Training Teaser: Using College Humor to Address Judaism and Gender

One of the highlights of the Shevet Achim: The Brotherhood training is the opportunity to peek into the vast world of YouTube comedy videos that middle and high school boys consume and to reflect on the question:

“What is contemporary culture teaching our boys about what it means to be a man?”

We draw from College Humor, Smosh, Jake and Amir, the Kloons – a wide variety of guy-oriented humor — to analyze what it means to be “masculine.” In some videos, the traditional Jewish narrative of masculinity is referenced, like this short from College Humor. (Watch for the reference to Midrash — as Adam says that he has “a bunch of animals to name.”)

Helping teens to think critically about the culture that they consume is key to reframing masculinity — and helping them to develop a sense of what it means to be both a man and a mensch.

This particular videos elicits the questions:

  • What does this scene say about being a “sensitive” man?
  • How is Eve stereotyped in this scene?
  • What is the difference between the masculinity offered by Adam and the one offered by the snake?
  • What is the “take-away” message from this video?
  • Why might that message be an unrealistic message?

As Jewish men working with Jewish boys, it is important to look at the role of self-deprecation in the humor that we consume and produce. The attraction to self-deprecation is strong — we want to show the world that we can make fun of perceived differences. But the downside of that humor is de-valuing some of the qualities that we may want to lift up — sensitivity, compassion, and humility among them.

At training you will have the opportunity to explore the role that comedy plays in the formation of Jewish manhood.


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