Jewish comedians

So, Who Made You Laugh?

This is a quiz. What do the following persons have in common? (List updated 03/25/12, thanks to unlocked memories and associations flowing from them.)

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Ed Wynn (born Isaiah Edwin Leopold, 1886–1966)

The Marx Brothers*:

Harpo Marx (born Adolph Marx, 1888–1964)

Chico Marx (born Leonard Marx, 1887–1961)

Groucho Marx (born Julius Marx, 1890–1977)

Zeppo Marx (born Herbert Marx, 1901–79)

*There was also Gummo Marx (born Milton Marx, 1893–1977), who retired from the act before his brothers made their first film.

Fanny Brice (born Fania Borach, 1891–1951)

Eddie Cantor (born Israel Iskowitz, 1892–1964)

The Three Stooges (not all at the same time):

Shemp Howard (born Samuel Horwitz, 1895–1955)

Moe Howard (born Moses Horwitz, 1897–1975)

Larry Fine (born Louis Feinberg, 1902–75)

Curly Howard (born Jerome Horwitz, 1903–52)

Joe Besser (1907–88)

Jack Benny (born Benjamin Kubelsky, 1894–1974)

George Burns (born Nathan Birnbaum, 1896–1996)

George Jessel (1898-1981)

Gertrude Berg (born Tilly Edelstein, 1899–1966)

Ritz Brothers (Al, Jimmy, and Harry Joachim, 1901–65, 1904–85, 1907–86)

Joe E. Lewis (born Joseph Klewan, 1902-1971)

Morey Amsterdam (born Moritz Amsterdam, 1908-1996)

Milton Berle (born Milton Berlinger, 1908–2002)

Mel Blanc (1908–89)

John Banner (born Johann Banner, 1910–73)

Jack E. Leonard (born Leonard Lebitsky, 1910-1963)

Sam Levenson (1911-80)

Phil Silvers (born Philip Silver, 1911–85)

Danny Kaye (born David Daniel Kaminsky, 1913–87)

Jan Murray (born Murray Janofsky, 1916–2006)

Joey Bishop (born Joseph Abraham Gottlieb, 1918-2007)

Red Buttons (born Aaron Chwatt, 1919–2006)

Werner Klemperer (1920–2000)

Walter Matthau (1920–2000)

Tony Randall (born Arthur Leonard Rosenberg, 1920–2004)

Rodney Dangerfield (born Jacob Cohen, 1921–2004)

Judy Holliday (born Judith Tuvim, 1921–65)

Abe Vigoda (born 1921)

Sid Caesar (born Isaac Sidney Caesar, 1922)

Jack Klugman (born 1922)

Carl Reiner (born 1922)

Jack Carter (born Jack Chakrin, 1923)

Buddy Hackett (born Leonard Hacker, 1924–2003)

Peter Sellers (1925-1980)

Shelley (Sheldon) Berman (born 1926)

Jerry Lewis (born Joseph Levitch, 1926)

Don Rickles (born 1926)

Tom Bosley (1927–2010)

Alan King (born Irwin Alan Kniberg, 1927-2004)

Harvey Korman (1927–2008)

Mort Sahl (born 1927)

Jerry Stiller (born 1927)

Ed Asner (born 1929)

Hal Linden (born Harold Lipshitz, 1931)

Jackie Mason (born Yacov Moshe Maza, 1931)

Joan Rivers (born Joan Alexandra Molinsky Sanger Rosenberg, 1933)

Alan Arkin (born 1934)

George Segal (born 1934)

Woody Allen (born Allan Stewart Konigsberg, 1935)

Steve Landesberg (1936-2010)

Linda Lavin (born 1937)

Suzanne Pleshette (1937–2008)

Elliott Gould (born Elliot Goldstein, 1938)

Goldie Hawn (born 1945)

Gabe Kaplan (born 1945)

Henry Winkler (born 1945)

Gilda Radner (1946–89)

Rob Reiner (born 1947)

Billy Crystal (born 1947)

Albert Brooks (born Albert Lawrence Einstein, 1947)

Andy Kaufman (1949–84)

(Primary sources: My memory and this page at Wikipedia.)

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I’m sure that you didn’t read too far down the list before breaking the code: The list comprises persons of Jewish lineage who are (were) in show business and who crack(ed) jokes and/or act(ed) in comedic roles (some of the time, at least). What you probably won’t have surmised is that I had the pleasure of seeing or hearing every one of them (except Gummo Marx) perform — on radio, on TV, or in the movies.

If you don’t recognize a name — and younger readers won’t recognize many of them — follow the links to discover the wonderfully rich contributions of Jews to the state of laughter in America.

What, you were expecting me to list Mel Brooks (born Melvin Kaminsky, 1926) and his regulars? Sorry, but to me his stuff is dreck. And poor old Bert Lahr (born Irving Lahrheim, 1895-1967) I didn’t get.

What about Jerry Seinfeld and most of the cast of his eponymous sitcom, or some members of the cast of Friends? Sorry, bube, but them I never watched. They’re too young or I’m too old — take your pick.

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Recommended reading:
Yiddish Words Used in English
Yiddish Dictionary Online