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November 8, 2009 – 11:58 am8 Comments

Letters to the Editor

Danny Katz is not amusing

Woody Allen made a career out of being sceptically humorous, and sometimes derisively mocking the New York Jew. His characterisations have become synonymous with how most of the world see Jews in the “New world” and even how they see themselves.

Daniel Levisohn, in his article “Woody Allen on the West Coast”, writing about Allen and Annie Hall, makes this comment:

Alvy Singer, embodies every character trope of the secular New York Jewish intellectual. He is funny and hyper-literate. He is casually paranoid, observing anti-Semitism at every turn. He lusts after the beautiful non-Jew, the eponymous shiksa, Annie Hall, played by Diane Keaton. He can spout off Freud and his longest relationship has been with his analyst.

There are, of course, other Jewish archetypes: for instance, the no-nonsense Israeli or the observant Hassidic Jew in his black hat. But for many Jewish Americans, Allen’s persona is probably the most familiar. He is what remains after assimilation has stripped away Jewish religious practice.

Larry David in a similar vein with Seinfeld and recently Curb Your Enthusiasm has also stylised the Jewish character albeit be it stuck in the vision of 50’s Catskill’s humour.

In either case both are skilled at the art of the anti archetype and do it extremely well.

Reading Danny Katz’s article in The Age, 05/11/09 made me choke on my morning coffee and toast.

Did Danny pull out his dictionary of Woodyisms and throw in some hip afro American terminology “jewed out” in attempt at some sardonic humour. Well he has failed miserably.

Could he have packed more Yiddish verbs and stereotypes into one article? I think not.

Perhaps his visit to the dentist filled him with so much gas as not only do dull the pain of the procedure but has numbed his brain into thinking that what his written could passed off as witty and funny.

Eli

St Kilda East, VIC

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8 Comments »

  • ra says:

    Eli,

    From your letter I can tell you were unimpressed with Danny Katz’s latest article. Could you explain why a little more?

    Thanks.

  • ariel says:

    ra,
    melbourne is not new york.
    the general population would likely not have understood Katz’s feeble attempt at self-depricating humour and would most likely see him as disillusioned with his own culture. What we tend to call a self hater.
    I personally did not find it funny at all. He gave the impression of a self-hating Jew more than a stereotypical neurotic secular Jew.

  • ra says:

    ariel,

    Thanks for your comment.

    Eli, is your dislike of the article based on the same reason as ariel’s dislike? ie that the general population wouldn’t have understood it and assumed Katz was lampooning Jewish culture.

  • gedalia says:

    To us he may be a dork, geek, and occasionally funny Jew.

    To most Australian’s he is probably a self-depreciating try-hard Jew that makes absolutely no sense.

  • eli says:

    There is so much to dislike about this article, that now I have read it again I find it even more distasteful than the first time I read it.
    It seems that a simple trip to the dentist gave Danny an opportunity to exorcise his disdain for everything connected with Jews, his own Jewishness, religious Jews or anything that even sounded remotely Jewish, even street names. The question I ask is why?

    I’ll admit I have never read any of Danny Katz’s material or know him or of him. Well perhaps I do now. Again I ask why?

    Can someone please explain the following:
    ‘Jewed out’, ‘over Jewified’, ‘plotzing at the seams with Jewishness’ and something to do with ‘slumping on his stinking ass like an idiotic crazy person’. Now that’s just in the first sentence!

    The entire article is full of hip parlance that is now standard in such publications such as Heeb Magazine, Websites such as Jewlicious and Jewcy. Their underlying theme is that being Jewish is now seen to cool – see article here by Jessica Ravitz, CNN.

    Those and other media are aimed at 20+ something’s that have taken the new vocabulary as part of the new next gen of Jews.

    Danny mashes up that with Yiddishisms from a bygone era that somehow don’t quite sit right with the new vogue.

    But hey, I guess that could be open to artistic interpretation. I am no journo or writer.

    But here is where it all sticks in my throat. Instead of maybe having a laugh and a poke at the pseudo Jewish ghetto/shtetl in Caulfield, Katz attempts to tear it apart describing its inhabitants in a gross, almost Nazi depiction of the “ugly Jew”.

    Images such as:

    ‘Alma”, which sounds like the name of an old Jewish grandma, the kind who force-feeds her grandkids like she’s fattening foie gras ducks

    Jews were in the park walking their Jewish dogs – little furry-faced ones with dangly forelock-ears and quizzical scholarly expressions

    (the juxtaposition is inescapable)

    Wherever there are Jews, there are usually dentists, because Jews and dentistry have always gone together

    (all Jews are wealthy?)

    The tone of the entire article is so disgusting that had a non-Jew written it I am sure many would have requested an apology etc.

    It seems Katz attempts to mask his distaste of his own birth by trying to bury it in a comedic style reminiscent of a generation of Catskill (holiday area for many Jews in New York) comedians who made their living in lambasting their own, but they were clever and very good at pinpointing the vagaries of Jewish Life in America, especially New York.

    However, they played to a mostly Jewish audience who were laughing at themselves. Those comedians were also mostly Jews or married to Jews, (some were not even Jewish), but they never denied their own Jewishness or sold it for a buck.

    Katz’s answer or attempt is to write things such as

    ” It’s right across the road from Glicks”, because that’s how Jews give directions; everything’s in relation to bagel shops.”

    Really ?? I never heard that one before.

    Suffice to say Katz sounds as if he started typing and couldn’t stop. The verbal diarrhoea continues for most of the article.

    Non Jews and Jews alike perhaps would surely wonder at
    “Elsternwick, which is the epicentre of all Jewishness in the meta-universe” HMMMM

    In case you’re wondering here is the definition of meta-universe

    A multiverse (or meta-universe) is the hypothetical set of multiple possible universes (including our universe) that together comprise all of physical reality. The different universes within a multiverse are sometimes called parallel universes. The structure of the multiverse, the nature of each universe within it and the relationship between the various constituent universes, depend on the specific multiverse hypothesis considered.

    Ahh yes off course! so if Elsternwick is the meta universe what does that make East St.Kilda.

    And before i suffer the same inability to stop typing I will end it on this note

    Katz made an absolute fool of himself and only added further evidence that more often than not the enemy is sometimes within.

  • eli says:

    apologies i stuffed up the formatting on the link

    [Ed: That’s ok, we’ve fixed it for you.]

  • Francis says:

    Gotta agree with Eli on this one. I often find Danny’s columns quite funny, but wasn’t sure what the point of this column was. It read like a bunch of old stereotypes strung together, with a mocking tone.

  • Henry Herzog says:

    What are you talking about, Danny Katz is very funny and also interesting; so too are Woody Allen and Larry David. Although them being Jewish is obvious, they make use of it is an endearing yet neurotic sort of way without making fun of it. Who’s definitely not funny is John Safran. He mocks and ridicules Judiasm and denigrades Jews. If to be a self-hating Jew all of a sudden became funny, he would he king.

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