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The Off the Wall Comedy Club is a good place to go for those who like to laugh - and don't mind cringing a little along the way.
At eight o'clock last Saturday night, I met up with friends in front of the Mashbir on King George, and we went down to the club, which is located just to the side of the department store and a flight of stairs down. None of them had ever heard of the Comedy Club before, but, seeing as it was a long Saturday night with nothing to do, they decided to come along.
The basement club seems still to be a work in progress, with wires sticking out here and there, but we all agreed it had a nice ambience. The club is pretty small - after the bar there's only room for two or three rows of chairs and a bunch of sofas around the stage. But the small size, I think, helped make us feel more comfortable, and we had a good time just relaxing and schmoozing before the show started.
The bartender, Yoyo, came over and pleasantly asked us for our order. The club has a one-drink minimum, and while meeker types (or those driving) might want to do with a coke, the unanimous consensus was that the jokes seemed funnier after a beer or two.
The menu has a good selection of beers, whiskeys, wines and liqueurs, and the prices are very reasonable for what one expects from a Jerusalem pub. Add the price of a drink to the NIS 25 entrance fee, and you've still got a pretty cheap night out.
It was a "New Comedians" night, and the emcee (and club founder) David Kilimnic, got up and introduced the first act, Alex Edelman. Edelman is an 18-year-old who hails from Brookline Massachusetts, spending the year in yeshiva.
Edelman's routine consisted of a few rants about familiar topics, like Israeli bus drivers, Israeli food and El Al (the Israeli airline). Some of the jokes were a little outdated, playing on the stereotypes of yesteryear. For example, El Al is no longer the third-rate banana republic airline it used to be, and it's not so relevant to complain about how there is no good ice cream in Israel with Ben & Jerry's readily available and gelato boutiques lining our streets.
But the crowd was willing to suspend its disbelief in the hopes of good punchlines, and they did come. I particularly enjoyed Edelman's story of carrying a cross through Boston Commons for his friend's student video. (After Jesus falls off the cross, he yells to his friend, "Help me nail Jesus back up!" before a crowd of photo-snapping tourists.)
Edelman was followed up by Ariel Simantov, a teenager from an American family. The years in Israel show clearly, whether in the content of his jokes being unfamiliar to newcomers or his lapsing into Hebrew for some of his best deliveries. One of his best bits, about asking a falafel-stand owner for a kosher certificate, may have been completely lost on some audience members.
Hani Skutch appeared in the final act, following a short segment by club manager Jeremy Mann. As a grandmother, the fast-talking Skutch represented a totally different age group than the under-20 comedians who preceded her. The material was markedly different as well, touching on middle-aged topics like coping with kids, weight gain and compulsive Cosco shopping. She managed to get smiles from even the young faces in the crowd, albeit along with more than one groan.
You do need a relatively high tolerance level to be able to enjoy a night like this. The whole lineup had plenty of bombs, followed by ominous silences. The matter was not helped by some of the comedians trying to explain their jokes a second or third time. Although not always in the best of taste, in general the material stayed clean, as appropriate for a venue where the majority of both performers and audience was religious.
All of the comedians got some good laughs. Never mind the somewhat amateurish air about the program. All of my friends, and, it seems, everyone in the crowd, walked away with a smile.
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