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livelaughlove21's avatar

Joan Rivers Holocaust Joke: All in good fun or crossing the line?

Asked by livelaughlove21 (15722points) February 28th, 2013

Here’s the article.

The Joke: Referring to German model Heidi Klum’s Oscar dress, “The last time a German looked this hot was when they were pushing Jews into the ovens.”

Here’s a video of her telling the joke.

Of course, this caused a big stink and Joan is refusing to apologize for it. She stated, “My husband lost the majority of his family at Auschwitz, and I can assure you that I have always made it a point to remind people of the Holocaust through humor.”

Plenty of comedians have gotten flack for Holocaust jokes over the years. In literature, comedy = tragedy + time. Is nearly 70 years not enough time? Or is it not a time issue? If that’s the case, what is the issue? Is this an issue of enjoying or not enjoying shock or offensive comedy, or is it a whole other issue altogether? (woah, way too many “issues”)

On the other hand, are people just being too sensitive? Is it just a type of joke that people should stop taking to heart? Does Joan have a point about reminding people of events through comedy?

BQ: If this joke (and others like it) offend you, do you feel the same way about 9/11 jokes? What type of comedy do approve of? Links to clips would are a plus!

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31 Answers

zenvelo's avatar

Geez, it’s not anti semitic, who is upset? Germans?

chyna's avatar

I find Holocaust jokes offensive as well as jokes about any tragedy.
I don’t understand how she thinks she is reminding people of the horrors caused during the Holocaust by joking about it. I find it disrespectful.
If that makes me “too sensitive” then so be it.

ragingloli's avatar

Jeremy Clarkson once made a parody ad about the the VW Scirocco Diesel. “Berlin to Warsaw on one tank”. I thought it was funny. The polacks were livid, though.

tom_g's avatar

There is no “line”.

rebbel's avatar

I probably wouldn’t have laughed at it, had I heard it live.
But that is merely because I didn’t get it in first instance.
The way the sentence goes, to me it sounded if the Jews being pushed in the oven ‘looked’ hot, not the German pushing them.
Therefore I think it is not a funny joke.
But there is not much humor that crosses lines, for me.

livelaughlove21's avatar

@rebbel Hm? She’s clearly referring to Germans looking hot as they pushed Jews into the ovens. As in, hot temperature-wise. Now I’m confused.

rebbel's avatar

@livelaughlove21 In second instance (that is milliseconds later) I got that, but still, who would have been hotter, temperature-wise?

livelaughlove21's avatar

@tom_g If that was true, no one would be offended, would they?

tom_g's avatar

@livelaughlove21 – Or maybe humans are incapable of seeing that being “offended” is one of those unskillful traits that we should be seeking to investigate (and eliminate) rather than celebrate. Offense has – and still does – lead to all kinds of awful things. I’m just saying that we should start a dialog about eliminating the concept of being offended altogether. There is no line – or rather, there shouldn’t be.

wundayatta's avatar

It doesn’t bother me. What? Are we not supposed to remind people of their history any more?

ninjacolin's avatar

Pretty sure I’m on Joan’s side of this debate.
Just sucks that her joke wasn’t very witty.

livelaughlove21's avatar

@tom_g I’ll agree that there shouldn’t be, certainly. However, one does exist for many people.

I’m not offended by this joke, or any joke for that matter. I think it’s important to take comedy for what it is – comedy. I got into a huge debate with someone over Daniel Tosh’s rape joke. Not finding something funny is one thing, but becoming angry, offended, and defensive is another. I actually laughed at Joan’s joke when I heard it. It wasn’t meant to be offensive toward anyone.

However, I’m still interested in hearing what people have to say about this.

mangeons's avatar

I’m not offended by “offensive” jokes like these, but nine times out of ten I just don’t think they are funny. I do think people tend to overreact, though. It’s one thing to not think a joke is funny, but most of the time I don’t think it’s necessary to get angry or offended.

Aethelwine's avatar

I was watching this show with my daughter this afternoon when I heard the joke. I think the funniest part of the joke was all the gasps from everyone who thought it was crossing the line.

I’ve been watching Joan since she appeared on Johnny Carson in the 70s. She’s known for being offensive and I expect nothing less from her.

filmfann's avatar

I am not offended, but some topics will offend a lot of people. During the Oscar telecast, Seth MacFarland’s joke about the only actor that really got inside Lincoln’s head was John Wilkes Booth got boos.

livelaughlove21's avatar

@filmfann See, I don’t get that. Lincoln died 150 years ago. Why would anyone be offended by that?

tinyfaery's avatar

Oh, Joan Rivers. Gotta love her.

Sunny2's avatar

I’ve never found Ms River’s funny. She’s more looking to be noticed than to be funny. She has terrible taste but, I’m sure she laughs, me, me, me all the way to the bank. She seems to have no sense of humanity.

mazingerz88's avatar

It’s not crossing any line, imo. But it’s not “good” fun.

augustlan's avatar

I’m not a fan of this kind of humor. Even if it’s really funny (which this wasn’t) and actually startles a laugh out of me, it makes me feel…bad, I guess. Like laughing at a funeral or something.

Unbroken's avatar

I like Joan Rivers. And I like humor as a coping mechanism.

The holocaust was always my favorite part of WW2 as in I found it the most interesting and compelling. Ask me to do a paper or read a book on something within the scope and it was the concentration camps.

So having established that I wasn’t offended but neither did I laugh. Whether it was because she stumbled over the line verbally, timing being off, and not making much sense because the German’s weren’t the ones starving to the point of emancipation. Or whether Heidi did actually look sick and scary and I was appalled at her (OK and her bad taste, awful dress).

amujinx's avatar

I think @tom_g hit the nail on the head with his second comment. As a culture we love to be offended, and some people will feign offense sometimes just because we believe we should be offended. I enjoy telling “offensive” jokes just because I think the look of horrified political correctness that comes over peoples faces is funny (often after they stifle a quick laugh). I don’t think Joan Rivers’ quip was very funny (this is funny), but I don’t have any problem with her saying it.

bookish1's avatar

I think it’s a feeble joke on a technical level. I don’t find this one to be anti-Semitic. In poor taste perhaps. But this one is cracking on Germans.
I don’t know who either of these celebrities are anyway O_o

Buttonstc's avatar

I certainly don’t think she could have gotten away with it if she were not Jewish..But she is; and as others pointed out, she was ragging on the Germans.

Who else remembers the song from The Producers called ” Springtime for Hitler” ? Mel Brooks, also Jewish, pointed out that he couldn’t find a better way to discredit Hitler than to make fun of him; mocking is as good a weapon as any.

I think the biggest problem with the joke was poor execution and it was a chuckle at best, not a knee slapper.

Joan is part of a long long tradition of Jewish comedians making a silk purse from a sows ear. This is what gave life to The “Borscht Belt” . Jewish Comedians have never been known for shying away from or being scared of controversy.

I’m perfectly willing to take her at her word about reminding the world about the Holocaust and using humor to do it. It’s certainly not the first time for her. This type of joke is perfectly in character for her. I dont know why people are so surprised and appalled.

Is nobody ever supposed to be allowed to mention the Holocaust as part of a joke ridiculing Germans.? I’m sure there are plenty of people who would be just as happy if were not mentioned ever again and just buried in obscurity. Maybe that’s where all the “offended feelings” stem from. Just plain discomfort at a Jewish comedian reminding everyone yet again about this blot upon the history of mankind.

I just wish the joke had been much funnier.

Anytime a joke has to be explained, it really loses most of its punch :)

ucme's avatar

I like Joan & i’m never offended, certainly not with jokes, but her face looks so plastic she makes Barbie look human. Everytime she cooks in the oven she has to call her surgeon for a quick repair job…I mean purleeze!!

mattbrowne's avatar

What matters most is how Holocaust survivors feel about this.

livelaughlove21's avatar

@mattbrowne There aren’t many left. Like I said, it was 70 years ago.

ragingloli's avatar

Well, they are not the ones being made fun of in the jokes, the Germans are. If anything, it matters how us Germans feel about this.

OpryLeigh's avatar

I’m not offended by it and it did make me laugh. I am glad she is refusing to apologise as I don’t think it would be a genuine apology if she did and she obviously believes that it’s ok for comedy to push boundaries (judging by her joke track record) and so it’s good to see her standing by her belief and not apologising for it. Personally I like it when comedy crosses the line as it sparks conversations like this and so Joan’s theory (about reminding people of the holocaust through humour) has worked. I know it’s not the only way to get a conversation going but it’s guaranteed to get a passionate response.

deni's avatar

I don’t care about Joan Rivers, I feel terrible that the Holocaust ever happened of course, but LITERALLY unless you were in a concentration camp or suffered the effects first hand, I don’t see how any joke like this could possibly offend you. People are waaaaaaaaaaaaay too sensitive, it’s annoying.

flutherother's avatar

Uncomfortable humour; but what are you going to do, pretend it never happened?

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