DANIEL SUGARMAN ASKED WRIT­ERS AND CO­ME­DI­ANS

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE -

People say “The Jews got through the Holo­caust by con­stantly mak­ing jokes”. Although I’d like to think this was true, I find this dif­fi­cult to be­lieve.

“And be­ing Jewish doesn’t jus­tify our mak­ing jokes on the sub­ject.

“I was wait­ing to per­form in South Africa re­cently when a guy, not know­ing I was Jewish, told me a hor­ri­ble Holo­caust joke and then a racist joke. I then went on stage and, as al­ways, men­tioned I was Jewish.

When I came off, he said: “Oh, that’s why you didn’t laugh, be­cause you’re a Jew” He then paused and said: “But you’re not black why didn’t you laugh at the other one?”

“I’d like to think oth­ers wouldn’t have laughed ei­ther, but sadly I’m sure that’s not

the case.”

Diane Sa­muels, play­wright “Why are we even ask­ing whether hu­mour is ‘al­lowed’ with re­gards to suf­fer­ing and tragedy when laugh­ter is the great­est balm and life-af­firm­ing of hu­man acts? One of my favourite films ever is The Pro­duc­ers with Zero Mos­tel and Gene Wilder — the art of sur­vival and flour­ish­ing even when the he­roes are do­ing their best to sab­o­tage their own suc­cess. Spring­time For Hitler is ut­terly in­spired and in­spir­ing. It’s so trag­i­cally, mar­vel­lously icon­o­clas­tic. I’m not sure Jews or any­one would have sur­vived or con­tinue to sur­vive with­out the cre­ative im­pulse to play with dark ex­pe­ri­ence and trans­form it into some­thing we can truly en­joy to­gether.”

Arnold Brown, co­me­dian

“All stand-up co­me­di­ans — and par­tic­u­larly Jewish ones — have a duty to be ex­tremely cir­cum­spect when com­ment­ing on such a mon­u­men­tal tragedy.

“My only ref­er­ence ever to this sub­ject in my act was in­ten­tion­ally oblique…

“When people ask me about the Jewish con­tri­bu­tion to civil­i­sa­tion, I al­ways tell them, we’ve given al­ready.”

Steven Berkoff, play­wright and ac­tor

“Yes in­deed, the Holo­caust and other var­i­ous hor­rors that the Jewish race have been through are so ter­ri­fy­ing that one can barely dis­cuss it.

“That’s the rea­son why hu­mour is so very apt. And this is not or­di­nary hu­mour, this is a howl­ing, blis­ter­ing, ma­ni­a­cal hu­mour that only the Jewish race is ca­pa­ble of. It’s the last thing that an­ti­semites can deal with, those hu­mour­less scum­bags of the world.”

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