We are living in interesting times. In our times, it seems that comedians are in a hard place. Why? Because comedians are the vanguard of free speech. For most Jewish Studies scholars, Lenny Bruce, was hands down, the cutting edge of comedy in general and Jewish comedy in particular in modern post-assimilation America. He breaks all the rules in the name of free speech. He, the king of comedy, is the archetype of American democracy and a new kind of “edgy” Jewishness.
So when free speech is on the line, as it is today, comedians are in the cross hairs. So what do they do?
Seth Rogen is creating a special ashtray for his weed company. He is on instagram sharing the real proiftability of his pottery making: ash trays for weed. And all the varieties. It’s called, “Houseplant”
And while Seth is becoming a weed smoking creative type, Rogen wants to share what he has created rather than jokes. He’s busy doing something else, something cool and organic.
Meanwhile, Sara Silverman is also not telling any jokes. She’s talking about what it means to be Jewish in a small town in New Hampshire, one of the only Jews in her high school.
Silverman is confessing her Jewishness. She feels alone in her Jewish pain and wants “allies” who aren’t just the Christian American Right who supports Jews going back to Israel because the Jews are a stepping stone to their own redemption, as the evengelical church, etc.
Be that as it may, Silverman is more interested in looking into her Jewishness in a world that is focused on the next moves of BLM, equity, reparations, etc. These are not laughing matters.
The message is the same from both of them. The position of Jewish comedy is to look more into the “Jewish” or more into the organic hipster-ish life (making pottery, weed ashreuas, etc) than into the “comedy.”
Apparently, there is nothing to laugh about right now. This is a rare time when the schlemiel needs to introspect and reflect.
All of this has the air of I.B. Singer’s The Magician of Lublin. Hence, Seth Rogen’s attempt to emulate a schlemiel form of introspection most recently in An American Pickle (2020).
Rogen and Silverman suggest this soul searching trajectory for the schlemiel. That’s what we see on this day of Jewish life in America, March 11, 2021.