Dear Rabbi Ross. My 13-year-old son decided he wants to be a comedian when he grows up. I’m not asking for him to become a doctor or a lawyer, but a comedian? He likes to walk around telling jokes that he heard, and we’re getting nervous. Initially, we thought it was a phase, but he’s spending time online watching Jewish Comedians, and it’s been going on for almost two years now. Our question is, do we start trying to change his mind now, or do we still ignore this? Thank you for your Avodas Hakodesh. Sarah - Kew Gardens
Thank you for writing in. There’s a game I like to play called psychologist. I try and analyze the question to glean as much information as I can. You mentioned that your son is spending time watching Jewish Comedians online. I’m not sure what sites he’s been visiting, but I wasn’t able to find that much footage of Jewish Comedians.
When it comes to non-Jewish comedians, there are many different types. Some are what we call “appropriate” while others are less so. If your son is developing his skills as a comedian, I would try and ensure that he watches material that is suitable for children. This way, he can develop a routine that won’t conflict with the way you’re bringing him up.
In case you haven’t figured it out, I’m all for his career choice. Making people laugh is a wonderful feeling, and as we mentioned before, there aren’t that many good Jewish comedians. It doesn’t have to be his main occupation, but there’s nothing wrong with it. The truth is, it’s inspiring that a thirteen-year-old has a goal, or a plan. The fact that he began working on this when he was eleven makes it all the more refreshing.
Approximately eighteen years ago, a student of mine wanted to become a guitar player. His parents were so disappointed, they had dreams of him becoming a doctor. I tried explaining to them that playing guitar can be a hobby, and can even help earn money on the side, but they were adamant. After months of debate, they finally acquiesced, and he began taking lessons. This boy is now a successful doctor, and as he tells it, the money he made playing with bands put him through medical school with minimal student loans.
I’ve been to a few affairs that hired Jewish comedians, and some were funny, others were completely awkward or inappropriate. Botched presentations, poor material and worse. I was at an anniversary party a while back that hired a comedian. He was horrendous. In fact, he was so desperate to elicit a reaction from the crowd that he took off his toupee in middle of the act and began using it as a puppet. Those of you reading this that were there with me, are probably cringing remembering this. It was that bad.
The two choices you suggested regarding your son were either changing his mind or ignoring him. I’m going to go with a third option, namely encouraging him. Buy him some books on the evolution of comedy so he has a better understanding of the art. Explain to him that there is lots of questionable material, and that he needs to compose routines that will go over well with a frum Jewish crowd.
I would tell him that there aren’t that many Jewish comedians, and if he puts in the effort he can become very successful. Offer to be his sounding board, and help him polish his routines. Having supportive parents can make a huge difference, and even create a stronger relationship among all of you.
It’s important that you explain to him that there are different types of comedians. Some laugh at others’ expense, or use material that can be grossly inappropriate. Don’t avoid this discussion. He’s a big boy, and needs to be treated as such. Help him understand his target audience, whether it be children’s parties, or even Jewish adults.
It’s a huge Mitzvah to be happy. I’m looking forward to watching him perform.
Have a good Shabbos.
11/23/2017 01:00:50 pm
You know, I'm not convinced you're correct this time. A Comedian can end up dealing with all types of unsavory characters. would you let your kids do that?
11/23/2017 04:28:59 pm
Nope. He’s absolutely correct. This is how kids grow. We support them. Every job has inherent risks. As the Rabbi said, give him support and love.
11/23/2017 04:48:12 pm
We hired a rotten Jewish comedian as well. It would be great if this boy was successful. Can we see a clip?
11/23/2017 05:16:29 pm
I strongly agree with your third option. Kids that have ideas must be encouraged. Don’t try to change his mind.
11/23/2017 06:54:39 pm
I see what you did there. Hinting that maybe the kid should be getting supervised online. Nice. Good stuff.
11/23/2017 07:08:45 pm
I must say, I love all these articles, and I gain from them. However, these short ones are fantastic. I read them on the go. Keep it up! Thank You! Good Shabbis!
A Bubby & Zaidy
11/23/2017 07:55:09 pm
Careers are funny things. at the age of 10, I wanted to be a Doctor. When I was 15, I wanted to be in the army. I joined the army, and hated it. So I went back to the Doctor dream. My point is, you need to do what you love.
Dr. Eli Adler
11/23/2017 08:11:00 pm
Hi Rabbi Ross. Thanks for bringing up those “great” memories from our past 😉.
11/23/2017 08:12:52 pm
Dr. Adler, I still laugh when I remember the Toupee. My goodness was that funny.
11/23/2017 09:45:45 pm
This was a tricky question. I always felt that good parents can convince kids to do things pretty easily, and make them think it was their idea. Is that correct?
11/23/2017 10:36:03 pm
Yes, there are times parents can convince children to change their minds. There's nothing wrong with his career choice, so why would a parent want to change it? If a parent really wanted to, I'm sure they could try to convince their child to change. I'm not a big fan of it.
11/24/2017 05:07:58 am
Agree with everything that Rabbi Ross wrote. Just a comment on the physician example, nothing wrong with a parent desiring ones child to be s physician and successful economically in life. But I suspect the cost in total is great. What percentage of our children even if they tried could become physicians. Same related issue of just try harder and you can become a Rav Moshe.Different problem but IMO related. Worth a separate discussion by Rabbi Ross.
11/24/2017 08:39:54 am
It really bothers me when parents try to coerce their children into becoming someone that they’re not. My parents forced my brothers to go to law school and he hated law. A waste of so many years.
11/25/2017 09:39:33 pm
Wrong! Wrong Answer! So disappointing! You have a Chiyuv! A Responsibility to your readers. Giving bad advice is dangerous, especially if it might be used! Jewish Children should not be comedians. Disgusting!
11/25/2017 09:46:37 pm
What's the matter with you Rafi? If you don't like the advice, don't read it! You don't even give an alternative! Why is this bad advice?
11/25/2017 09:51:14 pm
Wonderful response Rafi. Very informative and useful. Notice the sarcasm. I for one completely agree with this advice. When I don't like the advice, I deal with it. When you write your blog with great advice, please let me know.
11/25/2017 09:43:12 pm
Here is my take on all of this. In the times of the Chachomim, weren't there Badchonim? What's the difference? If it's done in a Temimusdik way, go for it!
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Rabbi Yitzie Ross is a Rebbe and has been working with parents and kids for many years. You can read more about him in the "about" section.