Elon Gold is making comedy a holy mission during Comedy for Koby tour

Comedy for Koby is a stand-up tour run by the Koby Mandell Foundation, founded following the terrorist murder of 13-year-old Koby Mandell in 2002.

 ELON GOLD in his natural habitat (photo credit: Elizabeth Viggiano)
ELON GOLD in his natural habitat
(photo credit: Elizabeth Viggiano)

If Moses needed some comedic relief provided as he crossed the Red Sea, Elon Gold would have been more than just ready and willing. He would thrive.

The prolific American-Jewish comic’s Israeli roots run deep. His mother hailed from Bnei Brak, then Palestine in 1936, and much of his upbringing was rooted in strong connections to Judaism and Zionism alike.

Both mother and son are back this week in the land that became Israel. But this trip will be different. Mrs. Gold will be watching her son headline a show that benefits a cause that embodies the resilience of the Jewish people. Gold will be headlining this year’s Comedy for Koby Sukkot Tour.

As local comedy aficionados well know, Comedy for Koby is a stand-up tour run by the Koby Mandell Foundation, founded following the terrorist murder of 13-year-old Koby Mandell in 2002.

Organized by Israel-American comedian Avi Liberman, the series has for over two decades brought top American comics to Israel to raise funds for the foundation.

Past comics who have performed under the Comedy for Koby banner include “Roastmaster General” Jeffrey Ross, Daily Show correspondent Roy Wood Jr., opening act for Jerry Seinfeld, Mark Schiff, Emmy Award-winning Judy Gold and Comic Strip Live’s Wayne Cotter.

This will not be the New York-born, Los Angeles-based Gold’s first time joining the event’s usual headliner, fellow LA-based comedian Avi Liberman.

An accomplished stand-up comic, Gold has starred in FOX and NBC series, had his own Netflix special, played himself in season 3 of HBO’s Crashing, and appeared in Curb Your Enthusiasm’s 11th season as a Hulu TV executive who constantly spews Yiddishisms to a befuddled Larry David.

“It was like being in Disneyland and getting to hang out with Walt,” he told Algemeiner last year. “They were a pleasure to work with, and it was really a huge compliment to be asked.”

THIS YEAR, Comedy for Koby will look a little different than usual. In years past, Liberman hosted the event alongside his handpicked roster of American comedians, many of whom were not Jewish or were unfamiliar with Israel.

Liberman believes that performing alongside another Jewish comedian like Gold, with deeply entwined religious and cultural values, will truly help the pair connect with their audience.

It does not take long for anyone interacting with Gold to see just how important Jewish tradition is in his daily life. He wraps tefillin (phylacteries) daily and keeps Shabbat traditionally with his family by turning off their phones and powering down.

“No matter what else is going on in our week, Friday is time for us to be together as a family,” he told The Jerusalem Post in a phone interview last week. “When else can you be unplugged for 25 hours? I call it connecting by disconnecting!”

Attending a New York City religious day school helped Gold find his voice in the comedy space. Though comedy always held a special place in his heart, his impressions of teachers helped him develop his voice as a comedian.

They yielded laughs and attention he was not accustomed to, and knowing that he was able to put a smile on his peers’ faces pushed him into overdrive.

Making it in New York City

At just 16 years old, he found himself giving stand-up comedy his best shot. He attended an open mic night at the Comic Strip in New York City, on the Upper East Side at 82nd Street and 2nd Avenue.

He was nervous, but it didn’t show – aside from telling his brother, who had accompanied him to the comedy club, that if his first performance did not go well, he would never try it again. Seeing just how far he has come in his comedy career, you can probably guess how that initial mic night went.

His love for making people laugh has been lifelong. It’s something that Gold sees as a commitment that is part of his identity, a vow he has taken, akin to, as he put it, “‘til death do us part.”

“There are two things that will always ring true for the rest of my life,” he stated. “My commitment to comedy is like my love for and relationship with my wife – both are until death: absolutely.”

IN ADDITION to being epitomical (and comical) NJBs — Nice Jewish Boys — Gold and Liberman share their passion for the mission of the Koby Mandell Foundation, without which the upcoming Comedy for Koby tour would not exist.The foundation was founded in the wake of tragedy.

The Koby Mandell Foundation

Rabbi Seth and Sherri Mandell were struck with any parents’ worst nightmare, when their son Koby was murdered with his friend, Yosef Ishran, by terrorists near their home in Israel.

The Mandells didn’t wallow in their grief for long, however, but instead turned it into a resource for others dealing with the same tragedies.

The organization provides professional therapeutic resources for parents, widows and widowers, siblings and children of those directly affected by such tragedies. The organization aims to give tools for those impacted to translate grief into personal growth and community leadership.

It is no wonder that comedian Gold is a perfect fit to headline this series. His connection and understanding of the constant threat met by average Israelis every day are unmatched, because of his deep understanding and sense of solidarity with his own people.

In another life, Gold thinks he could have been a pretty decent kosher butcher, after exposure from an uncle in that field. However, he was always so drawn to the comedy world that there was no other option in his mind. His purpose in life is simple: to be a funny, proud Jew and a great husband and father of four.

“God, family and comedy – those are the three most important factors in my life,” he stated proudly. His commitment to those three important pillars is just as important to him as his favorite restaurant in the world, a steakhouse in Tel Aviv’s Azrieli Center, 2c.

“God, family and comedy – those are the three most important factors in my life.”

Elon Gold

While steak may not be a priority over his faith, his family and his love for making people laugh, it’s certainly something he looks forward to on his visits to the Holy Land.

Gold shows zero signs of slowing down, and hopes to be able to do comedy until his final days.

“I want to be able to do stand-up and make people laugh forever. I want to do this on my 100th birthday!”Luckily, fans won’t have to wait until then. Gold and Liberman begin their tour Tuesday night at the Herzliya Performing Arts Center and move on to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem on Thursday and Saturday nights.

Ticket information at https://www.comedyforkoby.com/