Lights, camera, laughter

In ‘Comedy Road,’ Avi Liberman takes a hilarious look at how America’s top stand-up comedians came to discover Israel.

October 19, 2016 20:09
2 minute read.
Comedy film israel

‘THE TARGET audience is anyone who enjoys comedy... it’s a way to see some of the best comedians in the world joking about Israel in a positive fashion,’ says comic Avi Liberman of his documentary ‘Comedy Road.’. (photo credit: YISSACHAR RUAS)

A strange mix of top American comedians come to the Jewish state....

It sounds like the opening of a bad joke. But it has been the basis of the comedy tours of Israel that Los Angeles-based comic Avi Liberman has been organizing for the past 14 years. Recently, Liberman decided it would also make a good movie.

Liberman’s Comedy Road will make its Israeli premiere tonight at the Jerusalem Cinematheque in an exclusive showing for one night only.

At press time, the showing was nearly sold out.

Tonight’s event will be hosted by Seth and Sherri Mandell, founders of the Koby Mandell Foundation. Just like the Comedy for Koby shows twice a year, the movie premiere will raise funds for the programs of the foundation, which helps bereaved families of terrorism victims.

Ads for the film call it “A hilarious look into how some of America’s top stand-up comedians came to discover Israel, cracking up audiences while revealing a perspective on the country the world rarely gets to see.”

The movie includes bits of performances from the shows of funnymen Jeffrey Ross, Harland Williams, Craig Robinson, Gary Gulman, Dennis Regan, Ralph Harris and Wayne Federman, as well as behind the scenes footage from their tours of the Jewish state.

In an interview ahead of his flight to Israel, Liberman admitted that unlike most movies, this one was not initially made on purpose.

“We didn’t intentionally start making a movie,” he said. “The footage was for nostalgia at first. After we realized we had a movie here, we brought a real camera for the next tour.”

That March 2013 tour featured Federman, Regan and Harris. The movie includes footage from inside their van as they traveled around the country.

Experienced producer Danny Gold was brought in to make the movie work. He directed 100 Voices: A Journey Home, a documentary about a trip of cantors to Poland.

Liberman’s only other movie was Bridging the Gap, a 2010 TV movie he made with comedian Ahmed Ahmed that showcased top Jewish and Muslim comics. The film included Mark Schiff, who recently opened in Israel for Jerry Seinfeld.

So far, Comedy Road was only shown to 20 exclusive invitees in Los Angeles.

Liberman’s goal is to show it in many more places, including in film festivals around the world.

“The target audience is anyone who enjoys comedy,” he said. “If you’ve been to the shows in Israel, you’ll certainly enjoy it. People who have not been to the shows will understand how the whole idea of doing the tours started, and where they have ended up.”

The movie is being shown on Succot, when thousands of Jews and Christians from around the world come to Jerusalem, creating more of an audience for the film.

“Whether you’ve been to the shows or not, I’m sure you’d enjoy it and laugh,” Liberman said. “It’s a way to see some of the best comedians in the world joking about Israel in a positive fashion.”

“One of our missions at The Koby Mandell Foundation is via articles and lectures around the world to present a positive perspective on Israel and her people. By bringing world class comics to Israel for Comedy for Koby and now with Comedy Road, his amazing new documentary chronicle of these comics experience in Israel, Avi Liberman brings a wide audience of moviegoers into the world of Israel we know and love,” added Seth Mandell.

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