‘YIDDISHE CHARLESTON’ or: ‘YEAH I’M JEWISH. YOU WANNA MAKE SOMETHING OF IT?’

The 1920s saw a rise in Jewish humor throughout the country, featuring comic strips like Milt Gross’s ‘Nize Baby’ and dialect comedians like Willie Howard and the team of ‘Smith And Dale’ (who were the models for Neil Simon’s vaudeville team in ‘The Sunshine Boys’). The superstar 1920s female Jewish singer was, of course, Fanny Brice and none of these artists seem to take any displeasure in the self-mockery of their culture’s accents and attitudes. In retrospect they were possibly more free than black artists were in terms of dictating the extent to which they would agree to self-parody. And perhaps there was just a less straight-jacketed feeling in our culture about what was okay to find humor in. Everyone laughed more easily. It says something about times one-hundred years later that even writing this post and sharing the above song gave me pause. But I decided that the worst thing that could happen is that I’d get cancelled which would actually bring me more attention than I’ve gotten over the past few years.

With that said, enjoy both the song “Oye Vey, That Yiddishe Charleston’ (1926) and the evocative accompanying photos as posted by a YouTuber with the interesting moniker of 240252. The song was written by Fred Fisher (who wrote ‘Chicago’ amongst many others) and Billy Rose (who didn’t really write anything but put his name on a lot of hit tunes of the era). At 1:20 reference is made to Henry Ford and how even he’s learning the Yiddishe Charleston. Given Ford’s well known anti-semitism, this qualifies as a pretty hip joke in an era which is not generally thought of as a bastion of hipness. Oye Vey…

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