Michael Che is the co-anchor on Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update segment. Alongside Colin Jost, he hosts a fictional news program based on current events with an apparently comedic slant.
This weekend, Che got into some hot water after one of his “reports” appeared to rely on an anti-Semitic smear.
“Israel is reporting that they vaccinated half of their population, and I’m going to guess it’s the Jewish half,” Che said with a grin.
It's all fun and games until you start promoting antisemitic myths, @NBCSNL.
Every Israeli citizen—Jewish and Arab, Muslim, Christian, of any or no faith—is eligible to be vaccinated; 2/3 of Israel's Arab citizens over 60 already have been.
— Avi Mayer (@AviMayer) February 21, 2021
Some people immediately criticized this comment as anti-Semitic, with Fox News reporting that the American Jewish Committee called for NBC “to retract its outrageous claim and apologize immediately.”
Conversely, the editorial board for The Jerusalem Post disagreed, saying that the response to “Michael Che’s SNL joke [was] unreasonable,” and that “if everything is antisemitic, then nothing is, so the appellation must be used sparingly.”
In order to judge both whether Michael Che is anti-Semitic and what we should do about it, there are two things we need to consider: content and context.
Regarding content, we should ask what Che is trying to imply. Is it that there is a “Jewish half” of Israel that receives preferential treatment to the other non-Jewish half? That vaccines are being given to Jews first? That Jews are in some ways selfish? None of these, or any realistic interpretations of his comment, are accurate, and so it’s impossible to deny that the content itself was anti-Semitic. At its core, his joke argued or implied that Jews are immunizing their own to the detriment of non-Jews, amounting to a blood libel — a blood libel debunked immediately given that non-Jewish Israeli Arabs have also received the vaccine.
Then, given that the content itself is anti-Semitic, we should next consider the context. After all, there is a difference between Ilhan Omar saying “It’s all about the Benjamins, baby” while slandering Jewish Americans as disloyal and driven by money, and a Jewish comedian mimicking her bigotry in order to criticize her.
Saturday Night Live — contrary to reality — claims to be a comedy show, and so we should judge Che’s statement in the context of comedy. In this light, Che is likely to have been hoping to achieve one of three different goals. First, to be objectively funny. Secondly, to use irony to condemn the bigotry of others. Lastly, to share his political viewpoint.
First, his “joke” is simply not funny. It doesn’t even make any sense. Second, there is no obvious target of satire beyond Jews themselves, and so it’s difficult to argue that he was criticizing anti-Semitism with ironic anti-Semitism. That just leaves the third option, that Che was sharing a political viewpoint under the guise of “comedy.”
This conclusion becomes more likely when we notice that Che has an unfortunate pattern of telling entirely unintelligent and non-amusing anti-Semitic jokes, with Amy Spiro of Jewish Insider sharing another previous clip of Michael Che.
“GoDaddy has shut down a website that hosted a ‘Miss Hitler Beauty Pageant.’ Coincidentally, ‘Miss Hitler Beauty Pageant’ was the working title for the Ingraham Angle. By the way Colin, if you’re wondering who the winner of the ‘Miss Hitler Beauty Pageant’ was, Miss Israel!”
— Amy Spiro (@AmySpiro) May 10, 2020
The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) maintains a working definition of anti-Semitism, which includes “Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis” as an example. Either Che is joking that a Jewish woman could win “Miss Hitler” in an unsuccessful bid to solicit laughter through shock, or he is drawing this very comparison between Israel and Nazis.
Both examples of Che’s “comedy” are demonstrably unfunny. Both examples are arguably — by definition — anti-Semitic, whether spreading a blood libel or drawing a comparison between Israel and Nazis. Both examples seem to make a political statement, with no alternative target of ridicule or satire.
So, yes. In these cases, you can certainly argue that Michael Che is anti-Semitic. The next question is whether — given that he describes himself as a comedian — we should even care.
Frankly, the answer should rest entirely on whether or not Michael Che is funny. After all, comedy is not a serious platform for ideological dissemination, and is also a space which encourages the pursuit of the shocking and the surprising. The comments or actions of comedians are often judged not on their content, but on their results. If people laugh, it was a good joke. If people don’t, it was a bad one. The content is usually — for better or for worse — irrelevant.
Ultimately, both conservatives and Leftists are getting it wrong with Michael Che. Conservatives are hypocrites if they wring their hands with outrage when Che tells a Jewish joke but chortle with glee when he makes a joke about the transgender community. Leftists are hypocrites if they condemn Che’s jokes about transgender people but giggle into their kombucha when he comments on Jews or Israel.
Yes, Michael Che’s comments in isolation were probably anti-Semitic. But what matters first is whether or not he’s funny, and whether his delivery and intent behind these comments were designed to be ideological in nature, or satirical.
With this in mind, we should simply shrug and suggest he practices his chosen craft.
Michael, if you’re a comedian and you’re going to tell a Jewish joke, at least make sure it’s funny. Otherwise, you’ll probably just be labeled as another unfunny anti-Semite, and the Democrats have more than enough of those already.
Ian Haworth is an Editor and Writer for The Daily Wire. Follow him on Twitter at @ighaworth.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
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