Lovitt or leave it

‘The Jerusalem Post’ sits down with Anglo-Israeli community comedian Benji Lovitt to discuss life, latte and laundry.

September 26, 2011 22:34
Benji Lovitt

Benji Lovitt. (photo credit: Courtesy of Benji Lovitt)

Benji Lovitt, one of the  funniest comedians for the Anglo community in Israel, will be performing in the United States between October 24 and November 13.

Recently, I caught up with Lovitt at his home in Jerusalem and conducted a question and answer session. I’m still laughing!

As a comedian and entertainer for the Anglo-Israeli community and Jewish community abroad, you have appeared in many different media: radio, television, Internet (blogging, newspapers and magazines). Which medium do you prefer and why?
Whichever one is making people laugh at the time. Of those? The Internet. I’m not sure “onstage” is a medium but that should be up there as well. If someone gives me a TV job, this answer could change.

Are you the funniest man in Israel? If not, who is?
Oh, I don’t know... you’re assuming I’m even that tapped into Israeli culture. I’m definitely not the best standup comedian; there are Israelis who’ve been doing it much longer than I have. I’d like to think I’m up there in the immigrant community.

How did you get into comedy?
Before my senior year of college, I wasn’t even aware that it was a possibility. A friend of mine (Comedy for Koby’s Avi Liberman) moved to LA around that time to become a comedian and suddenly I realized that people I knew could actually do it. How many kids have actually been exposed to comedians? (Don’t read that the wrong way.) I once heard someone say that comedians don’t want to perform, they have to perform. At some point, I knew if I didn’t try it, I wouldn’t be able to live with myself.

What do you order at Starbucks?
 Latte (café hafuch’s goyishe cousin)

Who are your biggest influences?
Brian Regan. I think anyone who wanted to be funny in the ‘90s would have to say Jerry Seinfeld. Talk about living the dream.

Where do you prefer to perform, here in Israel or in the States? Why?
I’d say my favorite audience is one of my fellow olim. Their experience is closest to mine; they absolutely get it when I’m talking about my horrible experience at Bituach Leumi [the National Insurance Institute]. When I’m abroad, there’s less of a chance that the entire audience will relate to everything.

What are the differences performing for a Jewish audience and a non-Jewish audience?
My Bituach Leumi stories kill in front of non-Jews. Ok, maybe not. I can’t share any of my Jewish and aliya experiences with a non-Jewish audience, and these are the things that are most personal to me. I rarely even get up in front of non-Jews anymore. Once a year maybe? It takes me back to another time when I was only getting started onstage.

Can you recall a disaster performance of yours? What went wrong?
Of course. Anyone who has ever got onstage has bombed. What went wrong? How about I sucked? I know people think that either you’re funny or you’re not, but standup is as much a learned skill as basketball, public speaking, or ballet. Thankfully, bombing toughens your skin; at some point, you realize you’re not actually going to die up there and it will all be over in just a few more minutes.

You tour often and appear in comedy clubs in Israel and the United States. Do you have a funny story from the road?
Hmm... nothing coming to mind. With the path I’ve chosen, I avoid clubs and stick to the Jewish audiences. Fewer drunk rednecks, fewer stories, I’m afraid.

Who do you think has a bigger shoe size, the prime minister or Guy Panini, star point guard for Maccabi Tel Aviv?
Is that a real name? Seriously? Then again, I guess it’s better than Guy Penis. Or Guy Rabid anti-Semite.

We’re going for ice coffee, are we going to Aroma or Hillel?
Your call I lean towards Ice Aroma, but not by choice. Their higher percentage of crack has made me an addict. Hey, kids, did you know that daily ice coffees are fattening? I’m sticking with fruit smoothies next summer.

What is your favorite book?
The Torah. (That was for my girlfriend).

If you could choose another profession what would it be?
How about teaching? Similar to stand-up except the kids drink when they’re not in front of you. I had a lot of informal education experience from my youth movement and Hebrew school teaching days and really enjoyed it. I still think about it. It’s incredibly rewarding to make a difference in a young person’s life.

Before you sit down to write your popular blog, What War Zone, how do you get inspired?
Here are just a few ways:
1. Get screwed by a customer representative (phone company, arnona, etc.)
2. Open any Israeli news site
 3. Reflect on a major aliya milestone

What is your favorite movie?
The Karate Kid. Or did you not notice the “Mr. Miyagi” category on my blog?

If you could be another religion, other than Jewish, which would you be and why?
If I could be a religion? I’d like to be Christianity so I could have billions of followers. Although I don’t know who would manage that Twitter account.

Is the United States headed for another recession?
Was Stanley Fischer unavailable for this interview? Let’s hope not. (Wait, there was a recession?)

Were you a good student? What was your favorite subject? Who was your favorite school teacher and why?

I went to school in the old days before first graders had five hours of homework a night. I didn’t work so hard till I got to college. I enjoyed school; my favorite subject was absolutely psychology, my major. I was on my way to grad school until I decided I wanted to do something more fun and rewarding. (Hey, kids, here’s a piece of advice: I don’t care what area your summer internship is in, after 12 consecutive years of summer camp, you WILL hate it in comparison.) I worshipped my professor for my first psych course, Dr. Lewis. I recently discovered his speech ranked #3 on the top 10 graduation speeches list (after some guy named Steve Jobs.)

What does Benji Lovitt have planned for after he returns to the States for his upcoming performances this fall?
I’ve been doing a number of different freelance gigs over the last two years. I’d like to focus and tap into my creativity more. More videos, writing, maybe even work with kids. And laundry. I’ll definitely be doing laundry.

Do you have advice for young comedians, younger than you?
Get onstage and as often as you can. That’s the most important thing. Everything else will work itself out.

Favorite parsha from the Torah. Why?
That one where God did good stuff. (I just undid the goodness from the “favorite book” question.) This is the last question? Maybe try me in a few years when I’m more learned. (Hey, kids, when you finish onstage, you want to end strong. Not like this.) Oh wait... favorite parsha? I love all of them! Thank you and good night!

See more of Benji Lovitt at www.BenjiLovitt.com

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