Los Angeles-based comedian Avi Liberman has tried a lot of gimmicks during the
decade he has been bringing top American comics to Israel. He has brought
comedians of seemingly every religion, race, creed, ethnicity, age and sexual
orientation and mixed them together to create the most diverse line-ups possible
for his four-comedian shows. But on his latest Comedy for Koby tour, which kicks
off Tuesday in Ra’anana, Liberman has tried something different: For the first
time, he’s bringing all retreads.
Comedians John Mulrooney, Saleem
Muhammad, and Maryellen Hooper have all accompanied Liberman to Israel on his
comedy tours in the past. And they are all back, because Liberman – and
audiences – consider them among the funniest people who have graced an Israeli
“These are three of my favorites and the people’s favorites over
the years,” Liberman said.
“Audiences asked for them to come back. Last
tour none of the three had been to Israel before, so it will be interesting to
do a tour like this. It’s a different angle.”
The four comedians will
follow up their Ra’anana show by performing Wednesday night in Beit Shemesh,
Saturday night in Modi’in, two shows Sunday in Jerusalem, and one show each next
Monday in Tel Aviv and Tuesday in Gush Etzion.
The shows benefit the Koby
Mandell Foundation, which works on behalf of individuals and families struck by
terror. The foundation is named after a 13-year-old boy who was murdered
by terrorists near his home in Tekoa in May 2001.
In between the shows,
the comedians tour the country and see the sites, a tradition that will be
different than in the past because of their return trip and due to the fact that
none of the comedians Liberman brought this time are Jewish. He said he has
received flak for not bringing any members of the tribe.
Judenrein Israel tour going?” someone cynically asked him.
is Muslim, came on the tour in June 2006. He fondly recalls visiting all the
quarters of the Old City and didn’t seem to mind the extra security checks he
was put through.
“Everyone was very welcoming and wonderful to me,” he
said. “Coming to Jerusalem is a religious experience, and I’m looking forward to
reconnecting to the city.”
Muhammad called himself a “storyteller” and
said he thought the Jewish tradition of storytelling made him especially
appreciated in Israel. A native of Ohio, Muhammad has performed on the Tonight
Show, with music greats like the Temptations, and for American troops in
Mulrooney has not only performed for American security forces, he
is one. When times got tough after he lost his job on morning radio, he
went to the Police Academy and became a New York City cop.
sense of humor lends itself to police work,” Mulrooney said. “I’m a real cop. I
pull people over, conduct investigations, and everything else. I make people
laugh even if I have to write them a ticket.”
The humor involved in being
a cop by day and comedian by night has led to a reality show starring Mulrooney
that is in the works. The producers were hoping to get footage in Israel, but it
didn’t work out.
“I didn’t want to say ‘shoot me’ in Israel,” he
The last time he came to Israel, on the December 2007 Comedy for
Koby tour, terrorists in Gaza did just that. A rocket landed in Sderot on the
same block the comedians visited in a show of solidarity with
“We brought donations to the people there and distributed them
by buying a pack of gum and giving the man behind the counter $300,” he
Mulrooney said he really enjoyed his last trip and he was
surprised by how well his act went over with Israelis.
“I didn’t know
whether my stuff could translate,” he confessed. “I’ve performed all over the world, but the Middle East is a different situation and I thought – Jesus, I
don’t want to piss anyone off over there.”
Mulrooney said he makes a
point of staying away from politics, religion and other divisive issues in his
act. When asked about the relatively calm security situation in Israel,
he said “boring isn’t necessarily bad,” but that his mother was worried
While Mulrooney is concerned about his mother, Hooper said
she’s coming to Israel to get away from her kids. The last time she came along
with Liberman and Muhammad in 2006, she brought along her first child, who was
under two years old at the time.
Now that her two kids are seven and
four, Hooper is leaving them with her husband in Florida and taking a
welldeserved “mommy break,” her longest time away from her children since they
were born. She said she was looking forward to the flight because she expected
to get a rare eight hours of uninterrupted sleep.
“When I came last time,
my son thought the Jews putting on prayer shawls on the plane were ghosts,”
Hooper recalled. “Am I worried about other children crying on the plane? No,
that actually soothes me, because they’re not mine. It’s sick and twisted, but
Reached during a mad rush to complete her holiday shopping ahead of her
flight, Hooper said she was excited about “sightseeing things that children
would be bored with” as well as taking a shower longer than 10 minutes and
“shaving parts of my body that haven’t seen a razor in seven years.”
said she was not concerned about her security, because, “I’m too self-centered
to think that anything would happen to me and too vain to think I’d be
Asked why she thought Liberman was bringing her in a second
time, she said, “We were well received last time. I don’t know why. I
guess he thinks that I am hysterical.”