Jennifer Caplan, "Funny, You Don't Look Funny: Judaism and Humor from the Silent Generation to Millennials" (Wayne State UP, 2023)


In this comprehensive approach to Jewish humor focused on the relationship between humor and American Jewish practice, Jennifer Caplan calls us to adopt a more expansive view of what it means to “do Jewish,” revealing that American Jews have turned, and continue to turn, to humor as a cultural touchstone. Caplan frames Funny, You Don't Look Funny: Judaism and Humor from the Silent Generation to Millennials (Wayne State UP, 2023) around four generations of Jewish Americans from the Silent Generation to Millennials, highlighting a shift from the utilization of Jewish-specific markers to American-specific markers.

Jewish humor operates as a system of meaning-making for many Jewish Americans. By mapping humor onto both the generational identity of those making it and the use of Judaism within it, new insights about the development of American Judaism emerge. Caplan’s explication is innovative and insightful, engaging with scholarly discourse across Jewish studies and Jewish American history; it includes the work of Joseph Heller, Larry David, Woody Allen, Seinfeld, the Coen brothers films, and Broad City. This example of well-informed scholarship begins with an explanation of what makes Jewish humor Jewish and why Jewish humor is such a visible phenomenon. Offering ample evidence and examples along the way, Caplan guides readers through a series of phenomenological and ideological changes across generations, concluding with commentary regarding the potential influences on Jewish humor of later Millennials, Gen Z, and beyond.

Lea Greenberg is an editor, translator, and scholar of German and Jewish studies.

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Lea Greenberg

Lea Greenberg is a commissioning editor with Amsterdam University Press and the editorial associate of the Lise Meitner Group at the Bibliotheca Hertziana – Max Planck Institute for Art History in Rome.
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