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Tue 11 Oct 2011 11:30 BBC Radio 4

30 minutes
First broadcast:
Tuesday 11 October 2011

Comedian and writer David Schneider investigates why British Jewish comedy has lagged behind compared to its much more self-confident American equivalent. Mention Jewish humour in this country and the first names that spring to mind would most likely all be American: Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, Jackie Mason, Larry David, Jerry Seinfeld and so on.

It's been well-documented how Jews have dominated the US entertainment industry but in the UK, says Schneider, it's been a different story. He investigates why Jewish comics and writers have lagged behind and whether, with the airing of two new Jewish sitcoms on British television, 'Grandma' House' and 'Friday Night Dinner', the tide is finally turning. Does this mean a greater sense of self-confidence for British Jewish comic identity and for the community as a whole, or just a greater acceptance of Jewishness in mainstream media?

Schneider speaks to Robert Popper, the writer of 'Friday Night Dinner', and to Dan Swimer who co-wrote 'Grandma's House' about how both shows were keen to avoid Jewish stereotypes and portray families with universal appeal. Writers Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran talk about their difficulties in getting a Jewish sitcom commissioned in the past and how they decided to write Jewish characters instead, such as Dorian in 'Birds of a Feather'.

Meera Syal discusses the contrast with British Asian comedy and why it's been so successful, while David Baddiel considers how political correctness has impacted on Jewish comedy in this country. Finally Schneider speaks to one of Britain's most successful Jewish comedians Matt Lucas, who says he's now ready to explore his own ethnicity further with his sitcom project 'Four Generations'.

Presented by David Schneider

Producer: Simon Jacobs
A Unique Production for BBC Radio 4.


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