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Jewish Smartass

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Mary Marsh : ...They think they're so much smarter! They think it's smart talk, but nobody else does.
...
Toby Ziegler : (To Josh Lyman) She meant "Jewish."
[heavy silence]
Toby Ziegler : When she said "New York sense of humor." She was talking about you and me.
Toby Ziegler, The West Wing

As a people, Jews are subjected to numerous stereotypes; they are stereotyped as personable, avaricious, wise, nerdy, or cheap.

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In modern times, another stereotype about Jews has shown up: Jews are notoriously sarcastic and cheeky.

In order for this trope to be in effect it's not enough for the character to just be Jewish and Sarcastic. Their sarcasm has to come off as stereotypical in nature, especially when they snark at the expense of the stereotypes and bigotry imposed upon them.

Whether it's the babushka who tells her actor son to try for a speaking role when the latter is cast as a Jewish husband, the Jewish husband who says it would kill his mother-in-law to act her age, or the wiseguy who snarks about electric chair necklaces, Jews have a reputation to uphold with regards to their penchants for smartassery. There may also be a little kvetching involved.

Alternately, this trope can come into play every time a Gentile assumes that Jews are more sarcastic than other demographics.

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Of course, when one considers all of the prejudice that Jews have been forced to put up with over the last two millennia, this trope becomes a bit more understandable...

See also, Word Schmord, a Yiddish stock phrase template which aims to mock what the other person said, albeit not just used by Jews anymore. Additionally, see Jews Love to Argue, which can overlap with this trope when it's two people arguing using sarcasm.

It is no coincidence that Borscht Belt humour uses a lot of sarcasm, in addition to wordplay, self-deprecation and topicality. That said, No Real Life Examples, Please!


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These examples are a bunch of leitzim.

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    Fan Works 
  • Discworld work Gap Year Adventures finds two backpacking graduates exploring the Disc's most underexplored continent just for the hell of it. Having illegally entered Klatch, the girls have just been verbally abused by an over-privileged and under-talented Ankh-Morporkian consular official who has flatly refused to help them in anyway. National Stereotypes figured in his abuse. Rivka, from a Discworld country that has many suspicious points of similarity with Israel on our world, cheerfully agrees her nose is far too big, that Cenotians get everywhere, and her Vondalaander best friend has a terrible aversion to soap. Then their vengeance for the ethnic slurs involves sending a stranded Dwarf with a big axe to ask the Consul for help in getting home. They listen, with satisfaction, to the ensuing thumps and grunts of pain.
    Film - Animated 
  • In The Lion King (1994), Timon, a walking New Yorker stereotype with a vocabulary including several Yiddish expressions in the body of a meerkat, (voiced by Nathan Lane, who, despite being Irish-Catholic, tends to play a lot of Ambiguously Jewish characters) is very prone to sarcasm and wisecracks, especially around the Sarcasm-Blind warthog Pumbaa. This turns on him when he sarcastically suggests he and Pumbaa "dress in drag and do the hula" as live bait, setting himself up for embarrassment.
    Film - Live Action 
Doris: You have no values. Your whole life: it's nihilism, it's cynicism, it's sarcasm and orgasm.
Harry Block: You know, in France, I could run on that slogan and win.
  • David Kessler, from An American Werewolf in London: Ambiguously Jewish (a famous essay in Rolling Stone debates his Jewishness), unambiguously a smartass as he keeps delivering quips with unerring gusto, despite the obvious handicap of being a lycanthrope.
  • Al Czervik, from Caddyshack, is a brash fellow, and a walking borscht belt stereotype whose wealth is rivaled by his smart mouth; he is implied to be Jewish himself when he makes a quip to an Asian golfer telling the latter "don't tell 'em you're Jewish".
  • In Hail, Caesar!, a rabbi is among the religious leaders consulted by Eddie Mannix for a film about Christ. When the subject of Jesus' parentage comes up, he scoffs, "God has children? What, and a dog? A collie, maybe? God doesn't have children, he's a bachelor, and very angry."
  • In Porky's, Brian Schwartz ends up on the receiving end of a lot of anti-Semitic antagonism and stereotypes; he usually responds by mouthing off, notably correcting a boy who called him a "kite" by explaining that the word he was looking for was "kike" before proceeding to tell him he was too stupid to be a good bigot.
  • In Snatch., Avi Denowitz, the American Jewish criminal, is not happy at having to spend time in England trying to find an expensive diamond that his ill-fated friend Frankie Four Fingers stole, and he voices his disappointment via biting sarcasm.
    Bullet Tooth Tony: A bookie's got blagged last night.
    Avi: "Blagged"? Tony, speak English. I thought this country spawned the fucking language, and so far no-one seems to speak it.
    Jokes & Stand Up Comedy 
  • Actor Joke: A Jewish actor tells his mom that he got the role of a Jewish husband on TV. "Nu?" says mom, "they didn't have any speaking roles?"
  • Sky-Diving Joke: An elderly Jewish woman wants to go sky-diving for her 101'st birthday. Her daughter tries to convince her to have a more age appropriate affair, but to no avail. She complains to her husband. "Why can't my mother choose something more sensible to do on her birthday than potentially breaking every bone in her body? I would hardly think that it is age appropriate for a hundred and one year old woman." Her husband sighed before he replied, "Honey, no offense, but there is no such thing as age appropriate for your mother; it would literally kill her to act her age."
  • Robin Williams discussed stereotypical Jewish sarcasm when he made a joke about the Jewish origins of Jesus Christ, making quips about Jesus and his apostles going out for Chinese food, and Jesus inventing "Jewish Sarcasm" by repeating Judas' question about if he was the traitor in a mocking tone of voice.
    Literature 
  • The book Born to Kvetch, which is about the Yiddish language, notes in the introduction that while in most languages a typical response to "How are you?" is "I'm fine", in Yiddish a more typical response is "How should I be?"
  • Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal: The protagonist, Levi bar Alphaeus who is called Biff, invents sarcasm. His pal Joshua is initially skeptical towards this invention, at least at first, before he starts using it in unintended way, i.e. against Biff.
  • Alexander Portnoy's, the narrator of Portnoy's Complaint, embodies this trope so much (constantly mixing sarcastic lashes and sexual innuendo at his girlfriends and himself) that he gets called out on this by his Badass Israeli love interest - thus emphasizing tragically the cultural divide between Sabras and Diasporic Jews.
    Live Action TV 
  • When he was at the helm of The Daily Show, Jon Stewart breathed this trope, with equal emphasis on the "Jewish" and the "Smartass" parts, mocking anyone that he could make a good joke of.
  • Adam Grossman in Saturday Night Live is one as well, with Yiddish as a Second Language being dispensed liberally. Of course, it makes sense as the character is a six-year-old child with the exact personality of an old, hacky Borscht Belt comedian: he constantly, and humorously, mocks his father (and his girlfriend) :
Adam: Oooh-whoaaaaaa!! Did a hurricane of sexuality just burst in here, or did Debbie Wasserstein just enter the building?
  • Jerry Seinfeld, from Seinfeld, is one of the most sarcastic members of the cast, and is to a certain extent a walking Jewish Stereotype, constantly getting into arguments and dealing with an overbearing mother. Jerry's sarcastic personality is an extension of these stereotypes, as demonstrated when he once comments that an acquaintance converting to Judaism so he can make Jewish jokes insults him as a comedian.
  • In Freaks and Geeks, Neal Schweiber is Jewish and the snarkiest of the geek trio, even making quips about Jewish stereotypes like a borscht belt comedian, including joking that people wanted him to be a school treasurer because he was Jewish; his older brother is even snarkier.
  • Miriam "Midge" Maisel, the titular New York Jewish Comedienne of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, habitually makes witticisms about everyday Jewish life even when she is not on stage.
  • Seth Cohen may be only half-Jewish, but his sharp tongue is always the life of The O.C. :
Seth: Ah. Father. I'm glad to see you finally found your calling.
Caleb: Exactly what I said.
Sandy: Ah, nothing like a good crack about a plumber.
Seth: Plumber. Crack. Funny.
  • On 30 Rock, Danny discusses the stereotype of the sarcastic Jew when he has an exchange where he quips that Canadians have a hard time understanding sarcasm because of Canada's small Jewish population.
  • In the pilot episode of The West Wing, wisecracking white house staffer Josh Lyman is dismissively told off by Religious Stereotype Mary Marsh, who doesn't appreciate his "New York sense of humor." (Josh had previously made an offscreen quip about her God being "too busy being indicted for tax fraud"). Josh attempts to defuse the situation by lightheartedly informing Mary that he is from Connecticut. However, Mary has already invoked the ire of Toby Ziegler, who accuses Mary of invoking Jewish stereotypes.
    Toby: "She meant Jewish."
    [A stunned silence. Everyone stares at Toby.]
    Toby: "When she said 'New York sense of humor', she was talking about you and me."
    Mythology And Religion 
  • The Talmud frequently engages in scathing wit and sarcasm, such as when the Rabbis poke fun at each other, or occasionally making facetious statements.
    Western Animation 

Alternative Title(s): Jewish Sarcasm

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