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Jewish Complaining

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Hey, at least with the dying, their Earthly problems will soon be over. Jewish people still have to deal with...

"Jews don't sing and pray. They complain. And eat."
Tom Levitt, Smash

All right, all right! I'll describe Jewish Complaining here already! There, are you happy now?

Jews have a long, proud history of whining and complaining (aka, "kvetching"), or at least the Ashkenazi do. They will complain about many things, in many forms, whether it's Hypochondria (Oh God, can you catch something from writing that?), having to go to work, having to come home from work, paying too much for something, paying too little for something and worrying it's not good, their friends' bad habits, their friends' good habits, their Jewish Mothers thinking they aren't good enough, or the mothers themselves thinking their children aren't good enough.

This is Truth in Television and is actually joked about more among Jews themselves than anyone who's ever been prejudiced against them. Heck, if you see a TV show with Jewish people being big whiners, it's more than likely a Jew wrote those parts.

But when things get truly serious, the complaining tends to die down as they get more somber. This comes from the actual history of the habit: superstitious Jews believed showing happiness or satisfaction brought the Evil Eye, so they complained to ward off the demon world. Actual misfortune "fills the need" for misfortune in keeping demons away, and may well already have been caused by a demon, so why try to ward them off when they're already here?

Jews Love to Argue is a Sister Trope. Hey, a lot of arguing among Jews is often just them complaining about each other at the same time.

The Greeks do this too: it is called gana. Various Eastern European countries also have this practically as a national pastime. Same for the Irish. Germans and Austrians have perfected it into an art form, the political satiric cabaret. The French (both in French Canada and France) consider this their national sport.

Compare Sickly Neurotic Geek.


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  • A common trope among Borscht Belt comedians.
  • Back in The '90s, the comedic Hip-Hop duo 2 Live Jews played heavily on this trope, for example parodying 2 Live Crew's "Me So Horny" with "Oy! It's So Humid".
  • A businessman is on his way home after a long day of work, looking forward to a peaceful train ride where he can quietly read his paper. He boards the train and finds an empty seat across from an Orthodox Jewish man. As the train starts, he settles in and begins to read his paper. Suddenly, he hears from the Jewish man across from him, "Oy, am I thirsty! Oy, am I thirsty!" The businessman thinks nothing of it and continues reading, yet the Jewish man goes on, "Oy, am I thirsty! Oy, am I thirsty!" Finally, the businessman becomes so agitated that he throws down his paper, goes to the next car, retrieves a cup of water, and gives it to the Jewish man. The Jewish man thanks him, drinks the water, and sighs, his thirst quenched. The businessman settles back down to read his paper, but before he can... "Oy, was I thirsty! Oy, was I thirsty!"
  • A Jewish man in a hospital tells the doctor he wants to be transferred to a different hospital.
    The doctor says "What's wrong? Is it the food?"
    "No, the food is fine. I can't kvetch."
    "Is it the room?"
    "No, the room is fine. I can't kvetch."
    "Is it the staff?"
    "No, everyone on the staff is fine. I can't kvetch."
    "Then why do you want to be transferred?"
    "I can't kvetch!"
  • Well, it's happened. America has finally elected its first Jewish President of the United States. So he invites his mother to the inauguration. She says, "But, bubele, how the heck am I going to get there? My car is broken down and whatnot!" So the President tells her, "Ma, don't worry about it. I'll get Air Force One to take you." But then the mother says, "Oiy, I'll need to catch a taxi and carry my luggage. It's just too much!" So he says, "Mom! I'm the President! I'll pick you up in my limo! Then my guards will carry your luggage for you!" But the mother says, "But finding a hotel is gonna be extremely expensive!" So the President replies, "Ma, you can just stay with me in the White House."
    So the next morning, it's Inauguration Day. The President's mother is talking to the person next to her and she says, "You see that man? The one with his hand on the Bible? His brother's a doctor."
  • An old woman and her grandson are at the beach when suddenly, the grandson goes way too far out in the ocean. She says to the lifeguards, "Please, save my son! He can't swim out that far!" So the lifeguards save him and give him CPR, but the grandmother says to them, "He had a hat."
  • Two old Jewish women are eating in a restaurant and the waiter approaches and asks, "Is anything OK?"
  • Lampshaded by Jon Stewart in his 1996 concert Unleavened: "Jews and Blacks come from the same history, two thousand years of bullshit! We just expressed our suffering differently as people. Blacks developed the Blues. ...Jews complain, we just never thought of putting it to music."

    Comic Books 
  • Maus: Vladek does complain a lot in the present day.
  • Robin (1993): Ives often complains about changes made to the franchises he follows, and the reason he puts up with Tim's girlfriend Ariana seems to be that he loves arguing with her just on principle. He does mellow out a bit in this regard by the time he's a senior in high school and amusingly his family is incredibly mellow and quick to defuse situations rather than argue.

    Fan Works 
  • The Bolt Chronicles: Lampshaded by the snarky Mittens about herself in "The Coffee Shop" — she even uses the term "kvetch" to describe her mode of expression. Played with in that while Mittens comes from an urban New York background, she isn't presented as being Jewish.
    Mittens: Second of all, it’s "kvetch," not "kwetch." Remember me, the one from New York? Idioms like this are right in my wheelhouse. Besides, I know from kvetching — dog only knows, I do it enough.
  • In the Discworld tale Gap Year Adventures, the two back-packing graduate Assassins arrive at a kibbutz in Cenotia which, to the horror of the Rimwards Howondalandian is populated by the Discworld's version of Complaining Jews. Her Cenotian friend tells her this is how it is: two Cenotians. Three arguments. Rivka, the Cenotian half of the travelling team, is prone to complaining herself. About her Jewish Mother who is trying to get her safely married off, about the food being unreliably kosher, and above all about how the Guild of Assassins charges fifty percent Guild Tax and is inflexible about negotiating a better deal. Read more in the works of A.A. Pessimal.

  • The Hebrew Hammer uses this as the final test the "Jewish Justice League" has to gain entrance, seen above. It also turns out to be part of a Jew's ultimate weapon.
  • Woody Allen was famous for his characters doing this. In Annie Hall he tells a Jewish joke that he believes summarizes life: "Two elderly women are at a Catskills mountain resort, and one of 'em says, 'Boy, the food at this place is really terrible.' The other one says, 'Yeah, I know, and such small portions.'" Thus, Jews will complain about everything, even if they want more of it.
  • In The Sunshine Boys, George Burns and Walter Matthau play old vaudevillians. They're each a Grumpy Old Man, but the Alter Kocker is the grumpier.
  • Mushnik in The Little Shop of Horrors (and the recursive adaptation Little Shop of Horrors).
  • Avi Denowitz from Snatch. is a Jewish American criminal who has to travel over to London in order to obtain a diamond one of his men stole from Antwerp. He is not happy about having to be in England and makes it clear at every given opportunity.
    Bullet Tooth Tony: Brick Top's bookie's got blagged last night.
    Avi: "Blagged?" Speak English, Tony. I thought this country created the fucking language, and so far nobody seems to speak it.

  • Woody Allen wrote a humorous short story called "Hassidic Tales, with a Guide to Their Interpretation by the Noted Scholar". One of the tales is about Rabbi Zwi Chaim Yisroel "who developed whining to an art unheard of in the West".
  • The novel Portnoy's Complaint centres around a young man ranting to his psychiatrist about his obsession with masturbation. His parents also love to complain, and constantly berade him about his lengthy amounts of time on the toilet. His overbearing Jewish Mother is obsessed with his health, and his long hours masturbating in the bathroom leads her to assume he has constipation or diarrheoa from 'eating burgers.'

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Seinfeld, Estelle Costanza gripes about everything, which leads to arguments with her Roman Catholic husband Frank who complains just as much. Helen Seinfeld complains about Jerry's career as a comedian, thinking that there isn't much money in it (despite plenty of evidence to the contrary). As a consequence, she constantly sends his gifts back and he in turn will not accept money from them.
  • In Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry David complains about things even when it's socially unacceptable to do so. Susie Greene is the queen of this trope, however. She spends her whole time calling Larry a 'bald-headed freak' and her husband Jeff a 'fat fuck' because they do something that annoys her and she finds out about it.
  • Jon Stewart loves joking about this, usually with some overlap into Jews Love to Argue. ("Black people have blues music, while Jews complain. We just never thought about putting it to music.")
    • Hilariously used when Jon Stewart sliced his hand open while parodying Anthony Weiner's press conference.
      John Oliver: You're fine! Stop being so fucking Jewish about it! (Jon Stewart starts laughing)
  • Ross Geller from Friends is sometimes criticized for being too whiny. He realizes this when he starts a relationship with Janice (who's considered to be the most annoying woman in the world by the gang) and she breaks up with him because she finds his whining annoying.
  • Saturday Night Live had an It's a Wonderful Life parody (it wasn't the one from season 12 where everyone gets revenge on Mr. Potter; this was from season 36) in which the movie was originally supposed to be a Hanukkah movie instead of a Christmas one — including a lot of Jewish people (save for the characters played by Jimmy Stewart {Jason Sudeikis}, Donna Reed {Abby Elliott}, and the daughter {Nasim Pedrad}) and a lot of this trope and Jews Love to Argue.
  • Mrs. Wolowitz from The Big Bang Theory. She tends to overlap it with Too Much Information, too.
  • Naomi Bunch from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, whose first big entrance in real time (as opposed to flashback or on the phone) was a song full of complaining, "Where's the Bathroom?"
  • Weaponized by Malcolm in Will & Grace, when he intimidates Grace by saying that he is trained in multiple forms of torture, including "Jewish Whining". Grace immediately steps aside.
  • The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel: Everyone in Midge's family exhibits this to different degrees, Abe especially. Midge addresses the subjects in one of her stand-ups:
    Complaining. This is big with us. What repressing your emotions is to WASPs, complaining is to Jews. It's second nature. But the key is, the complaints should never be about big important things, only little things like, "It's hot out; this restaurant is so far; the line is so long." You know, things nobody can do anything about. Remember, you're not trying to fix anything. You're just trying to be heard.
  • Better Call Saul: After Jimmy McGill embraces the persona of Jewish lawyer Saul Goodman, he plays this up in order to manipulate others. Most notably, in season six, Jimmy infiltrates a country club as part of his Prank Gone Too Far against Howard Hamlin. He's spotted by Kevin Wachtell midway through, who speaks to the manager and tries to get him thrown out. Jimmy buys time by accusing Kevin and the club of being anti-Semitic and lamenting all the discrimination his people have faced, guilting the manager into letting him stay a bit longer.
    Saul: "Five thousand years and it never ends!"
  • Parodied in the Frasier episode "Merry Christmas Mrs. Moskowitz", when, in their usual "Fawlty Towers" Plot, Frasier and Niles pretend to be Jewish to impress Frasier's new Jewish girlfriend. The complaining part comes from Martin, who hadn't even been told about the plot yet when he does it.

    Religion and Mythology 
  • All the way back to the Torah. In Numbers 11:5, the people complain that all they have to eat is manna from heaven, whereas in Egypt they had eaten fish. Even God lost patience, and declared that if they wanted meat so much, He'd make it rain meat instead... nothing but meat for weeks and weeks until the Israelites were even more sick of it than the manna.note 
    • And this is not before Moses gets a chance to complain to God about the Israelites' complaining and their irrational demands, and telling God to "just kill me and get it over with"!
    • God tries to avert this in the New Testament with Paul the Apostle advising his fellow new Christians in the Book of Philippians to do the Lord's work without grumbling about it, but easier said than done.
  • The Qur'an : Al Baqarah 67 - 71 recounts how the Children of Israel were commanded by Allah to sacrifice a cow, but they kept asking for more and more details about the cow, making the task difficult for themselves.

  • Done a number of times in Fiddler on the Roof, especially by Tevye, including once as a way to save face after he finally gave his blessing to one of his daughters after she married a Gentile.
    • Yenta is also a big fan of kvetching, but hers is a lot more shameless.
  • Mushnik in Little Shop of Horrors.
    "Look, God, what an existence I got. Misfit employees, bums on the sidewalk, business is lousy, my life is a living hell..."
  • Evan plays with it in 13. Archie lampshades this trope during 'Terminal Illness'
    Evan: And who could complain?
    Archie: Except for you, because you're Jewish and you always complain!
  • The opening number from the musical March of the Falsettos is titled "Four Jews In A Room Bitching." (Well, technically, Mendel is by his own admission only half-Jewish, but it doesn't stop him from bitching.)


    Western Animation 
  • Family Guy likes using this trope a lot, given that most of the writing staff are Jews.
    • Mort Goldman, though he's more of a hypochondriac (whose job is, in pharmaceuticals) than a straight-up complainer.
    • The "Moses" segment of "The Griffin Family History" plays this trope agonizingly (yet hilariously) straight: the Jews being liberated from Egypt's tyranny aren't impressed by anything.
      "Oooo, he can part the Red Sea! Y'know, he hasn't called his brother in three years!"
  • The Broflovski family, especially Kyle's cousin, Kyle Schwartz and Sheila, from South Park, the exceptions being Kyle Broflovski himself and his adopted brother Ike.
  • Shari from American Dad!.
  • The Animaniacs sketch "Noah's Lark" models its Noah, both verbally and vocally, after comedian Richard Lewis, whose acts are nothing but this.
  • Marty Glouberman from Big Mouth is this to a T. His son Andrew once described him as "a one-star Yelp review come to life".

Statler: I don't think that these Jewish people should complain about everything all the time.
Waldorf: I agree! That's our job!
Both: Doh-hoh-hoh-hoh!


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Kvetching


Naomi Bunch

The Jewish Rebecca's overbearing mom Naomi is introduced with a song number complaining about her daughter's life choices.

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