Aliya antics

In ‘50 Shades of Blue and White,’ Hahafuch comedy group turns a cultural icon on its head.

50 shades 521 (photo credit: courtesy)
50 shades 521
(photo credit: courtesy)
Satirist Ephraim Kishon would no doubt have approved of the tongue-in-cheek approach the Hahafuch comedy group takes. The five Anglos – from America and Australia – who comprise the comedic outfit take pot shots at just about anything that moves in the local cultural and social melting pot.
That outlook on life will come across loud and clear in the troupe’s 50 Shades of Blue and White show at Beit Avi Chai on January 10.
Hahafuch member Molly Livingstone, who hails from Los Angeles, sets the irreverent scene from the word go, as she explains the choice of show title.
“Well, the ‘50’ part comes from the name of [bestselling erotic novel] Fifty Shades of Grey – the worst book ever written,” she declares, pulling no punches.
“In my opinion, it’s just garbage. This is our way of poking fun at a ridiculous book. I just think it is poorly written.”
The reason for the colors in the show’s name is self-explanatory.
“Of course, blue and white is about Israel,” she continues.
“There will be allusions to the book, in the play, but tailored for Israelis.”
There is more titular titillation built into the name of the group, which variously translates as “upside-down” or “opposite,” or even as the country’s most popular form of coffee, which, typically, noncommittally treads the middle ground between cappuccino and latte.
Livingstone says that like many olim, she and her cohorts – fellow Americans Josh Kaplan, Dudy Starck and director Gary Rudoren, Australian-born Debbie Kaye, and Israeli Eran Kraus, who will be joining them for the Avi Chai performance – have issues to tackle with the Israeli way of life, and 50 Shades of Blue and White” like Hahafuch’s other works, is part of their way of handling those complexities.
The show is subtitled “A Painfully Funny Night of Laughter in Jerusalem.” But this is not just about letting off steam.
“It is a comedy variety show,” says Livingstone.
“What we try to do is have all elements of comedy, so you feel you’re getting a full night. We have original sketches, we have videos and improvisation, and we’ll have a guest star – Israel Campbell. He’s an American stand-up comedian, and it’s a real treat to have him, and I think that will add another great layer to this show.”
That certainly appears likely. Campbell brings cultural, religious and life-experience baggage with him to the stage. He was born in Philadelphia as Chris Campbell, a Catholic of Irish-Italian descent, and went through no fewer than three conversions to Judaism – Reform, Conservative and eventually Orthodox. He now lives in Jerusalem with his wife and three children. Of his multi-pronged avenue into Judaism, he has joked that the repetitive process became something of a fetish.
While the Hahafuch team naturally adopts a largely Anglo-derived line of attack, Livingstone points out that their work is meant for all and sundry in this part of the world, and that there is a bonding element involved.
“We want to bring new immigrants and Israelis together,” she says. “Although most of our sketches are in English, some are in Hebrew, and we make fun of ourselves in them. Israelis, if they understand some English, and if they’ve ever traveled in the world, really understand what we’re doing and see our point of view, which is a different point of view – the newimmigrant point of view on Israel.”
The wackiness of Israeli life is something most people in the country can appreciate, not just Anglos.
“I would say every new immigrant experiences the banks being closed at strange times, or the strikes till 10 in the morning at Bituah Leumi [the National Insurance Institute],” notes Livingstone. “That’s not just a new-immigrant thing, it is an Israeli citizen thing. But for us, as new immigrants, we don’t know this is going to happen. We’re not part of the protektzia [connections] thing, we’re not informed.”
While this can make life difficult, as all artists know, trials and tribulations often provide fertile ground for creative endeavors.
“Part of why we [in Hahafuch] started doing this writing, especially for me, was that I was sick of crying and complaining about it,” she says. “I want to write about all these difficulties because it’s funnier for me, it calms me down and it’s therapeutic, [and] then you can say, ‘Hey, it’s not only me that had to go back to the bank because they forgot to tell you about some other form you had to fill out.’” All this paints a satirical picture, and not always a bright one.
“Yes, it is dark humor, but I think that is Israeli humor, too,” she continues. “I am now starting to work on comedy lectures about Israel, and what is humor in Israel, and I see a lot of black humor here.
I moved to Israel during the [second] intifada, and I remember people would joke about bombs. I was terrified and, you know, racial profiling everybody on the bus, and doing my part like an FBI agent, and the Israelis are making jokes about it. So, we [olim] have all become part of this black humor of Israel, and I love that.”
Livingstone says the troupe’s repertoire is very much a work in progress, and that there is a continuum of cross-fertilization.
“People always come up to us after a show, and say, ‘I have a sketch for you. This happened to me on the way to the show,’ and they give us all these great ideas that come from actual life. There’s always something.”For tickets and more information about 50 Shades of Blue and White: 621-5300 or For more information about Hahafuch: