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Paris Spitzer '16 delivers a joke

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J-term Scenes: Jewish Humor

January 29, 2015

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – From Sholem Aleichem to Mel Brooks, and from Sigmund Freud to Woody Allen, the winter term class Jewish Humor: No Joke spent the month of January looking at the history of Jewish humor and thinking about what makes it so funny.


The class was offered by two professors who know a thing or two about Jewish humor: Michael R. Katz, C.V. Starr Professor Emeritus of Russian, and Robert S. Schine, Curt and Else Silberman Professor of Jewish Studies. During the fourth and final week of the course, the students were required to present a joke or skit and analyze it within the context of what they had learned about humor.

Juniors Jackie Stern, Paris Spitzer, and Danny Plunkett (l. to r. above) worked together to examine how Jewish women are portrayed in humor. They considered Jewish daughters, mothers, and grandmothers as three distinct objects of humor. The trio told jokes or stories about Jewish women, presented video clips to illustrate their points, and discussed daughters, mothers, and grandmothers within the framework of Noël Carroll’s theories of humor and other schools of thought on the topic.