Above: A Poster I made for a friend’s all-jewish comedian show. It was summarily rejected.
One experience I had a lot in college was people telling me that certain subjects shouldn’t be joked about. Here’s a great article about the ethics of humor in the holocaust which I think reinforces the point that insisting that some subjects are off limits for comedy is a kind of guilt-induced faux-maturity that can only be taken seriously by people who have it so good that they can afford to not joke about the pains of human existence and still be happy — who needs to find humor in a dark chaotic world when you’re surfing between five million streaming channels and mainlining zoloft?
A Few choice quotes from the article:
When [Jeffrey] Ross visited the class, he surprised us with his deep awareness of the connection of comedy to ethics, even though he engages in joke-telling that some students considered to be an affront to affliction. (He spoke about being in New York City and witnessing the towers fall on September 11, and recalled that Dave Chappelle and his family showed up on his doorstep covered in ash, unable all of a sudden to make jokes about the situation at hand.)
One student whose four grandparents are Holocaust survivors, for example, was heartened by Ross’s insistence that telling jokes about Hitler allows Jews to own the trauma.
Despite his predicament, [Imprisoned Entertainer] Grünbaum refused to relinquish his sense of humor, often joking that not eating was the perfect cure for diabetes. Grünbaum died in Dachau.
…no power structures have ever been destroyed by a joke. Yet humor may become a device by which evil is exposed and delegitimized.
Herzog’s praise for the film [Life is Beautiful] feels abrupt and misplaced…Given that the stories of most World War II-era European Jews do not end with survival, one would expect at least a minor indictment of Benigni’s impulse to focus on the so-called silver lining as opposed to the horrific reality.
In Nazi Germany, both Jews and Germans became adept at joke-telling, but the impetuses for their comedic efforts were vastly dissimilar. Jews were political targets of the Nazi regime, and their humor was conceived as an instrument for dealing with this harsh reality. Humor was for them an expression of defiance. But for non-Jewish Germans, political jokes were a “release valve for pent-up popular anger”—a way to let off steam, not a form of resistance. The majority of the German political jokes were for the most part uncritical of the system, preferring instead to expose the human weaknesses of Nazi leaders. These same leaders’ crimes were usually omitted from war-time comedy.
when we laugh at Hitler, we “dismiss the metaphysical, demonic capabilities accorded to him by postwar apologists” and others who would have us believe that Hitler’s capacity for evil was not human. Laughing at Hitler might have been a way back to ethical responsibility, because inherent in the laugh is an acknowledgment of just how frightening the human capacity for evil can be.