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Brooklyn Jewish
Historical Initiative

Submitted by Joe Dorinson

Mel BrooksBrooklyn produced a bumper crop of comic artists. Many of the nation’s premier humorists–Jerry Seinfeld, Larry David, Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, Buddy Hackett, Jack Carter, Joan Rivers, Fanny Brice (and her avatar, Barbra Streisand),  Alan King, Lenny Bruce, Danny Kaye, Abe Burrows, Phil Silvers, Phil Foster, and Henny Youngman–mined their Brooklyn past and Jewish roots for comedic nuggets. Starting in local candy stores, they honed their razor-sharp wits in vaudeville, theatre, the Catskills, Hollywood, and on TV. Even when they made it to the far side of paradise somewhere east of Eden and west of Brooklyn, these funny girls and boys kept returning to their roots for spurts of comic inspiration. Several months before he died, Danny Kaye came back. Though terminally ill, he continued to crack jokes as he was showered with affection and honor by former Borough President Howard Golden as thousands cheered on a warm day in June of 1987. Laughter for Danny Kaye, indeed for our entire tribe has functioned as armor against an often hostile world as well as a weapon of cultural affirmation that mir zeinen do—we are still here.