A Late Pioneer Is Still Pushing Boundaries

May 22, 2005 |

The Plot: The Secret Story of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion
By Will Eisner
142 pages. W. W. Norton. $23.95.

What’s so comic, exactly, about comic books? As far back as the Golden Age, when the form flourished in the hands of mostly Jewish American young men, relatively few of the word-and-picture narratives to which we ascribe this label have been primarily concerned with humor. The dominant modes have been action, mystery, horror and romance. Still, silly as it sounds, even when they aren’t the least bit funny they’re known as comics. (more…)

The Next War

May 4, 2005 |

“The Jews are one people—their language is Yiddish,” I. L. Peretz said in 1908, declaring the language war that was already raging in coffee houses, magazines, and political meetings in Europe and Palestine. Yiddish, which could not claim to be the tongue of Sephardim, saw a brief rise and devastating fall, and Hebrew won. But a century later, it is beginning to seem possible that we may hear an equally chutzpadik intellectual make such a statement about English. (more…)

What Is Jewish Humor?

May 1, 2005 |

Defining humor of any kind is a bad business to be in. The minute you lay down a rule, you can be sure that some schmuck will tap you on the shoulder and say, “Ahem. What about Danny Kaye? Nahman of Bratslav? How could you leave out Larry David? Are you joking?” Like a wannabe stand-up comic on his first open-mike night, all we can do is try. (more…)