Funny guys, serious cause

Crossraods Comedy raises money for Anglo youth at risk.

harland williams (photo credit: Courtesy)
harland williams
(photo credit: Courtesy)
My best friend is American. There, I said it. We often wonder, together and out loud, what it was that made him leave the land of opportunity, where dollars pave the streets (although you have to step over dead bodies to pick up the bills), for a place where people would gouge out your eyes just to get their hands on a stinking shekel. The answer, I must report, remains unclear. Quite like Mary, it seems, there is something about this country. Avi Liberman, founder and organizer of the Crossroads Comedy Tour, was born in Israel and grew up in Texas. Yet, not unlike my friend, he could not break free from his tie to this captivating little country. In 2002, during the second intifida, Liberman was in Israel. He felt the down-trodden atmosphere and decided to do something to change it. Just a few phone calls later, he was able to arrange for a few of his friends, who happened to be stand-up comics, to come over to Israel and make with the funny. "At first we just wanted to cover our expenses. But after meeting with Caryn, our goal shifted and the cheer Israel up turned into a charity event," says Liberman. Caryn is Caryn Green, Liberman's childhood friend and director of the Crossroads Center in Jerusalem. Established in 2001, the Center is a response to the growing number of at-risk Anglo teens in Israel. Based in downtown Jerusalem, Crossroads caters to 700-1000 Anglo youth each year who have trouble adapting to Israeli life, live on the streets and abuse drugs and alcohol. The organization utilizes social workers and volunteers who visit Jerusalem's underbelly every night, looking to bring teens in for psychological therapy, rehabilitative social activity, educational enrichment, GED preparation and more. The Crossroads Comedy Tour was born in 2003 and has since brought many well-recognized names from the US comedy scene to the Israeli stage in support of the cause. Comics have also had the opportunity to get a closer look at Israel. Always the MC, Liberman exclaims, "I'm always excited about coming to Israel." He adds, "I've just been to Iraq to entertain troops there and Israel is much better." Liberman has performed stand-up comedy on CBS's the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson and on Comedy Central's Premium Blend. His acting credits include Dave's World, Boston Common and a funny talking head on the E! Channel's countdown series. Despite his varied showbiz experiences, Iraq remains alone on the list of places and things less enjoyable than Israel. Lowell Sanders, who launched his career at the Comedy Castle's open mike night in Detroit, joins the tour this year. In 1997, he was hand-picked to open Luther Vandross' comedy tour by the V-man himself. Since then Lowell has appeared on the hit sitcoms Home Improvement and The Drew Carey Show. George Lopez has said that if he had to choose one comedian to work with, it would be Sanders, adding that "he is the best thing to come out of Detroit since the Cadillac." Also coming this year is Dan Naturman, the favorite of celebrity judges Drew Carey and Brett Butler in Last Comic Standing 2. He has since appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman and Late Night with Conan O'Brien as well as his own Comedy Central Presents special. Harland Williams, who joins the tour for his first time, you'll undoubtedly remember as the crazy, murderous hitchhiker in There's Something about Mary and as the state trooper in Dumb and Dumber. Harland worked on his act during the five years he spent as a forest ranger, a not-too-surprising fact if you've seen his unique comedic stylings. His act includes such topics as koalas, pumpkins and KFC. With semi-frequent appearances on The Adam Corolla Show, Loveline and Late Night with Conan O'Brien, Harland is currently developing a television show for CBS. While in Israel and off-stage, the comedians will travel around the country to see a few of the things the country has to offer. They might even work some of their observations into their acts. Tickets cost from NIS 75 to 100, a decent price to help an important cause and enjoy some great grade A and/or B comedians while doing so. The tour runs from June 17 to 19 and passes through Ra'anana, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh. For tickets and information: e-mail [email protected], call (054) 627-2867 or visit www.crossroadscomedy.com