You might ask: “What does the K. stand for?” There are no stupid questions, but this one comes pretty close. If Franz Kafka wrote a whole novel about Josef K. and still didn’t answer that question, do you really think that we can tell you? Some people have noticed that Keni K may be pronounced like קיניק, a Yiddish word that means “King.” Others associate K. with “Klezmer.”
Keni K is a virtual and stage persona, an irrational shadow that lurks behind a professorial presence. The Professor expended a lot of effort trying to be taken seriously but discovered that most people now are busy watching movies, following TV series, collecting “friends” and “likes.” How many people still care about abstruse academic research on literature in Yiddish and Hebrew? Harpo showed a way forward for disillusioned academics when he appeared as “the Professor” in Animal Crackers.
Some people are born comedians, while others have to work at it. Keni was too shy to tell jokes when he was a kid, so instead he played chess, clarinet, and tennis–awaiting the day when his mind and mouth would be opened for laughter.
Knowing about stuff is less important than knowing how to do things. And since life is a series of interactions between people, what is more valuable than spreading joy and pleasure by knowing how to make people laugh? Everyone should work on humorous routines–bits (or, in Yiddish, shtiklekh).
Prof. Frieden taught standing up for decades, before he realized that he wasn’t getting laughs because he was doing standup badly. Entertain your audience or sit down! Who has time these days for the spirit of seriousness?
Since 2008, with education and the economy in bad decline at all levels, many students and their parents have questioned the value of liberal education. Although textual research and the traditional study of literature are essential to the humanities, they are endangered. Teaching needs to be more interactive, more performative, to keep students awake. Left to their own devices….
Traumatized by the 2016 presidential election, Prof. Frieden launched a protest against the failure of reason by drawing inspiration from childhood and experimenting with Harpo. With the Keni K persona as his guardian genius, he created a course at Syracuse University called Jewish Humor and Satire.
We laugh sometimes in order not to cry.
All the world is a stage, and these days that stage is often a virtual platform. JewishHumorandSatire.com is designed to help lift you onto that stage; or, if you prefer, we will let you sit in the audience until you are ready to perform.