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Comedy for Koby
Avi Liberman, Mark Schiff, Steve White and Butch Bradley
Beit Shmuel, Jerusalem
There is nothing worse than listening to somebody try to be funny, who is not. It is a painful, uncomfortable experience, one that makes you want to crawl into a hole. It's like a guy telling you a flat joke, and then staring at you to see if you'll laugh.
But the opposite is also true. There are few things more enjoyable than listening to somebody who is trying to be funny, and who actually is. Real funny. Salty-tears-down-the-cheeks funny. And that characterization sums up the latest Comedy for Koby installment, a now biannual benefit for the Koby Mandell Foundation currently playing at major English-speaking population centers around the country.
The comedic force behind bringing three top tier US comics to the country every six months is Avi Liberman, an Israeli-born, American-raised comedian who understands Israel and Jews. Which is what makes him funny - he "gets" what he is harpooning.
"We performed the other day in Modi'in," he said, asking if it is not a bit pretentious naming a city Intelligence (the English for Modi'in). What's the other town called, he asked, Beit Stupid?
Liberman talked about getting asked to lift the Torah at a synagogue in Ra'anana on Shabbat, and - as he was doing so - heaving, "Jesus this is heavy," to which the rabbi replied, "For Chrisakes don't drop it."
Another insider on the bill Sunday night at Beit Shmuel in Jerusalem was Mark Schiff, who walked onstage with a dark, velvet kippa and unleashed a riff of nonstop one-liners that covered everything from the unique brilliance of getting people to pay $80 to visit the Blind Museum in Holon, to folks who walk into a steam room and say "geez it's hot in here," to American yeshiva kids whose parents think they are studying Torah when in fact they are partying every Thursday night in Jerusalem.
IF LIBERMAN and Schiff's comedy acts were those of the "insiders," the routines of the two other acts were those of outsiders, looking in. It's always entertaining seeing what others see as humorous in us.
One of those was Steve White, an Afro-American from Long Island with a collection of Yiddish words who knows Jews from his days as an accounting major at Adelphi University.
His trip to Israel, he said, will give him "street cred" with his Jewish friends back home. When they say he doesn't know anything because he's not Jewish, he can say, "I've been to the factory, I know where they make 'em." In fact, he said, there are so many pregnant women in this factory that it looks as if the Jews are the new Puerto Ricans.
The highlight of the night, however, was another outsider, a New Jersey native named Butch Bradley. Bradley's was a unique mix of physical humor, great sound effects, and keen observation delivered with his hand resting oddly on his neck.
He lampooned Israeli drivers, saying the only place he felt safe - where the drivers couldn't get him - was in the Western Wall tunnels, and had a funny take on how little old ladies "hip-check" their ways through the crowded Tel Aviv Carmel market. He dissed El Al for not checking a guy whose box was sealed with duct tape, and had a hilarious line about how Jews, if they ever took communion, would ask for a "shmeer" on the wafer.
Bradley, who like each of the acts, kept his performance curse-free and clean, even made the Iranian nuclear threat seem light.
"When are you going to take care of Iran," he said, praising the IAF and - to applause - launching into a brief 30-second hand-and-sound show illustrating how easy it would all be.
Ah, if life only imitated art.
Comedy for Koby performs tonight at Eshkol Hapayis, Rehov Hachayil 46, Ra'anana, and tomorrow at the Haifa Cinemateque, Shderot Hanasi 142. Tickets are available at (052) 798-5200 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.