Friday, April 27, 2012

Jewish Humor Central Profiled by New York's Jewish Week


This week's edition of New York's The Jewish Week has a feature article about the past, present, and future of Jewish humor that includes a profile of Jewish Humor Central and comments by Al Kustanowitz, its Blogger-in-Chief.

The article, by Gary Rosenblatt, the newspaper's editor and publisher, reflects on the state of Jewish humor, wondering if it still has a future given the demise of most of the Catskill Mountain resorts that gave so many Jewish standup comedians their start in decades past.

Even though the article is titled The Ever-Dying Art of Jewish Humor, it offers hope that a new generation will find new sources of Jewish humor and rediscover the timeless old jokes that seem to have been around forever.

Rosenblatt cites the success of Old Jews Telling Jokes, first the website, and then the book, CD, DVD, and now the off-Broadway comedy based on it that debuts in May. We have run a few blog posts on this success story over the past two years. The website, which has been rerunning some of its old material, is returning with a new season on May 1, featuring a new cast of standup comics from Boca Raton, Florida.

The article concludes with a profile of Jewish Humor Central and comments by its creator:
Al Kustanowitz, 72, of Fair Lawn, N.J., is more optimistic. A 36-year-veteran of IBM, he now spends an average of an hour a day updating a popular website he launched from home in 2009, a labor of love called Jewish Humor Central (www.jewishhumorcentral.com), which features an entertaining mix of jokes, odd news items (“Gaza Zoo Adds Stuffed Animals”), music, new comedy videos and clips from classic routines.
As “blogger-in-chief,” he says he has written close to 800 blog posts, and admits “it’s getting harder to find clean material” to use on the site. (He includes a warning if a video has language “from the George Carlin list” of seven words you can never say on TV.)
Kustanowitz says his muse was his late wife, Shuly, who served as his “gentle censor.” Now he often runs material by his daughter, Esther, a prolific blogger and Jewish culture queen in her own right. (“The tree doesn’t fall far from the fruits,” Al jokes of his own talent.)
For some 25 years he published a family newsletter with funny news items around Purim time each year, noting that “you can’t make this stuff up.” Over time he sent it out to hundreds of family members and friends, but he abandoned the print edition now that his website has about 2,300 subscribers.
Besides, he says, “I started the blog because I couldn’t wait until Purim.”
Based on his success, Kustanowitz now offers a series of one-hour lectures. His talks include video clips and commentary, with more than two dozen topics to choose from.
“I don’t worry about theories” about Jewish humor and its sociological implications, he says.
“These jokes last forever.”
Here's a video clip of Daniel Okrent and Peter Gethers, the creators of the new Off Broadway show Old Jews Telling Jokes, discussing plans for their new show. Enjoy!

(A SPECIAL NOTE FOR NEW EMAIL SUBSCRIBERS:  THE VIDEO MAY NOT BE VIEWABLE DIRECTLY FROM THE EMAIL THAT YOU GET EACH DAY ON SOME COMPUTERS AND TABLETS.  YOU MUST CLICK ON THE TITLE AT THE TOP OF THE EMAIL TO REACH THE JEWISH HUMOR CENTRAL WEBSITE, FROM WHICH YOU CLICK ON THE PLAY BUTTON IN THE VIDEO IMAGE TO START THE VIDEO.)

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