Jackie Mason says: "A normal person wouldn't become a comedian. The egomania,
the neurosis, the need to overcompensate, the feeling that life is meaningless
without stardom - it's too much suffering."
So who becomes a comedian? Groucho Marx, Jack Benny, Milton Berle, Lenny
Bruce, Jerry Seinfeld, the list goes on and on. There must be a reason here as
well to explain not only why there are so many Jewish comedians today, but also
why Jews throughout the ages have been known for their humor.
Maybe Mel Brooks understood it best: "I may be angry at G-d or at the world,
and I'm sure that a lot of my comedy is based on anger and hostility...It comes
from a feeling that as a Jew and as a person, I don't fit into the mainstream of
Feeling different, feeling alienated, feeling persecuted, feeling that the
only way you can deal with the world is to laugh - because if you don't laugh
you're going to cry and never stop crying - that's probably what's responsible
for the Jews having developed such a great sense of humor. The people who had
the greatest reason to weep, learned more than anyone else how to laugh. With
that said, here is just a taste of some of the many great Jewish comedians of
Based on the accomplishments of individual Jews, Nobel Prize winners and
heroes of modern culture, as well as the amount of attention Jews get in the
media, you'd never believe the correct answers: There are little more than 13
million Jews in the world, comprising less than 1/4 of 1% of the world's
Do you think it's just a coincidence? Twenty-one percent of Nobel Prize
winners have been Jews, even though Jews comprise less than one-quarter of one
percent of the world's population. Choose any field, and you will find that Jews
have excelled in it.
Think of the names of many modern-day figures most responsible for the
intellectual turning points in history - MARX, FREUD, EINSTEIN - and you will
find proof of the Biblical verdict: "Surely this is...a wise and understanding
people." There simply is no way to deny it.
Jews really are smart. There must be a reason - and I can give you three:
HEREDITY - Historians have pointed out a fascinating difference
between Jews and Christians. In Christianity, as well as in many other
religions, holiness was identified with asceticism, great spirituality with the
practice of celibacy. For centuries the finest minds among Christians were urged
to join the church and become priests. That effectively condemned their genetic
pool of intelligence to an untimely end. Jews, on the other hand, took quite
seriously the first commandment to mankind - to be fruitful and multiply. Sex
was never seen as sinful, but rather as one of those things created by God that
he surely must have had in mind when he declared, in reviewing his work, that
"Behold everything was very good."
Among Jews, the most intelligent were encouraged to become religious leaders.
As rabbis, they had to serve as role models for their congregants as procreators
and "fathers of their countries." Brains got passed on from generation to
generation, and Jews today are still reaping the benefits of the frequent sexual
activities of their ancestors.
ENVIRONMENT - If challenge and response are the keys to creativity and
achievement, it's no surprise that Jews are smart; they've been challenged more
than anyone else on earth. The school of hard knocks is a wonderful teacher.
Jews had no choice but to learn to be better than anyone else since the odds
were always so very much stacked against them. When you're born with a silver
spoon in your mouth, you tend to get fat and lazy. When you're born with the
lash of a whip on your back, you quickly learn to become crafty, street smart,
and knowledgeable in everything that will help you make it through life.
A UNIQUE VALUE SYSTEM - We still haven't touched on the most important
reason of all. Jews are smart because they have been raised in a tradition that
treasures education above everything else, that considers study the highest
obligation of mankind, and that identifies the intellect as part of us created
in "the image of God." To be illiterate was unheard of in the Jewish world, not
only because it was a sign of stupidity, but, more significantly, because it was
Jews are obligated by law to review the Bible in its entirety every year,
dividing it into manageable weekly sections. The widespread custom when a child
turned three years old was to write the letter of the Hebrew alphabet on a board
in honey and have the child learn them as he licked them off, equating their
meaning with the taste of sweetness. Jews studied the Midrash, and it
taught them: The Sword and the Book came from Heaven together, and the Holy One
said: "Keep what is written in this Book or be destroyed by the other."
Jews studied the Mishra and it taught them, "Say not when I have
leisure I will study; you may not have leisure." The Jews absorbed the teachings
of the Ethics of The fathers, and they understood its insight, "If you have
acquired knowledge, what do you lack? If you lack knowledge, what have you
Philosophical Tevye, that delightful creation of the Yiddish writer Sholem
Aleichem and the star of Fiddler On The Roof, explained that Jews always wear
hats because they never know when they will be forced to travel. What he didn't
say, which is probably more important, is that they always made sure to have
something under their hats and inside of their heads - because physical
possessions could be taken from them, but what they accumulated in their minds
would always remain the greatest "merchandise" a Jew possesses.