Can Tragedy Be Funny For a Reason?
Joan Rivers, the nearly octogenarian, outrageous comedian, recently observed regarding Heidi Klum that, “The last time a German looked this hot was when they were pushing Jews into the ovens.”
The response has been predictable, including from the (Jewish) Anti-Defamation League, who said, “This remark is so vulgar and offensive to Jews and Holocaust survivors, and indeed to all Americans, that we cannot believe it made it to the airwaves…”
Rivers is Jewish and is refusing to apologize for the comment. Does her tribal heritage provide a license to shock? Rivers has said in part, “I can assure you that I have always made it a point to remind people of the Holocaust through humor.”
Indeed, when I read what she said I 1) laughed out loud, 2) felt guilty for doing so and then 3) thought about the Holocaust.
In the very near future holocaust survivors will be a thing of the past. The power of a living connection with such a horrible event will be gone forever. Anyone who has ever met and spoken to a Holocaust survivor can attest to the power of being in the presence of such a person.
The Holocaust will no longer exist as a memory but only as a historical fact. The problem with these facts is that they seldom elicit an emotional response. Something more is needed.
Rivers with her irreverence creates an emotional chain reaction that can result in some people connecting with the Holocaust in a manner that is both unconventional and personal. My own started with a laugh and resulted in a reflection.
Don’t forget, as Mrs. Lincoln once said, “Other than that, the play was great.”