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November 18, 2008

It's Greek to me, but it's Jew to you

The latest, biggest nonsense to hit the internet is that the ancient Greeks were a bunch of wacky jokesters. Or, as this news story would have it, they invented Monty Python's dead parrot sketch. You can find the sketch written clearly on their joke parchment.

I have nothing against the Greeks personally, certainly not against those who have become Americans, nor have I much against the ancient Greeks, at least the handful of them who left the Jews alone. But query this: Have you ever known a funny Greek? Did Papadopoulus and Papandreou exchange "knock knock" jokes? Did Aristotle Onassis tell fart jokes while he was romancing Jackie O? No, I thought not.

And the whole notion that the ancient Greeks were funny is risible. If you need proof of that, take that classic Greek comedy, Plato's Republic. Tell me if you think this stuff is funny:

Nonsense, he replied. But let me add something more: There is another side to Glaucon's argument about the praise and censure of justice and injustice, which is equally required in order to bring out what I believe to be his meaning. Parents and tutors are always telling their sons and their wards that they are to be just; but why? not for the sake of justice, but for the sake of character and reputation; in the hope of obtaining for him who is reputed just some of those offices, marriages, and the like which Glaucon has enumerated among the advantages accruing to the unjust from the reputation of justice. More, however, is made of appearances by this class of persons than by the others; for they throw in the good opinion of the gods, and will tell you of a shower of benefits which the heavens, as they say, rain upon the pious; and this accords with the testimony of the noble Hesiod and Homer, the first of whom says, that the gods make the oaks of the just--
And on it goes in this vein for ten whole books of side-splitting laughs.

So why in the world do some people now want to give the ancient Greeks credit for originating humor, when we all know it was the ancient Hebrews who pioneered on that front? After all, the world's oldest joke was told by Cain, and it went like this: "So I'm like, Am I my brother's keeper? What's the deal with that?"

Then there's this: Q. How did Joshua defeat the Amalekites when Moses held his arms up? A. Moses had very bad body odor.

And speaking of the 40 years in the wilderness, where do you think all the fart jokes originated? I mean, have you ever eaten manna? Whew! It's a lot worse than Mexican food, and they didn't even have dogs to blame it on. "Hey, Shmuel, did you just let one rip, or are you going to blame it on the cattle again?"

The fact of the matter is that the ancient Greeks were simply too busy drawing forth their trenchant swords and piercing their enemies through the chest to be much concerned about humor.

Whereas the Jews were spending several millennia getting the living crap kicked out of them on a daily basis. In those circumstances, how can you NOT see the humor in things?