As fans of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” know, comedian Larry David is no stranger to flirting with the limits of good taste.
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But his monologue as the host of Saturday Night Live caused many to accuse him of stepping over that line, with jokes about romance in concentration camps and the fact that so many of those accused of sexual harassment in Hollywood are Jewish.
David opened with a parody of Sally Field’s Oscar speech, reacting to applause with pleasure, telling the audience: “You tolerate me. You really, really tolerate me.”
But his jokes cast that fact into doubt, drawing as many groans as laughs, and sparking substantial negative reaction on Twitter.
He began with the sex scandal rocking Hollywood, saying, “I couldn’t help but notice, a very, very disturbing pattern emerging - which is that many of the predators - not all, but many of them are Jews. And I have three words to say to that: Oy Vey Ishmeer. I don’t like it when Jews are in the news for notorious reasons. What I want: Einstein discovers the theory of relativity, Salk discovers a cure for polio. What I don’t want: Weinstein took it out.”
By contrast, he bragged, “I know I consistently strive to be a good Jewish representative.” As a model Jew with impeccable behavior, he said, he makes passers-by comment, “if it weren’t for the self-deprecation and the irritable bowel syndrome, you’d never know in a million years.”
David then launched into a discussion as to whether his “obsession with women” would have held up in the Holocaust.
“I’ve often wondered that if I grew up in Poland when Hitler came to power and I was sent to a concentration camp, would I still be checking out women? I think I would - ‘Hey, Shlomo, did you see that one by Barracks Eight? I’ve had my eye on her for weeks. I’d like to go up and say something to her. Of course, the problem is there are no good opening lines in a concentration camp.”
So what might be his Auschwitz come-on, he asked: “‘How’s it going? They treating you OK? You know, if they ever get out of here, I’d love to take you out for some latkes. You like latkes?’“
Even before David’s routine ended, Twitter and Facebook reaction came fast and furious, from Jews and non-Jews alike, commenting that it had made them “cringe” and calling it offensive.