Trying To Explain A Jewish Joke To A Goy

Humor, like eroticism, contains hostility, sometimes disguised.

When you tell a joke about someone, it is rarely praise. When you really want to f*** someone, it is quite distinct from making love, and it is always always for someone you don’t know well. As soon as you know someone well, it destroys erotic attraction (because you can’t objectify them anymore and objectification is essential for sexual arousal, per Robert Stoller). The half-life of a sexual relationship is six weeks.

To be Jewish is to be permanently dissatisfied.

WASPs tend to be straight forward. Jews tend to be complicated.

Forward: “Only 50% Of Forward Staffers Get This Seinfeld Joke — Do You?”

Steve Sailer writes: Here’s a video of Jerry Seinfeld telling a joke about two gentile businessmen to Norm MacDonald and his sidekick Adam Eget, the meta-point of which is that Norm, an extreme gentile, won’t understand why the joke is funny to Jerry and his fellow older Jews:

I think I can figure out why the joke is funny …

If I am correct, you can use economics jargon to describe the implied ethnic difference in business behavior, or you can use my usual terminology about glasses.

Comments at Steve Sailer:

* The joke is that jews always find something to complain about. Hi-larious. Or something.

* Jewish businessmen would kvetch (I think that’s the right spelling) about how terrible business was. Complaining is a form of social bonding in Jewish culture, as is (friendly) arguing.

* A Gentile is in a clothing store. “How much for that jacket?,” he asks. “$500,” the salesman says. “OK, I’ll take it,” the Gentile says.

A Gentile calls his mother”: “Mother, I know I was supposed to be coming for dinner tonight, but this girl I’m interested in is free tonight and I’d like to get together with her instead.” “OK, have a nice time!,” says the mother.

You get the idea.

* Protestants like me, who had to deal with New York Jews in the garment or diamond district would get it immediately.

The joke is, the response was straightforward. It’s considered a weakness. Perhaps even hateful.

* My guess is that it’s always told to a Gentile by a Jew, the joke being that there is nothing to get, which makes the Gentile feel clueless. In other words the joke is on the Gentile. Other Jews get it.

* OK, to get Jerry’s joke, you need to know that “How’s business” is the theme of other Jewish jokes; it’s almost a joke genre. And in all those jokes, the answer is never “great”. The answer is that business is bad, and the punchline is about the way business is bad. For example…

Yankel: “Nu, Shloyme, so how’s business?”
Shloyme: “Horrible. The suppliers are gouging me. The customers aren’t coming in the door like they used to. The Czar has upped my taxes… I’m losing money every day I stay open.”
Yankel: “Then why don’t you close up shop?”
Shloyme: “Close shop? Then what would I live from?”

More generally, traditional Jews are worried, even when things are good, about jinxing themselves. And so, just as “great” is the wrong answer to “How’s business”, it’s the wrong answer to “How is your health?” This is covered in depth by Michael Wex, in his wonderful _Born to Kvetch_.

* Jewish kids don’t get the old Jewish jokes. I learned this one way back when at Brandeis: Question: “What do you call two Jews walking down the street together?” Answer: “An argument.” I recently told it to a young friend and she just looked bewildered.

* Less a “Jew” joke than a geographical joke. Tri-state Gentiles know only too well that Tri-state Jews have a long established reputation of complaining about absolutely everything that happens in the tri-state area (New Jersey; New York; Connecticut).

I actually had this conversation with the owner of a New Haven shoe store (I had mailed him a $500 check for three pairs of English shoes that was his store’s stock-specialty for the Yale U. crowd) :

OWNER : You sent me a check. I’m gonna need your credit card number. Your check might bounce.

ME : Hold the order until the check clears – – – I’m in no hurry.

OWNER : Why are you in no hurry? Is there something wrong? Maybe you should be in a hurry.

The store owner wasn’t pulling my leg, at least to my Gentile ears there was no hint of mockery in his voice. But maybe he was putting me on because he shipped my order before my check even cleared. To this day, his behavior towards me is a mystery wrapped in an enigma!

* Yes, you’ve got it. The answer “Great!” is sweet and direct and Boy Scout-ish and positive and uncomplaining… Without guile or irony or neurosis.

You know, there’s that old joke about how a WASP is someone who steps out of the shower to pee.

Okay, that’s not exactly the same thing, but I like it.

Or how’s this? Back in 1993, when my friend and I (both Jews) went to see the movie “Gettysburg,” we stumbled out of the theater exhausted, impressed, awed, as if we’d actually witnesed the great battle, all that nobility and self-sacrifice, that indefatigable energy, that incredible bravery, charging in the face of those bullets, etc. etc…. and my friend just shook his head and said simply, “Gentiles!”

* The joke is that a Jewish businessman would never answer “great” to the question, even if objectively speaking, business were going great for the Jewish businessman. The Jewish businessman would always complain about something. Whereas a gentile businessman may answer “great” even if things were going terribly.

* The inside knowledge that Seinfeld is implicitly referring to in his Jew-joke is the victim culture business, which is orchestrated by you know who.

Norman G. Finkelstein has written a book about it and refers to it as the Holocaust Industry.

The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering is a 2000 book by Norman G. Finkelstein, in which Finkelstein argues that the American Jewish establishment exploits the memory of the Nazi Holocaust for political and financial gain, as well as to further the interests of Israel.[1] According to Finkelstein, this “Holocaust industry” has corrupted Jewish culture and the authentic memory of the Holocaust.

* In order to understand the joke you really have to understand the concept of the “evil eye”, which is not specifically Jewish (and which is superstitious rather than religious) and is shared by many Mediterranean cultures. If you admit that things are “great” then you will draw the jealous attention of the evil eye to yourself and this will result in misfortune. So it’s better to say “I’m doing OK” or “I’m keeping my head above water.” At the very least you have to ward off the evil eye by qualifying it with the Yiddish incantation “kayn ayin hora”usually slurred as “kaynnahora” (literally “no evil eye”) . “Business is great, kaynnahora”, meaning “may it not draw the attention of the evil eye upon me for saying this”. But even safer not to admit that it’s great.

* A lot of gentile businessmen complain about business when asked. Businessmen are generally competitive and so they see flaws that need to be fixed wherever they look. They have a perfectionist streak. How to achieve perfection? Fix or avoid imperfections. It’s why good lawyers are depressed generally. They find flaws.

The other reason is that if you are making money, you don’t want your competitors to know how, or that you even are. It also invites any supplier to gouge you on price.

Jews have a refined version of business culture. Hence the joke, even if it’s not so true of gentile businessmen in general. There are exceptions to this though. I bet Larry Ellison doesn’t kvetch so much. He probably points to his car, his mansion, the babe on his arm, his yachting trophies…

* Larry David is told he was adopted and flies to Arizona to meet his real parents; discovering a life-changing religious revelation. S05E10.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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