On Friday, August 18, at 7:30 in the evening, I will be stepping onto the stage at the Phoenix Theatre…and out of my comfort zone. The Phoenix is one of several venues for this year’s IndyFringe Festival, part of an Indianapolis tradition that originated in 2005. Entertainers from all parts of the U.S. will offer hour-long acts in venues along the Mass Avenue corridor over an 11-day period, with more than 72 artists, giving in total more than 400 performances. There is something for everyone: cabaret, comedy, dance, drama, magic and music.

My performance is called “The Art of the Jewish Joke.” I have read or heard thousands of them, and while I have no idea where my keys or glasses are, I remember (and can repeat) just about all of them. When I buy books of Jewish humor, I read the first line of an anecdote, then I anticipate the last line, skipping to the end to confirm my prediction. I usually nail it, but I always go back and read the whole thing again, anyway. Why? Because just like “The Star-Spangled Banner,” there’s lots of ways to “sing” it, and occasionally the new version is an improvement. Or, as many of my Jewish friends say when I tell one, “I’ve heard it already, and you’re telling it wrong.”

Humor is one way for Jews to stay connected to their faith and traditions. Food works, too. Many Jews do not read Hebrew or speak Yiddish, although everyone knows at least some Yiddish words. If you don’t, you’re meshuggana (Look that up. It’s a great one.)

In my show, I’ll have the audience spin a wheel that contains categories of popular Jewish topics: food, money, temple politics, kvetching (look that up, too), assimilation, and marriage. Here’s a good one about Jewish mothers:

A Jewish girl brings three boys home to meet her mother and just for fun asks her mother to pick the one she thinks her daughter has chosen to marry. The mother questions them all.

“This one,” she says, pointing to the young man in the middle.

“How did you know?” asks the daughter.

“He’s the one I don’t like.”

You can’t stick a hole in a jelly doughnut and make it a bagel. Likewise, a real Jewish joke is about more than inserting a rabbi or a guy named Goldstein into a one-liner. Despite being “the Chosen People,” Jews suffered for thousands of years. Maybe they got the worst of the deal—but they got the best of the argument by incorporating their predicaments into their humor. Why should I let you make fun of me, when I can do it better myself?

Many Jewish jokes do not end with a typical punch line, but with an observation or a commentary on life. And some are a little bit naughty:

A Jewish widow knocks on the door of an elderly Jewish man next door. “Would you like super sex?” she asks.

“I’ll take the soup.” (If you’re not laughing, you should say that one out loud.)

Muslim, Christian, Jew, and atheist alike can enjoy a good Jewish joke. And I’ve got a million of ’em.

Okay, maybe two thousand.


To get tickets to Fringe performances, go to: Indyfringe.org

I have six performances. Go on line for dates and times….


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I’m a loser. I lose everything. Most people lose golf balls on a course; I lose clubs. One time, I lost the golf cart. People lose their wallets; I lose my pants. Don’t ask. It’s a long story.

My wife, Mary Ellen, agrees that I’m a loser. Like most people, I misplace things occasionally, but the problem is that my wife says I’m not very good looking. Wait, that doesn’t sound right. What she means is, I don’t look well. No, that’s wrong, too.  I, I, I…wow, I’m even at a loss for words.

I recently reported on the Wolfsies’ trip to Banff, in the Canadian Rockies, where I spent most of the time waiting in the car due to my bad knee.  I managed to snap some great photos of my son, Brett, and Mary Ellen, as they headed out for a hike each morning, and I got some more scenic pics in the evenings when we were in the city having dinner.

I’m a good photographer, but at the airport before our flight home, I started to lose focus. I put my digital camera in the large grey plastic tray to go through the scanner at security. Then I forgot to retrieve it when it exited the conveyor. When I went back five minutes later, it was gone. Yes, my Konica had been stolen, along with the pictures showing all the fun we had, although most of the photos were of Mary Ellen and Brett walking away from the car and heading off without me.

I had my name and e-mail address taped on the back of the camera. I’ve always put this info on every electronic device I own. My cell phone had my phone number on the back, which seemed like a good idea until I realized that if someone found my phone and called, they’d just get my voicemail.

I assumed the camera was gone forever. Then last week, I opened my e-mail and there was this note:

Dear Mr. Wolfsie:

Thanks for leaving your camera unattended at the Calgary Airport. I’ve always wanted a vintage one like that. But when I started looking through those pictures, my heart just went out to you. You have such a lovely family, so I am e-mailing you all your digital photos.

Now just a few suggestions from an objective observer. Your wife is very attractive, but tell her a lime-green sweater does not work with red hair. What’s with you and the white socks and blue jeans? And tell your son not to slouch when he walks.  Also, why so few shots of you? Ever hear of a selfie? You should have more fun. The Wolfsies look very stiff.

Anyway, Dick, if I may call you that (after all, I feel like I know your whole family), I am keeping the camera, even though I would have preferred a Nikon.  Some final advice: you probably think half a head is better than none. That’s not true in photography.

P.S.  Do you know if they make a carrying case for this model?


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