Jewish World Review Oct. 11, 2004 / 26 Tishrei, 5764
So the joke bombed (With some)
I don't normally feel obligated to explain a joke, but considering the response to my stereotype-based quip from last week's issue, I'm obliging JWR publisher Binyamin Jolkovsky in offering an explanation. Meanwhile, readers should know that Binyamin had no idea what was in the article beyond the first line, because that's all he had time to read in the two minutes that were left for him to close the issue before candle-lighting for Simchas Torah.
What can I say? Not all Irish are drunks. So should we do away with the drunk Irish jokes? Or must a comedian steer clear of them if he or she happens to be Jewish? Of course, Binyamin reminds me that there is a double standard for being Jewish, and JWR has that standard to uphold.
Jokes are hyperbole. Further, all stereotypes have exceptions; that doesn't make them untrue (even when the exceptions might be as numerous as the applicable cases). One thing I can admit is that ethnic humor, when it's edgy, works better on stage than in print, where it can come across as too harsh or mean-spirited. So had I not been rushed to get the piece in, I'd likely have thought better of it and just finished the joke at "the Latin thing hadn't tipped her off." This would have made the point without going overboard.
That said, I was playing on a well-known truth about a disproportionate number of males within the Latino community. I just said it more caustically than people are used to hearing and only because to my own senses, I come across as more funny than mean (and so I was laughing too hard to see how the joke might come across on paper if I weren't me). But if you don't want to take my word for it, take John Leguizamo's from any of his one-man shows: Mambo Mouth, Freak, Spic-O-Rama. Naturally, my huge generalization will offend many who don't deserve it. For example, Peruvian men are different from Puerto Rican or Mexican men. (Sorry, I won't budge on those two; I've known too many of both but I would hope that readers at least realized that Americanized men of Latin parentage weren't exactly the target.) Let's just remember: Much humor and I'd say the best humor, ala Jackie Mason is based on generalizations. I'll also point out that the slam was specific to a subset of an ethnic group, so it wasn't "racist" as some respondents claimed.
I once had a roommate who devoted much interest and study to Latin culture and who, upon learning that someone was dating a Latino, would say, "Ah, a Latin man careful with those hot-blooded Latin men!!" (Proving that it's possible to love a culture without being self-deceptive about it.) Perhaps for folks who either haven't lived in major metropolitan areas or had experience in cultural crossroads, the joke was simply too shocking. Or maybe we're still at a point where we can make only positive observations about other cultures or ethnicities not our own.
Anyway, as someone who writes and speaks publicly, I guarantee this won't be the last time I overdo it. I'll likely say or write things that may again misrepresent my own attitude toward a group (in case anyone took the jab to mean I actually have anything against Latinos). I will say, however, that the good thing that comes with writing something deemed reprehensible by the public (even when it's in joke form) is that I get a good reminder of just how well-loved Jews are: Several of my detractors placed my slam in the context of "hateful Jews." Never far from the surface, is it? Ah the celebration of tolerance: always the first refuge of the intolerant (George Will).
Blessings to all, especially to the millions of faithful Latino males.
Now please get over the joke.
(After all, I'm the chick who couldn't sleep for a month after the seizure of Elian Gonzales, and will be naming her first-born Elian, even if it's a girl.)
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JWR contributor Julia Gorin tours with Right Stuff Comedy and performs in the monthly New York-based show Republican Riot. Send your comments by clicking here.
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© 2004, Julia Gorin