Jewish history has been characterized by a unique brand of self-deprecating
humor, but Old Jews Telling Jokes has taken the art to new heights in
As an Internet video site, it may just be the funniest
phenomenon in the Jewish world today, and is now spinning off in all directions,
from a book and a DVD to a Web series and even a film.
creators, two young Jewish men named Sam Hoffman and Eric Spiegelman, dream of
spreading it around the globe, including to Israel.
In case you haven’t
heard, Old Jews Telling Jokes (oldjewstellingjokes.com
) is exactly
what it purports to be: video clips of alter kockers sharing their favorite
And if you want to laugh so hard that you plotz
with pain, you should check it out regularly – it’s updated all the
Based in the United States, OJTJ was launched last year and,
according to its operators, now averages a massive 800,000 monthly video plays,
featuring stand-up performances by big names such as legal eagle Alan Dershowitz
and former New York mayor Ed Koch to unheard of but hilarious comedians like
nonagenarian Jesse Cohen, who still works as traffic court attorney. Cohen, who
relates a funny tale titled “Stud Rooster,” claimed that playing the harmonica
and telling jokes kept him young.
“I owe my vitality to tonality, and my
longevity to levity,” he quipped.
Hoffman told The Jerusalem Post
this week that he and Spiegelman had “both a high-minded and a practical
motivation to start the website.
“Our lofty goal was to archive,
celebrate and share an element of American Jewish culture that is potentially
disappearing with an older generation,” he said. “From a practical standpoint,
we were trying to make something interesting and fun for the
Although the website is not yet making a profit, Hoffman noted
that their new book, Old Jews Telling Jokes: 5000 Years of Funny Bits and
Not-So- Kosher Laughs
, went on sale in the US in September and “is doing
“I’d love to see the site continue to expand by shooting
in locations around the world,” he said. “We’ve already shot on the East and
West coasts of the US and we have plans to shoot in Florida.
If it were
economically feasible, I would love to shoot in London and in Israel as well. It
would be fascinating to see how these locales affect both the content and the
performance of the jokes.”
Hoffman said he had already written a
screenplay for a narrative feature film called Zumwalt’s Suit
, which is inspired
by the OJTJ project, and he is currently casting for the movie, which he hopes
to shoot in early 2011.
Spiegelman disclosed that “Nag and Noodge” would
be “a spinoff web series, but stressed that, contrary to some media reports, it
would be broadcast on the Internet, and not on television.
based on Old Jews Telling Jokes, but it will be presented to our audience,” he
said. “And it will actually be written by one of our joketellers.”
declined to provide details of the joketeller in question, but insiders said it
was being written by Fred Rubin and Marley Sims, who have worked on the popular
TV series Night Court, Diff’rent Strokes
and Home Improvement
and Hoffman are also taking the show on the road, most recently in Los Angeles
last week, in a question and answer session at the Skirball Cultural
OJTJ started small, with the first stand-up video shoot in New
Jersey organized by Hoffman’s father and another in Hollywood arranged by
Spiegelman’s dad, and now has more than 200 episodes under its belt.
found this mirrored paternal joke-gathering activity, from the East Coast to the
West, immensely satisfying,” Hoffman wrote on the website.
“After all, in
Hollywood or New Jersey, old Jews are old Jews. Maybe the chais on gold
are a little easier to see in LA, nestled as they are in thatches of
hair over tan chests and half-buttoned Prada shirts. But, Hollywood or
these men and women are still your aunts and uncles, your wisecracking
and your periodontists. Their jokes, some new, some not-so-new, were all
reassuringly familiar. And why shouldn’t they be? These jokes are the
history of a culture.”
Hoffman concluded with this sound advice to the
audience of Old Jews Telling Jokes: “Enjoy, and remember, laugh loud! We
hear so good.”