools are one of the main reasons that people live around here and that educational issues -- from curriculum to financing -- are among the most challenging things that journalists can write about. He continues to be amazed by the complexity of educational jargon. Gary got his B.A. at SUNY Buffalo and his M.A. from the University of Missouri Journalism School (where his master's thesis was about the best ways to cover education). He lives in White Plains with his wife and two sons, who attend public schools.