|City Lore, New York City’s center for urban folk culture, is hosting JEWels, Thursday, May 30th, a special evening dedicated to the poetry of Jewish humor, featuring a mini-minion of top NYC storytellers, humorists, and poets – Esther Cohen, Bob Holman, Flash Rosenberg, Zev Shanken, Steve Zeitlin, and former cartoon editor for The New Yorker, Bob Mankoff.
The event is a kickoff, celebration, and call for submissions for “JEWels: Jewish Jokes and Tales as Poems…Teasing Out the Poetry in Jewish Humor and Storytelling“.
The evening will be hosted by artist, bon vivant, and storyteller, Flash Rosenberg.
- Humorist Bob Mankoff talking about his new collection of “Jewishy” cartoons, Have I Got a Joke for You?
- Zev Shanken hosting an interactive version of Jewish Jeopardy where the punchline is given first and the audience has to guess the joke.
- Poet Bob Holman and Cartoonist Mankoff engaging the audience in a game where jokes and tales crafted as poems will be read aloud by Esther Cohen, Flash Rosenberg, and Steve Zeitlin, for playful debate to anoint what’s a JOKE, STORY, BUDDHIST KOAN…um, or dud?
“Jewish jokes seem to lend themselves to poetry,” says City Lore founding director Steve Zeitlin, author of several award-winning books on folk culture and poetry. In this upcoming book he says “We mine, combine, and refine our Jewish stories, folktales and jokes into JEWels. I sought to cut and carve each joke and story till they sparkle. Although some will simply make you laugh, most exist in that profound human space where you do not know whether to laugh or cry.” (Samples from Zeitlin’s JEWels below.)
Witty people are invited to submit a Jewish joke or folktale/story reinterpreted as a poem to be considered for publication in JEWels to: firstname.lastname@example.org
At a Bungalow in the Rockaways
Four women play Mah Jongh in hushed silence
No sound but the clicking of tiles
Then, unable to sustain the quiet, the first one utters, Oy
Again silent, she places her tile on the board
The second can’t help herself, utters Oy vei
The third gives in, Oy veis meir
OK, Says the fourth
I thought we weren’t going to talk about our children
Six Differences Between a Joke and a Poem
1. A joke is something your mother couldn’t tell; a poem is the same thing but with your father.
2. Jokes don’t get better the more you hear them.
3. A performer can’t misread a poem she fully understands, but the moment she fully understands a joke, she kills.
4. A joke answers, “To get to the other side.” A poem answers, “To see time fly.”
5. Freud never had to write a book called Poems and Their Relation to the Unconscious.
6. A joke never waits for you.
~ Zev Shanken
The Rabbis Argued
How do we know
The instant night turns into day
and it’s time to say the morning prayer
The first said, when you can tell a red thread
From a blue
The second, no, when you can tell a purple
From a blue
The third, when you can recognize the face
Of your fellow human being