Comedy for Koby to offer post-war southern comfort
US comedian Butch Bradley isn’t concerned about coming here: "When I’m in Israel I feel safe."
By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
It was the height of Operation Pillar of Defense. More than 100 rockets were landing daily in the South, missiles hit Tel Aviv, and surprising sirens sounded in southern Jerusalem.And yet, comedian Jimmy Shubert took his stand-up routine and vowed to stand up for Israel. Two other comedians who were set to come for the biannual Comedy for Koby tour canceled, but Shubert, who had never been to Israel, held his ground.“I grew up in a tough neighborhood in Philadephia and I have six brothers, so nothing scares me,” Shubert said. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go to Jerusalem. I didn’t want the Palestinians to screw up my goddam trip. My friends in Tel Aviv told me the rockets fell in the ocean, and they were having a good time.I saw the others canceled, but I was like ‘I am not canceling.’” Shubert said backing out would have sent the wrong message, especially because the tour benefits the Koby Mandell Foundation, which helps family members of terror victims. He said he was glad there was a cease-fire, but he made clear he would have come even if the rockets were still falling.“Anybody who watches the news and has half a brain know what’s happening,” Shubert said. “We are dealing with a bunch of savages who fire rockets. They are back in the 12th century while the rest of us have evolved. I wanted to come support Israel.”Shubert has entertained American troops in Afghanistan. He said he could not wait to visit Israel’s tourist sites, tour Christian holy places, and “eat some really good humus.”Los Angeles-based comedian Avi Liberman, who has been organizing comedy tours of Israel for more than 10 years, said he was glad Shubert had an adventurous side. He said he completely understood the decision of the comedians who canceled, one of whom told him that his mother would have had a heart attack.That comedian, of course, was Jewish.Liberman replaced the two canceled comedians with two of the funniest men he had brought to the country in the past.He knew rockets would not faze Dwight Slade, who came to Israel during the second intifada, and Butch Bradley, who dodged missiles together with him in Afghanistan and who came on the December 2009 comedy tour during Operation Cast Lead.“When I thought about who wouldn’t care about rockets, Butch immediately came to mind,” Liberman said. “When a missile was fired at his helicopter in Afghanistan, the pilots said ‘Don’t worry, it happens all the time.’” Liberman said he was happier about getting two top comics to fill in than he was disappointed the others stayed at home.He said he told the canceled comedians that the war would be over by the time they got to Israel and that the odds of getting hit by a rocket were very slim, but it was tough to complete with the images in the American media.“They watch the news and it looked awful,” Liberman said. “I felt lucky that by default I got two of the best guys anyway – by the skin of our teeth, with barely a week to go. Others wanted to come but were booked. People are appreciative that we are coming immediately after the war to alleviate their stress.”Liberman said he was impressed that non-Jewish comics wanted to come and show solidarity.Slade told him: “This is when I think people should be coming to Israel, so we can help people there have a good time.”Bradley arguably got the best reviews of any of the dozens of comedians Liberman has ever brought to Israel. He said he was excited about coming back, though he wished it could have been under better circumstances.“This is the time to come,” Bradley said.“You can’t let the terrorists decide your life for you. That’s what the Koby Mandell Foundation is all about. When I saw what was happening in Israel, I hoped Avi would call and tell me he is taking me to Israel. I love Avi, and I will go wherever he tells me to go. If he says we are going to the moon tomorrow, I’m so there.”Bradley said he was impressed by the way Israel responded to the rocket fire on the South. Reacting to reports that the cease-fire was hurried to enable US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to return home in time for Thanksgiving, he said he would have personally volunteered to carve her turkey in order to give Israel more time to fight back.“It boggles my mind that Israel gets grief for responding to firing on its civilians,” Bradley said. “You guys have crazy stamina to deal with this. The Israeli soldiers are the calmest people I’ve ever met. When I’m in Israel I feel safe.”Raised by a single mom who worked as casino manager in the heart of Atlantic City, Butch was inspired by and exposed to comedy greats like Rodney Dangerfield, Don Rickles and George Carlin. He is a regular on America’s Comedy Central network and The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.The Comedy for Koby website said Slade “combines an intelligent, raging voice of justice with the snickering attitude of a high school prankster. He gives the impression of a man on a journey, who enjoys nothing more than making fun of everything along the way.” He won this year’s Boston Comedy Festival.Shubert is one of the busiest comedians working today, headlining A-list comedy clubs, casinos and theaters across the country. His hour-long stand-up comedy special recently was rated one of the top ten comedy DVDs by Punchline Magazine.He is known for his five-year recurring role on the sitcom King of Queens, and he has worked with such marquee names as Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Charlize Theron, Katie Holmes and Robin Williams.When told how well he was received on his last visit, Bradley responded modestly and vowed to do even better this time.“I respect my audiences,” Bradley said.“I am just going to tell them the truth as I see it. I am going to feel their energy and tell stories and hopefully going to make them laugh. This show is going to be awesome, and we're going to bring relief and hope.”