October Caption Contest Winner

 Posted by on November 10, 2012
Nov 102012

Commentary by Shulem Deen, editor of Unpious:

When I first looked at this cartoon, I wondered: who is the joke on? Women? Mikva-goers? Cell phone users?

Being that we’re all here in the service of advancing the agenda of shkutzim and apikorsim (we are, aren’t we?), there must be an anti-religious point here, I reasoned. An anti-Hasidish point. An anti-mikva point. An anti-something point. But I couldn’t find it. It seemed like most who submitted captions were looking for the same: a message in this cartoon condemning something.

And then it hit me. It isn’t condemning anything. It is simply, as its creator does so consistently, being funny.

Humor is a funny thing. It can often cast a glow on human foibles in a way that reasoned arguments cannot. But despite that, I believe that humor fails in one particular instance: when it turns polemical. Sure, it can still be funny. Side-splitting hilarious, even. But not necessarily convincing.

This reminded me of one of the funniest anti-religious movies I’ve ever seen: Bill Maher’s “Religulous.” I remember watching it with friends in a Brooklyn theater surrounded by howling crowds. And I remember thinking: This shit is funny! And then thinking: This shit isn’t going to convince anyone who isn’t already convinced.

“If you want to go back to scientific proof,” a truck driver sitting in a small roadside church says to Maher, “I think it was the turban of shroud.” “The Shroud of Turin,” Maher corrects him. “Or whatever,” the truck driver says. He’s made his point.

A U.S. Senator tells Maher he does not believe in evolution, after which he helpfully adds, “You don’t have to pass an IQ test to be in the Senate.”

Funny stuff, I thought, and was too busy laughing to give to give too much more thought to the film’s effectiveness as an argument. This was comedic gold, one scene after another: a minister who believes himself to be a reincarnation of Jesus Chris and wears 2,000-dollar suits and a pirate’s chest full of bling. The Jew for Jesus guy whose life is “filled with miracles.” (One example: He was thirsty once, held out a glass, prayed, and it rained.) The ex-gay minister who professes to “heal” other gay people but whose therapies appear to have had dubious effects on himself.

It wasn’t until about an hour into the movie that I began to really think about the argument part of it. It was when Rabbi Yisruel Duvid Weiss appeared