Did Larry David go too far with his Holocaust joke?


Hahn-Khayat-Douliery/Abaca Press/MCT via Tribune News Service

Larry David’s remark about the Holocaust gave rise to the questioning of what should and shouldn’t be joked about.

Ryan Mackinnon, Reporter

While hosting SNL earlier this month, Larry David said “I’ve always, always, been obsessed with women, and I’ve often wondered — if I’d grown up in Poland when Hitler came to power and was sent to a concentration camp, would I still be checking out women in the camp?”

He went on to ponder whether or not he’d be able to pick up women while in this predicament.

He played out a scenario in which he asked an obviously distressed woman in the camp, “How’s it going?” And later asked her if they ever got out of there if she would get food with him.

I didn’t find this joke very funny.

Larry is hilarious as a writer and actor, but I don’t find his awkward self-deprecating approach to stand up comedy funny. But regardless of the degree to which this this joke was funny, it wasn’t offensive.

The Holocaust is certainly a touchy subject.

“Watched [Larry David’s] monologue this AM. He managed to be offensive, insensitive (and) unfunny all at same time. Quite a feat,” CEO of the Anti-Defamation League Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted.

This joke could definitely be mistaken as offensive on first listen, but not when you break it down.

The premise of the joke was that everyone was miserable in Holocaust camps and there wasn’t any time for romantic relationships. So Larry plays a person who isn’t as miserable and is trying to engage in a romantic relationship.

Larry is trying to accomplish his goal as a comic, to find the funny aspects of any and everything. While he didn’t succeed, his intentions weren’t wrong.

This joke could definitely be mistaken as offensive on first listen, but not when you break it down.

“David’s problem wasn’t deciding to tell a joke about the Holocaust on Saturday Night Live — it was telling a Holocaust joke that many people didn’t find particularly funny,” ATV writer Dennis Perkins said.

There’s a better example however where the “offensive” joke was funny.

Leslie Jones, an African American SNL cast member, took similar heat for a joke she made about slavery. Leslie is a strong and athletic woman, so she mentioned the fact that she doesn’t do too well in her dating life. She joked however, that if she were a slave, her athletic genes would be utilized and she wouldn’t have to worry about not having a man.

Leslie and Larry both took big risks by diving into the comedic side of mass genocides. It helps both of them these genocides are in their heritage (with Larry being Jewish and Leslie being black).

When you break it down though, there’s nothing super controversial being said here. At the core, Leslie is saying she has broad shoulders and Larry is saying he likes girls.

“Larry has never shied away from his heritage,” longtime Larry David fan Tyler Wilson said. “He has used the fact that the Holocaust doesn’t really affect his daily life as a joke before.”

In the episode “Trick or Treat” from the second season of Larry’s show Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry did just this.

He was whistling in line at a movie theater when a Jewish man approached him and said “What kind of Jew are you?” The man went on to explain that the song Larry was whistling was Hitler’s favorite song. Larry makes light of this and questions why it’s such a big deal.

Comedians have always made light of heavy situations and this is nothing new. Larry had good intentions and his monologue wasn’t offensive.