Israel is being demonized; the peace talks are stalled; Iran is going nuclear … let’s have some laughs.
Ken Krimstein’s new book, “Kvetch as Kvetch Can,” couldn’t have come along at a better time.
A slim little 95-page book, by a cartoonist whose work appears in the New Yorker, Punch and the Wall Street Journal, Krimstein knows no sacred cows — or, er, sacred pigs (check out the cover).
Indeed, some readers may find a few of Krimstein’s drawings too far over the top (recasting the Rev. Jim Jones as Rabbi Jim Jones may turn off some readers; and “ ‘his’ and ‘shiksa’ towel set” cartoon may offend some couples).
Overall though, Krimstein’s cartoons constitute “The Far Side” of the Jewish world. His work is funny, irreverent, offbeat and almost always clever.
Sometimes, he’s too clever. Some of Krimstein’s panels get so wordy you might just opt to turn the page without reading them.
In fact, his best drawings are the sight gags, the cartoon panels without text balloons; they don’t need any words to be funny. For instance, there’s the one of Santa Claus and an Orthodox rabbi riding the subway together, or a biblical prophet trying to select a condolence card.
Krimstein can find humor in any kind of Jewish-related instance, even if it’s not particularly Jewish (ever wonder who the forgotten Beatle was — it’s not Pete Best).
The typical Jewish humor fare is in this book — food, guilt, nagging wives. But it’s the atypical look at Judaism that will make an impression — like what would happen at a bris if the baby could fight back?
“Kvetch as Kvetch Can” is a fun read. Even the title and copyright pages are hand drawn, and you’ve got to hand it to the man for changing the name from “Table of Contents” to “The Whole Megillah.” This is a book that won’t take long to absorb. You’ll want to share with your friends, and it will leave you with a knowing smile on your face. In today’s all-too-serious world, it couldn’t hurt.
(Lee Chottiner can be reached at email@example.com.)