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I'm very proud of my gold pocket watch. My grandfather, on his deathbed, sold me this watch.
Describe All Jews Are Cheapskates Here, as long as there isn't a service charge.
Simply put, the stereotype that Jewish people are thrifty with their cash and liable to complain
about having to spend it. Being smart with money actually is part of Jewish culture, for various reasons, but this trope is about exaggerating that aspect to comic levels. Jews aren't just good with money, but really cheap. They won't spend money if they don't have to, even if it's a necessity. They would haggle with anyone over anything (especially since Jews Love to Argue
). This kind of joke comes especially from Jews themselves
(so doesn't always carry the Unfortunate Implications
of similar tropes).
By the way, this doesn't preclude Conspicuous Consumption
, just that they will make it clear they got it at a better price. Although it's rare in fiction they would stoop to actual stealing
This is a Lighter and Softer
successor to the old Greedy Jew
stereotype. Do not confuse the two.
Even this trope, though, borders on N-Word Privileges
as, like any national stereotype, it can be quite offensive when coming from an outsider.
In Great Britain, this trope is less common, since Jews are a much smaller and less culturally-represented
minority, and their economical niche is filled by Scotsmen
, a never-failing source of British ethnic jokes. Yorkshiremen also have this reputation, especially among other Northerners
. In France, the Normans have this reputation; in Germany it's Swabians, Westphalians and (among Westphalians) people from Lippe. Parsimony is also seen as a peculiarly Prussian trait. In Northern Europe, the Dutch and the Finns tend to have a reputation of frugality. In much of East Asia, the (overseas) Chinese have such reputation.
See also All Jews Are Ashkenazi
, Yiddish as a Second Language
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- The American Splendor episode "Standing Behind Old Jewish Ladies in Supermarkets" is about the various incidents the narrator observes of old Jewish ladies trying to get discounts. At the end of the story, he's astonished to encounter an old Jewish lady who actually gives back the extra change the cashier gave her by accident.
- In Maus, Art Spiegelman's dad is... well... a walking racial stereotype, going to comical lengths to avoid spending money (including taking back half eaten boxes of cereal to a supermarket and harassing the manager until he actually gets a refund for the uneaten portions.) This brought some heat that the book was promoting racism, except Art was simply chronicling things his father did while he wrote the comic. The first pages of the second book shows Art's fear of portraying his father's behavior. Vladek defends himself by saying he's obsessive over money because careful manipulation of very scarce resources is what saved his life many times. Vladek's wife, Mala, on the other hand, comments that they both have Holocaust survivors in their families, and Vladek is the only one they know who behaves this way.
- In her film Jesus Is Magic, Sarah Silverman performs a song that begins, "I love you like bears love honey / I love you like Jews love money."
- The mother in Taking Woodstock. She turns out to have a huge stash of money in the end, she just was tight with the money to keep her son helping around the motel.
- In the "Jewsploitation" film The Hebrew Hammer, the title character tells his Black Best Friend that a "Stereotype Alarm" in the villain's base will go off if they do something stereotypical, and he then lists a series of classic black racial stereotypes (including playing basketball and eating watermelon). His friend explains that, despite his pride in his heritage and membership in the Kwanzaa Liberation Front, he does not exemplify these stereotypes, but then the Hammer picks up a penny from the floor thinking that Raheem had dropped it, setting off the alarm.
- In Monty Python's Life of Brian, failure to haggle in the market is a surefire way to attract a lot of unwanted attention.
- Although that overlaps with more general stereotypes about oriental bazaars.
- In A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas, Seth Goldstein (who has recently converted to Christianity) asking Kumar to pay back the 57 cents that he owes is taken as a sign that he is still a Jew at heart.
- Once, God sent an angel to Earth, to bring the most worthy people the Ten Commandments. At first, the angel went to... the USA and greeted them:
Angel: "People of God's own country, I bring you God's commandments! The first one says 'Thou shalt not kill' -"
Are you one of those commie pacifist anti-capital-punishment pinkoes? Piss off!"
Frustrated, the angel goes to France instead and tries it again:
Angel: "People of the country where God would like to live, I bring you God's commandments! The first one says 'Thou shalt not kill'; the second one 'Thou shalt not commit adultery' -"
Frenchmen: "What!? You want us to give up our menage a trois? Get out!"
Very frustrated, the angel walks on Earth and finally finds the Jews.
Angel: "Dear Jews, I bring you God's commandments! The first one says -"
Jews: "Cut it, just tell us how much it'll cost us!"
Angel:' "Why, cost? The Ten commandments don't cost anything!"
Jews:' "What, they're free? Sure, we'll take all of them!"
- A Jewish son went to his Jewish father to ask for $20 to go to the movies. His father said "$20? What do you need $10 dollars for at the movies? Fine, here's your $5!"
- Jon Stewart makes jokes about this, like with comparing Yom Kippur to Lent: "Forty days, to one day. Even in sin, you're paying retail!"
- Jerry's family in Seinfeld. His father takes particular pride in finding merchandise that is so cheap that it might be stolen.
- Oddly averted by Jerry himself, though. As much of a jerk as he usually is, he's very generous with money.
- Ross Geller from Friends (but not his sister, Monica).
- In Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry David, despite being a half-billionaire, is portrayed as being even worse than George Costanza, his Seinfeld alter-ego, when it comes to money. Larry is rather often characterized as a "cheap Jew" in his endless quibbling and penny pinching over tips, bills, and other minor sums that he shouldn't really care about in his financial position. In contrast, on the show, the actual Jason Alexander (who is also Jewish) is shown tipping both generously and anonymously, much to Larry's annoyance. He usually "justifies" it by going on tangents about various social conventions, riffs on which Curb Your Enthusiasm and Seinfeld run on.
- It was a little subtle, but Buddy Sorrell on The Dick Van Dyke Show was Jewish and always had "a guy" for anything you wanted to get cheaply.
- In one episode of Knowing Me Knowing You, a Jewish comedian is guesting, and Alan asks him to tell a joke about Jews, which he does. Alan responds, to general disgust, with:
Alan: ...Did you hear about the Jewish hotel keeper? He kept a fork in the sugar bowl.
- The Two Ronnies snuck in a joke about Disraeli combining the stereotype with real 19th century politics.
Voter: Don't you think the Turks were wrong to order wholesale slaughter in the Balkans?
Disraeli: It would have been wrong to order it retail.
- The Nanny. Fran is something of a played with example. Fran was an avid Fashionista and frequently mentioned having her credit cards maxed out, including an episode dealing with being a shopping addict. On the other, she was shown to be rather thrifty about it, favoring outlet malls, shoving her feet into too-small shoes that were on sale, and showing that some of her clothes came from having designer Todd Oldham as a cousin. Her family plays it much more straight: Grandma Yetta apparently recycled tea bags, Sylvia would buy cheap shoes and put them in the freezer so they'd be less painful, and she apparently taught Fran such tips as "why by Sweet-n-Low when restaurants give it away" and "suck the innards out of chocolate covered cherries before they weigh the bag."
- In the episode of The Sopranos where Tony's debts with his Jewish friend and loan shark Hesh grows out of control, he complains about him fitting this trope to his shrink. She responds by saying that it's an ugly stereotype. In a first-season episode Hesh does almost spoil Tony's and Johnny Sack's plan to bail Hesh himself out of some hock with Junior, who has instituted a retroactive tax on Hesh's businesses upon becoming boss. Junior listens and "magnanimously" lowers the rate, and the back taxes owed to "three hundred". Before anyone else can react, Hesh says, "Two-fifty!" There's a moment of brittle silence, and then Junior smiles. "What did I tell you? Hang on to your cock when you negotiate with these desert people!"
- One character on The Young Ones (played by Arnold Brown) plays with this trope by describing himself as being "Scottish and Jewish - two racial stereotypes for the price of one!"
- Works on multiple levels because in the UK the Scots are also commonly stereotyped as being cheapskates, and two of anything for the price of one would therefore appeal to them, too.
- In an episode of the American version of Shameless, Frank tries to sell a gold watch to a Jewish pawnbroker. After clumsily trying to get in the pawnbroker's favor by talking about how he thinks the Israelis should just smash up the Palestinians (The pawnbroker supports a 2 state solution) Frank gets annoyed when the pawnbroker won't raise his offered price, saying that he's "Jewing him down" incorrectly
- "Weird Al" Yankovic's "Pretty Fly for a Rabbi." The eponymous rabbi "won't pay retail price," but "if you want to haggle, oy! He'll make you such a deal!"
- Rap group Clipse's "Wamp Wamp (What It Do)" gives us:
17 a brick, yeah, go and tell 'em that
I got the wamp wamp when I move it its still damp
Mildew-ish when I heat it, it turn bluish
It cools to a tight wad, the Pyrex is Jewish
- Macklemore caught some criticism for performing in a costume that a lot of people saw as an anti-Semitic stereotype (it included, among other things, a hook nose taken from a witch mask). He claimed the Unfortunate Implications were a coincidence, but it didn't help his case that the song he was performing was "Thrift Shop", a song about picking up goods on the cheap.
- Jack Benny of The Jack Benny Program. Perhaps it bears mentioning that his birth name was "Benjamin Kubelsky." His stage persona (not his real-life personality) was one of the most titanic cheapskates in all of comedy, and provided him with what is widely regarded as one of the funniest exchanges in the history of radio:
Mugger: Your money or your life.
Mugger: I said, your money or your life!
Jack: I'm thinking it over!!
- Jack Benny is kind of an unusual example of this, as while his persona is a perfect example of this trope, that persona wasn't explicitly Jewish and was more of a WASP if anything. Thus, his being a Jewish stereotype/being played by a Jewish actor is sort of subtext.
- In The Bible when the Lord announces his intention to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah because the people are sinful, Abraham haggles with God over how many righteous men in the city would be enough to spare it—and specifically, his innocent nephew Lot. In the end, there aren't enough righteous residents, but Lot and his daughters get out anyway. The "Lot and his daughters" thing becomes a problem not too long after...
- Jacob, later known as "Israel", managed to buy his brother Esau's inheritance with a bowl of stew. Although this was not so much Jacob being cheap as it was Esau selling his birthright too easily. (Stew is delicious, but really...)
- One Islamic legend says that God originally commanded all Muslims to pray 500 times a day, and when Mohammad was returning home thinking how can such a commandment be fulfilled, he met Moses who sent him back to God to haggle about the amount. Twice. That's why Muslims pray only five times a day. Well, Moses has actually sent Mohammad back a third time too, but not being a Jew he didn't have a chutzpah for that.
- Hinted at in Everyday Heroes, when Lee Free (the oldest one) convinces the arcade manager to let Summer and Carrie Work Off the Debt for the damages they caused ... then turns around and charges them for his legal services. However, since it only took him two minutes of work, at his regular hourly rate, his fee amounts to five dollars total (or, as he puts it, "lunch at Taco Bell").
- Some bullies mock Ferris with this in Fishbones.
- Gets some use on Drawn Together. For example, Clara's anti-Jew scarecrow, which looks like a waiter with a sign saying "Tips please" on it.
- Family Guy tends to do this a lot, partially because one of its creators is Jewish.
- In a Robot Chicken skit where Seth McFarlane has the power to setup Cutaway Gags, he brings up the idea of Scooby Jew. Cut to a stereotypically-dressed Scooby haggling over Scooby snacks in exchange for going into a haunted house.
- South Park:
- Kyle's cousin plays this for laughs, along with other New England Jew stereotypes.
- Kyle himself gets this in "Fun With Weapons;" he thinks he should dump his weapons so he can deny he ever had them, but Cartman smirks and tells him he would never allow himself to throw away something he spent money on. He's right.
- Cartman at one point demands the small sack of gold from Kyle that he states all Jews carry. Kyle actually does carry gold on him. Not only that, but he carries a bag of fake gold just in case someone tries to take the gold.
- Kyle's parents.
- Subverted in "Night of the Living Homeless" when Kyle gives a homeless man $20. Because of that, all of the homeless invade South Park. But it turns out that it wasn't Kyle's fault, but the fault of the neighboring town of Evergreen, who evicted the homeless.
- And then subverted majorly in "Margaritaville" when he uses his American Express credit card (with no spending limit) to pay off the debts of all of South Park, much to the dismay of his mother Sheila, who say he's ruining himself. This is all to make a point of the nature of the economy.
- Ends up in Static Shock of all places. At Frieda's Chanukah party, the lights go out (due to super villain hyjinks) and one of the guests, who is presumably also Jewish, jibes Frieda's dad that he was probably too cheap to pay the electric bill.
- Inverted by Futurama's Dr. Zoidberg. Not only is he established as being terrible with money (easily falling for scams or buying multiple items from infomercials), but (more positively) "The Tip of the Zoidberg" reveals that he was perfectly willing to sacrifice a lucrative career for the sake of Prof. Farnsworth's friendship.