Visu­al Arts

Have I Got A Car­toon For You!: The Moment Mag­a­zine Book of Jew­ish Cartoons

  • Review
By – February 3, 2020

Review­ing a book filled with one-page car­toons about the pecu­liar­i­ties of Jew­ish life in Amer­i­ca is no easy task. Humor is incred­i­bly sub­jec­tive and pin­point­ing exact­ly what makes a joke suc­cess­ful is to do. The Jew­ish expe­ri­ence as ren­dered through the car­toons in Have I Got a Car­toon For You, is at once a genial and genius sub­ver­sion of day-to-day liv­ing. For read­ers, take heed: there are indeed many chuck­les to be found here in this slim, but sub­stan­tial, volume.

Have I Got a Car­toon For You is a com­pi­la­tion of Jew­ish-themed car­toons that first appeared in The New York­er over the last twen­ty-five years or so. Edit­ed by the vet­er­an New York­er car­toon edi­tor Bob Mankoff, the car­toons con­tained here­in rep­re­sent the finest com­men­tary on the con­tem­po­rary Amer­i­can Jew­ish con­di­tion. The list of con­trib­u­tors is stun­ning: Roz Chast, Mort Ger­berg, Ben Schwartz, and Ken Krim­stein to name but a few. The tal­ent col­lect­ed in this col­lec­tiondis­plays the unique voice of Jew­ish humor and how it has found its place with­in the canon of Amer­i­can comedy.

There is no cen­tral sto­ry to speak of here. Rather, the book is demar­cat­ed by com­mon tropes found with­in Jew­ish humor: there are gags about Jew­ish hol­i­days, the Jew­ish moth­er” makes numer­ous appear­ances, and the inter­de­nom­i­na­tion­al rift is explored with a keen eye — to name a few top­ics. While it might have been help­ful for the read­er if there had been a delin­eation of sec­tions, the nat­ur­al means by which the sub­ject mat­ter flows is clear and under­stand­able. In her hilar­i­ous intro­duc­tion, Roz Chast posits the sub­text of the book — and Jew­ish humor in gen­er­al — as one fueled by anx­i­ety. It becomes appar­ent quite quick­ly how true this the­o­ry is. Jews have been anx­ious since the time of Moses and many mil­len­nia lat­er; there are still Jew­ish moth­ers ask­ing when their sons will become doctors.

How far have Jews come in Amer­i­ca that we can pub­lish car­toons about our community’s foibles, idio­syn­crasies, myopia, and future all with­in the con­fines of a gen­er­al pub­lic inter­est mag­a­zine? The tri­umph of Jew­ish humor is that it some­how mor­phed from cop­ing about society’s gen­er­al lack of enthu­si­asm about the Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty to becom­ing the bedrock of what makes Amer­i­ca laugh. The col­lec­tion that Mankoff has cre­at­ed togeth­er for Have I Got a Car­toon For You will make you chor­tle and, ulti­mate­ly, it will make you think.

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