Comedy and Antisemitism — and Dave Chappelle

A. Jay Adler
12 min readNov 15, 2022
One idea Dave Chappelle insinuated.

Jews and the Dearth of the Cool

I’ll be frank if not funny. American Jewish culture has never been cool culture. Over the course of the twentieth century, it has been greatly politically engaged and outsized in its intellectual and cultural influence, but it has never been cool. Jews often attached themselves to cool culture, from jazz to the counterculture to cutting edge political movements, but these instances were mostly manifestations of other American or even foreign subcultures in which Jews participated in various forms of support and fandom — but they were not emanations of any cool Jewish culture itself. Why this has been so is a deeper consideration for another time.

This Jewish exclusion from cool remains true as well in early twenty-first century, left political culture, which permeates youth and artistic cultures at historically unparalleled levels. In the U.S., these cultures have become nearly inseparable. In that permeation, Jews have lost out once again in earning any cool cachet of ideological privilege for their historical oppression. Intersectionally, in regard to their oppression, Jews are dismissed as effectively white and denigrated as being themselves powerful, moneyed oppressors.

The deafness to ancient and more recent echoes in these characterizations is, well, deafening. But they resound, nonetheless.

So it is that in contemporary America, Jews have to cry very loudly about the antisemitism around them, and many people — who by ethical profession should — don’t really want to hear about it. It is not part of their program to offer particular attention to Jews and antisemitism, so if the disengaged don’t proceed to subsume any supportive statements in bland and unsatisfactory “all lives matter” formulations, such as rejecting “all forms of racism,” they instead deny the antisemitism; or argue with Jews about the definition of antisemitism; or say it’s anti-Zionism, not antisemitism; or claim that Jews are “weaponizing” charges of antisemitism; or — and here’s one nobody ever heard of before — suggest that there’s actually some truth to those bad things people are saying about the Jews.

This indifference — at best — toward antisemitism is so prevalent that if, for instance, you read about the array of…

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A. Jay Adler

Writer. Reader. Roper of stars and Professor of English. New York and Los Angeles. Essays, poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction, memoir. ajayadler.com