Happy People Are Not That Funny

Jews account for most of the great stand-up comics in America.

Jews tend be secure in themselves and have no problem making fun of themselves — as opposed to, for instance, Muslims who are always crying about dishonor. If you’re always worrying about dishonor, you’re probably not going to make many jokes in public about your group.

The word “Israel” means “struggle with God.” Jews since Abraham have argued with God. Jewish kids will read the Torah portion at their bar mitzvah and then spend much of their speech arguing with what they just read.

If Jews argue with God, they’re certainly not going to be easily led by some guy from Nazareth who claims to be God. Instead we’d respond, “Josh thinks he’s God. What a nut.”

In a speech Jan. 2nd, 2007 for Chabad of Yorbalinda, Dennis Prager says: “The two funniest genres of humor in my life have been Soviet dissident jokes and American lawyer jokes. …Bitterness causes humor. Happy people are not that funny. If you look at comedians’ lives, they are generally miserable. Lawyers cause misery here and the Soviets caused there. I’m generalizing. There are lawyers here who don’t cause misery. Yeah, there are.”

In 1982, KABC general manager George Green, a secular Jew, told educator Roberta Weintraub that he needed someone to host the two-hour public affairs Sunday night show Religion on the Line. She suggested Prager.

(Carole Hemingway, a secular Jew, preceded Prager. She got a lot of anti-Semitic mail. Dennis says he never received anti-Semitic mail.)

“I had my first tryout on radio at KABC Radio on a Sunday night in August, ’82,” remembers Dennis, “and I was so nervous, I was dripping [sweat]. And then, at 11 p.m., the program director [Wally Sherwin] slips me a note, ‘Tell them you’ll be on next Sunday night’ — one of the happiest moments of my life, because I ached to get my ideas out. I’m like a cow who has milk to give and I’ve been dying to give it my whole life. So I was engaged in interfaith dialogue every Sunday night with a priest, minister, rabbi for 10 years, and it is one of the things that changed my life.” (CSPAN Booknotes)

“I had a feeling that if I did well [on his radio debut],” say s Prager on his radio show January 3, 2006, “that it would change my life.”

In a speech to Chabad of Orange County on Jan. 23, 2007, Dennis says: “I am the worst candidate for the charge of religious intolerance… I was chosen to moderate the most popular show on religion in America on radio… I was chosen in part because I was so fair to the religions. Very often I would get a letter like this: ‘Dear Mr. Prager, I am an evangelical Christian and I was stunned to learn that you were Jewish.’ ‘Dear Mr. Prager, I am a Roman Catholic and I was stunned to learn that you were Jewish.’

“Everybody thought I was their religion. Jews were also stunned. A religious Jew on the radio, it doesn’t make sense. He sounds coherent. A lot of secular Jews reacted that way.”

“My favorite moment on Religion on the Line was when a caller called in. I don’t know if he was anti-Semitic. I allow people their little prejudices. I did a whole show on Oriental drivers. Asians called in and asked why do we drive so fast.

“One night a guy calls in and he starts giving the rabbi a really hard time. ‘Rabbi, isn’t it elitist and even racist for you Jews to think you are the Chosen People.’ This was a rabbi who was not terribly comfortable with the idea. He was on the more liberal end of the theological spectrum. He was queasy about the whole thing.

“Father Michael Nocita comes on and says, ‘God chose the Jews. Get a life.’ The guy said OK.”

“I opened radio to Muslims. They were never part of the Religion on the Line. I deliberately sought them because it’s a major religion. I had Muslims on so often on Religion on the Line that they invited me to various mosques to speak. I was beloved in the Muslims community during the period of Religion on the Line because I had such respect. Nobody opened up a major media outlet like I opened up ABC Radio and I was rewarded with their affection and respect.”

The Most Controversial Thing Dennis Prager Ever Said

According to Wikipedia (taken April 6, 2010):

In mid-November 2006 it was reported that Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to the United States Congress (for Minnesota‘s 5th congressional district), “will take his oath of office with his hand upon the Koran, the Islamic holy book.”[1][2] In reaction to the news, conservative media pundit Dennis Prager criticized the decision in his November 28, 2006 column entitled “America, not Keith Ellison, decides what book a Congressman takes his oath on.”[3] The column attracted national attention from both Ellison and Prager supporters. Presented with the fact that all members of the House officially swear in (or affirm) en masse without the use of any religious text, and that such works are only used in ceremonial reenactments afterwards, Prager stated “that’s the whole point: it’s exactly because it’s ceremonial that it matters”.[4] In response to a wave of criticism, Prager released another column on the topic on December 5, 2006 entitled “A response to my many critics – and a solution”.[5]

As of April 6, 2010, the Wikipedia entry on this controversy is about 20 times as long as its entry on Dennis Prager.

In a column Dec. 5, 2006, Dennis writes: “In addition, there was widespread coverage on left-wing blogs, which, with no exception I could find, distorted what I said, charging my column and me with, for example, racism (see below), when race plays no role at all in this issue or in my column. For the record, because I deem this a significant statement about most of the Left, I found virtually no left-wing blog that was not filled with obscenity-laced descriptions of me. Aside from the immaturity and loathing of higher civilization that such public use of curse words reveal, the fury and hate render the leftist charge that it is the Right that is hate-filled one of the most obvious expressions of psychological projection I have seen in my lifetime.”

Introduced before a speech at U.C. Berkeley May 5, 2008 as a “spirited controversialist”, Dennis says: “How many people at your age, I’m speaking to the students here, when somebody asks you what do you want to do when you graduate, you say, ‘I’d like to be a spirited controversialist.’ It’s not the sort of occupation one anticipates in life.

“I’ll never forget the former University of Judaism in Los Angeles, and currently the American Jewish University, had a number of years ago the following ad for its distinguished speaker series: ‘The University of Judaism is proud to present this year Nobel laureate and conscience of the Holocaust, Elie Wiesel, internationally reknowned Jewish educator Yitz Greenberg and the controversial Dennis Prager.’ That’s it?

“I never wake up any day and think, ‘What rumpus can I cause today?’ I seem to do so periodically but that is not my intent. I’m very easygoing. I wrote a book on happiness. How many controversialists spend ten years writing a book on happiness?”

In a speech Jan. 23, 2007, Dennis says: “It’s very rare that passion defeats reason when I speak. I’m very rational, I’m very calm. I was so passionate. Nobody had raised this issue. It was new to me too. I wrote sentences such as, ‘Keith Ellison should not be allowed to take his oath on the Koran.’ That was a mistaken sentence. I acknowledged it immediately. He is allowed to do whatever he wants. He can take his oath on the phone book. I totally understand that. My concern…has been…the place of the Bible in American life. If we don’t get our values from that book, where will we get our values from?”

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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