Off his guard

Former Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball star turned musician LayZ Gordon is looking to score a slam dunk with his latest musical comedy show.

March 7, 2017 21:09
4 minute read.
‘I THINK playing basketball was, for me, always about entertaining. I found a language where I could

‘I THINK playing basketball was, for me, always about entertaining. I found a language where I could be eccentric on the court, and also be creative – just like I am on stage,’ says basketball star turned musician/comedian LayZ Gordon.. (photo credit: SHAI FRANCO DORON STEIN)

Sports fans like their team to win, but they also like to get good entertainment value for their hard earned cash. Eliezar – aka LayZ – Gordon was certainly good for that when he wore the famous yellow strip of the Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball team, and he has been doing his damnedest to keep audiences happy in his post-basketball career too, as a oneman musical and comic performing act. If you happen to be at the Baronit club in Zichron Ya’acov on March 9, you can judge for yourself.

Gordon comes over as a larger-than-life character. His oozes bonhomie and every so often unleashes a laugh that could keep a whole neighborhood in good cheer with its infectious energy. All of which bodes well for his upcoming gig, and has kept the 52-yearold Israeli-born, US-bred showman off the streets, and suitably employed, for some years now.

The 1.9 meter tall former Maccabi guard says he has always been in the crowd-pleasing business.

“I think playing basketball was, for me, always about entertaining. I found a language where I could be eccentric on the court, and also be creative – just like I am on stage.”

Mind you, it’s not exactly the same.

“There’s a slight problem there,” Gordon notes. “With basketball, you’re actually playing with a team, and in music when you’re playing with a band there are also limitations, when you’re doing your comedy on the stage, or when you’re improvising.”

The latter led to a definitive performance configuration move.

“I found that when I’m alone on stage, that allows the audience to get closer to you, to feel your eccentricity and to be hypnotized by some of the often strange, out of the box stuff that I do.”

That’s sounds like a recipe for edge-off-the-seat fun and games.

“I feel that captivates them in a more enchanting way,” adds Gordon. “I’m not there to make fun of them, or to belittle anyone to get a laugh.

I’m actually there to belittle and make fun of myself,” he laughs.

In his typically riotous show at the Met in New York, in 1986, the late, great actor-comedian Robin Williams playfully ridiculed members of the audience for paying big bucks to see a shrink, while he got to offload his psychoses and emotional baggage on stage and get paid in the process. Gordon also sees the curative side to his current occupation.

“It’s a different kind of comedy.

I open myself up and, unless someone is severely drunk, or came to the show with any kind of ‘dosage’ where he’s acting abnormal, I usually get unbelievable love in the show. It’s a glue situation.”

The current show has a suggestive title.

“I call it Live Effect because at first the name in Hebrew was Tofa’a Chaya, which means Live Phenomenon, but I didn’t feel like a phenomenon because, to me, a phenomenon is a guy who saves lives, or someone who goes out on a limb to entertain others, like putting himself in a tank and going underwater, or walk... a rope over Manhattan. I’m not there. That’s not what I do.”

Even so, Gordon is a kind of phenomenon, and certainly an intriguing character. He comes across as an irrepressibly bubbly man, with a sunny disposition, but then self-deprecation becomes a recurrent theme in our chat.

“I couldn’t call myself a phenomenon because I also don’t hold a title of one the top 20 comedians in the world, or top piano players or top singers, and definitely not one of the top basketball players in the world. So I’m not a phenomenon.”

Gordon appears to wear is heart on his sleeve 24/7. That serves him well on stage, and helps him engage his audience as he spins the tale of his life, including some highly emotive intimate vignettes.

Nothing, it seems, is off limits.

One song relates to his late father.

“I have a song called ‘Let Me in New York,’ which is about my dad and his death, and how I grew up with him.

It is about the amazing story about what happened with me and him. The truth is so alarming and, one time – I usually finish the show with it – I actually choked at the end of the song, which says ‘it’s because of you I miss New York.’ The show brings a lot of feelings up.”

Gordon says the members of the audience get that, and he also draws them through various interactive elements, like asking people to suggest words, which Gordon then has to work into an on-thespot improvised song.

The ex-guard has been working on his comedic material practically since the word go, and says he was often kicked out of class for wisecracking.

He has also written over 150 songs over the years.

“I have been coaching people all my life – life coaching – and I feel really comfortable on stage, and asking people to join me, and they do and they find themselves asking themselves ‘what’s going on here? What has he done?’ People ask me to categorize what I do, and I tell them I don’t even know what I do.”

Looks like a leap of faith is the order of the day, by entertainer and entertainees alike.

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