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Why are Jews so Funny?
By Learned Nand | Edited by CarrieVS | 17th July, 2015 | 11:30 pm | Here's Where You're Wrong

Here's Where You're Wrong
Jews are funny. We all know a Jew we find funny, and can probably think of several Jewish comedians off the top of our heads. There is even a Wikipedia article on Jewish humor, and as we know, if something appears in Wikipedia it must be true.

But why should this be the case? Why should Jews, out of all ethnicities, have a particular penchant for humor? Perhaps Jewish religious figures, like Rabbis, are inherently funny; after all, we do tend to see them in a number of jokes. Here is just one example:

John Oliver, paraphrased wrote:A Rabbi and a Priest buy a car together. One day the Rabbi goes to use the car and sees the Priest sprinkling water on it. The Rabbi asks, ''What are you doing?'' The Priest responds, ''I'm blessing the car.'' So the Rabbi says ''Okay, since we're doing that....'' and takes out a hacksaw and cuts two inches off the tail pipe.

While such a joke would seem to support this hypothesis, in fact it reveals a fatal flaw. Jokes involving Rabbis frequently involve priests, and as goyim aren't funny at all, the hypothesis can be rejected.

Others may suggest that humor originates genetically from sexual selection, as women in particular tend to find mates who are funny more attractive. Humor as a strategy may be necessary to compensate for physically unattractive characteristics stereotypically attributed to Jews, such as large noses and shortness. This hypothesis fails for two reasons. First, Jews tend not to have high fertility rates, and are likely to decline as a percentage of population. An evolutionary explanation for Jewish humor is incompatible with clear evidence that such a strategy is unsuccessful. Second, the hypothesis fails because, despite stereotypes, Jews have no undesirable physical characteristics for which we must compensate. We are, in fact, stunningly attractive.


As biological and sociological attempts to explain why Jews are unusually funny have failed, we attempt to analyse the problem instead through the lens of comedic theory. Comedic theory is a field of study with a long and rich history, stretching back several years to when I decided it should be a thing. Comedic theory attempts to improve humor by analysing what kinds of jokes are funny and why this should be the case, because as we know, the more you explain something, the funnier it is. This is a fundamental law of comedy theory, and is mathematically formalized as follows:

Those with an aversion to math should be warned: this article is about to get hilarious.

Another law of comedic theory, one popular enough to be known even by laymen in the field of comedy, is that comedy is equal to tragedy plus time. It is from this simple equation that we can extract the reason Jews are so funny. First, we must recognize that Jews have suffered more than almost any other ethnic group in history. From the oppression of the ghettos, to the atrocities of the Holocaust, to the grave injustice of not receiving preferential treatment in college admissions despite being a minority, Jews have seen no end to discrimination.

This fact has significant mathematical and comedic implications. As Jewish history has been a consistent stream of tragedies, the time between tragedies shrinks until it is near zero. Normally, the relationship between comedy and any single variable of either tragedy or time is indeterminate. Something can be funny despite being very tragic because it occurred long ago, or something can be funny even though it is not very tragic, because it occurred recently. However, when time approaches zero, the relationship between comedy and tragedy becomes clearer. When the time between tragedies is infinitesimal time is too small to affect the equation, and can be discarded:

At last, we have arrived at a complete explanation. Jews are funny because, where for most people comedy = tragedy + time, there is so little time between tragedies in Jewish life that for Jews, comedy = tragedy. And as Jews have tragedy in abundance, it follows mathematically that we must therefore be hilarious.

However, when doing science, we cannot accept this explanation until we test it to see whether it makes accurate predictions. Does the comedy / tragedy equivalence explain Jewish humor? For this hypothesis to be correct, we should see a clear relationship between tragedy and comedy in Jewish humor, and indeed we do. Gallows humor, or Galgenhumor as it is called in German (famously the funniest language), is a key component of Jewish comedy. As evidence, consider the following joke:

A Jewish man was wandering in the woods outside his shtetl when he came across the corpse of a young girl. Horrified, he ran back to town and told everyone what he'd found. The townsfolk knew that as Jews, they would be blamed, and fearing a pogrom, gathered in the synagogue to prepare to defend themselves. Suddenly, the Rabbi burst in, and yelled "Everyone, I have excellent news! The murdered girl was Jewish!"

Given the perfect alignment between theory and evidence, the conclusion seems unavoidable. Jewish humor is best explained by the Comedy / Tragedy Equivalence Theorem. So the next time you find yourself laughing at Seinfeld, or enjoying a rerun of Futurama, take a moment to appreciate the anti-Semitic murderers and oppressors who made that possible.

If you enjoyed this article, I strongly recommend taking a look at the Bad Ad-Hoc Hypothesis festival, where actual scientists share hypotheses just as bizarre as (but perhaps slightly less offensive than) this one.

Tags: Jews, Humor 36

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