We’re sorry Roseanne, this really is half-baked humour

Barr’s fun-in-the-oven joke backfires

By Rob Eshman, August 6, 2009
Smile Hitler? Roseanne Barr’s cover shoot for a US magazine is distinctly unfunny

Smile Hitler? Roseanne Barr’s cover shoot for a US magazine is distinctly unfunny

Jews love to outrage, and we love to be outraged. I don’t know why. It’s how we’re wired. We have a rigid sense of what is appropriate and what is not, of what is kosher and what is not, and then we gleefully smear the boundaries. And, with just as much relish, we shake our fingers at the boundary-smearers. We Jews love a good shanda.

This month’s shanda is on the cover of Heeb magazine: a photo of the comedienne Roseanne Barr dressed as Adolf Hitler, pulling cookies shaped like people out of the oven.

Of course, the image will offend. That’s Heeb’s brand — previous covers have included a Chasid snorting horseradish like cocaine, a naked Eve with a tattoo of a snake, and an Israeli model on a beach surrounded by lobsters.

By striving very hard to offend, the magazine sends a message to other readers that they are hip and funny enough to be Heebsters.

In a way, the magazine performs a dual service: allowing one group of Jews to vent their moral outrage, while allowing another to see themselves as cool.

But the Holocaust, you say; the Holocaust! Well, to stretch an expression, there’s nothing sacred about Hitler. Mel Brooks spoofed der Furher 40 years ago in The Producers. Seinfeld, Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm, Sarah Silverman — as far back as Charlie Chaplain’s The Great Dictator, Jews and non-Jews have decided if you can’t kill him, mock him.

“One of my lifelong jobs has been to make the world laugh at Hitler,” Brooks once told a TV show. “Because how do you get even? There’s only one way: you have to bring him down with ridicule.”

There is, though, the matter of the cookies. For those who experienced the Holocaust, and their loved ones, I suspect it is not Roseanne-as-Hitler who offends, but that burned tray of man-shaped cookies. Maybe they will be mollified by the comedienne’s explanation on her blog, that she was trying to show that, despite his fanatic devotion to killing Jews, Hitler failed to kill her, and she is alive to mock him.

Mock him, yes. But somehow metastasise real dead humans into burned cookies, and I suspect a good many people will remain hurt — a fact that will only prove to the creators of Heeb that theirs is a job well done.

Rob Eshman is Editor-in-Chief of The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles

Last updated: 2:26pm, November 8 2010