((JR)) — In his viral video on social media after the Hamas attack on Israel, comedian Daniel-Ryan Spaulding riffs on the imagined reactions of an intolerably “woke” activist.
“If there was a Hamas terrorist attack at a queer rave in Brooklyn or Berlin, there’d probably be a purple-haired girl in the center of the massacre watching all her friends being brutally murdered [switches to a high-pitched voice]: ‘It’s OK, guys, resistance is justified when people are occupied! It’s Israel’s fault!’”
He continues: “Her best friend’s being burned alive and mutilated. [He switches to character’s voice] ‘It’s okay, McKayla, take one for the team!’ She’d probably take a knife and start stabbing herself. [He mimics stabbing himself] ‘I’m fighting apartheid!’”
Funny? To some. Provocative, certainly. Spaulding’s video has been viewed 9 million times.
With the war on Gaza, hostages still in captivity, antisemitism raging around the world and on U.S. college campuses, there doesn’t seem much to laugh about. But many people like Spaulding are using humor to push back against what they see as a propaganda war against Israel and Jews.
After the attack, “I saw friends of mine posting ‘Palestinians have the right to defend themselves,’” said Spaulding, 38, a Canadian who is not Jewish but had just performed in Tel Aviv. He thought his friends didn’t understand what really happened on Oct. 7.
“I had been visiting Israel for so long I forgot how antisemitic people were and how much they hated Israel,” he said. He wanted to say something, and finally posted his first comedic video defending Jews and Israel.
“Comedians are social critics: We have the ability through humor to expose hypocrisy, to make people think about things in a certain way,” he said. “Doing the right thing doesn’t come at the right time. You have to be brave, there might be a risk and consequences.”
Some comedians already in the Jewish space are devoting content to current affairs. On social media, Alex Edelman, star of Broadway’s “Just For Us,” spoofed Hamas’ call for a global Day of Rage: “Yesterday was the day of resistance, today is the day of rage, tomorrow you rest, because you’re tired from all the rage, and then Sunday’s pizza, and then Monday you’re back to rage! And Tuesday’s obviously tacos.”
He followed that video with one advising Jews to pick a “gentile” name for when things get really bad, by combining the name of a president and a small city. (Edelman’s gentile name is Thomas Albany III, “but my friends call me Tug,” he jokes.)
Jews use humor in times of trouble in a lot of different ways, said Jeremy Dauber, professor of Yiddish, literature and culture at Columbia University and the author of “Jewish Comedy: A Serious History.” “There are theories that humor helps to provide a sense of resilience — to help endure and psychologically manage stressful situations,” he said.
Joking about a situation might provide audiences some comfort, or a sense of control over something “that they know is all too well beyond their power to control,” Dauber said, noting that comedy also may be used to cut opponents down to size.
“Pardon my French, but listen to me good: the minute you crawl out of your hiding place I will break your unibrow. You are ruining my quality of life, I won’t put up with this anymore!” says Moshe Korsia, an Israeli singer now serving in the reserves, in a Hebrew reel directed at Hamas. In the video, he wears his uniform and makes coffee, his signature move.
Korsia posts multiple videos a day. He has 200,000 followers on TikTok and 250,000 on Instagram, and his videos regularly get over 100,000 views.
@moshekorsiaתתפללו לרפואתה 🙌🏻❤️🇮🇱♬ צליל מקורי – Moshe Korsia
Israeli comedian Adir Miller even joked about soldiers acting out on social media, during a recent performance for troops in the field. “I have a little problem with the soldiers on the internet,” said Miller. “Politicians tell the soldiers, ‘You guys are lions, leopards, foxes,’ but I go on TikTok and I see all the soldiers [imitates a soldier singing and dancing to a trivial Israeli pop song]. What is up with this? Stop it! Do you see Hamas doing this?”
Actress Meital Avni (4.1 million views on TikTok) has lately used her platform to call out what she sees as hypocrisy on the part of the media and Israel’s critics. She too mocked the BBC, which apologized Wednesday for reporting that the Israeli military was targeting medical teams and at Gaza’s Al-Shifa Hospital.”Oops, you did it again,” she sang, quoting a Britney Spears song. “You gave a fake report/it was a mistake…”
Humor as a response to the trauma of Oct. 7 and the war that has followed is not for everyone, though. “I’ve always relied on humor to overcome hardship, even to gain strength from it,” said Hadas Bueno, a therapist who helps children in Israel process their emotions. “After such a horrendous disaster I didn’t think it would be possible to consider using humor.”
But she changed her mind when she saw a comedy sketch on Israel’s popular satire show “Eretz Nehederet” (“It’s a Wonderful Life”). In it, a character based on Rachel Edri, the real-life woman who offered cookies to the Hamas terrorists who broke into her home in Ofakim, is now leading Israel’s military.
“As Jews, we know how to use sarcastic and commendable humor better than anyone else because history has taught us that we must learn to laugh even when it’s tough to continue, survive, and be strong,” said Bueno.
“Eretz Nehederet” writer Itay Reicher, who helped pen the Rachel skit, has been with the show for 17 of the 20 years it has been on the air.
“We’ve been writing the show through three-and-a-half wars — I think the new thing is that it gets a wider audience,” said Reicher, who also wrote two viral English-language sketches: the BBC “news” spoof where newscaster “Harry Whiteguilt” shows a video of the hospital bombing from “Hamas, the most credible not terrorist organization in the world,” and the “Welcome to Columbia Untisemity” skit, where a pink-haired student says “everyone is welcome, LGBTQ-H” — noting the H is for Hamas.
Reicher said the parody of pro-Palestinian activism on American college campuses hit a chord on both sides of the debate. “We’re very passionate about the woke ultra-left progressive students in colleges ripping down posters of children torn from their beds, and I think we knew it was resonating when people disliked it. It unsettled them,” he said. “It put a mirror in front of them.” The video has gotten 17 million views on Twitter alone.
Spaulding, the Canadian comic, also put out a reel about anti-Israel activists tearing down posters depicting the Israelis taken hostage by Hamas. He calls them out, “in your little Yassir Arafat scarves doing your little Jihad Jane cosplay … I’m a gay guy, I’m going down with the Jews.”
Does Spaulding — who appears in his off-Broadway show “Power Gay” at Red Eye NY on Nov. 19 and 24 — think that his videos will reach anyone outside the bubble of Israel supporters?
“I don’t know if I’m changing minds,” he said. “But at least I’m trying.”