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How much of humor is lost in translation? When an American makes aliya and starts a comedy group in Jerusalem, how can he be sure that the audience is laughing with and not at him? David Kilimnick, a founder of the Off the Wall Comedy Empire in Jerusalem and one of its headlining comedians, says that if you can learn to say hello in a foreign language, then learning to be funny is just around the corner. Though Off the Wall began as a group of English-speaking comedians catering to the capital's Anglo community, Kilimnick says that doing shows in Hebrew was always part of the long-term plan as he prepares for this week's stand-up show in Hebrew, his second ever. The mixed Israeli and Anglo audience adored Kilimnick's first Hebrew show, which was filled with humor about being an oleh hadash (new immigrant), as well as everything from tiny Israeli bathrooms to huge Israeli attitudes.
A true believer in comedy as the most genuine form of entertainment, Kilimnick studied humor in the US and brought it with him to Jerusalem. Kilimnick believes that comedy is the best thing for a high-tension, high-energy city like Jerusalem because it gives people a chance to relax. Kilimnick also has a background in social work, which gave him a strong belief in the power of empathy and the importance of release. Doing a comedy show about the obstacles he faced in his immigrant experience and his day-to-day life in Israel gives the audience a chance to laugh at the absurdity of it all.
But Kilimnick's not just searching for a cheap laugh; he produces comedy with a message. His hardships may make for great comedic material, but he is also calling for change in Israeli society. As if a background in comedy and social work weren't enough, Kilimnick is also an ordained rabbi.
"There are only so many jokes that can be squished into a sermon," he explains.
Kilimnick's preparation for the Hebrew show involved everything from bugging Israeli street vendors about what they find funny to testing jokes on haredim and trying his luck at open-mic gigs in Tel-Aviv. Kilimnick says "comedy is all about translating," and though the pun was not intended, he has proved that he knows the difference between how an English- or Hebrew-language audience will respond to a given joke. Kilimnick loves doing comedy in Hebrew, and thinks he may even be a better comedian in Hebrew than in English because he feels there are fewer boundaries and the audience knows exactly who he is right from the start. Though many thought Kilimnick's dream of doing a comedy show in Hebrew was overly ambitious, his first show proved that humor is indeed a universal language.
With his commitment to affordable, clean comedy, Kilimnick promises at least a pleasant if not absolutely side-splitting evening.
Thursday, 8:30 p.m., OlaLa Cafe, Rehov King George 42. NIS 30 (25 for students and soldiers).