Broke, Jewish... and flying to Scotland

LA-based comedian Danny Lobell is taking his one-man show to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

‘I KEEP Shabbat, I keep kosher, and being a comedian and being observant has definitely been a challenge,’ says Danny Lobell. (photo credit: Courtesy)
‘I KEEP Shabbat, I keep kosher, and being a comedian and being observant has definitely been a challenge,’ says Danny Lobell.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
When comedian Danny Lobell performs at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this summer, he’ll do a show every day of the week – except Saturday.
That’s because the Los Angeles-based comic won’t perform on Shabbat.
“I keep Shabbat, I keep kosher, and being a comedian and being observant has definitely been a challenge,” Lobell, 34, told The Jerusalem Post in a recent interview. But he wasn’t always observant, and admits he “had to give up a lot of work... which I never got back yet” along that journey.
Nevertheless, he doesn’t regret it for a minute, in particular his ability “to perform shows I never would have wound up doing.”
This includes Chabad houses, synagogues and more.
But in August he’ll be playing to a much wider audience, when he takes his standup show “Broke as a Joke” to Edinburgh, Scotland, for the annual fringe festival there.
“It’s something I’ve wanted to do for years,” he says. “It’s the biggest performing arts festival in the world.”
“It’s a big deal for me to be able to bring the show there because it would get so much international exposure,” he says. Lobell added that his mother is also a Scottish Jew, and he has a lot of family there who he’ll be thrilled to visit and see in the audience at his show.
The “Broke as a Joke” show, which he premiered for the first time at the Hollywood Fringe Festival in early June, is a collection of stories and adventures of his failed money- making schemes over the years.
“Once I tried to breed hairless cats,” he recalls, a venture that first transpired when he was “working as a door-to-door lightbulb salesman.” He also tried to sell eggs from backyard chickens with his neighbor, an Ecuadorian gang member.
“It’s a collection of stories and adventures that have happened over the years as a result of being broke,” he said. “And the different failed business I’ve tried and where and how they went wrong.”
Lobell admits that “none of my crazy ventures worked out. But in the end, what did work out is it all led to me meeting my wife and that’s probably my best venture of all.”
The comedian said he has a strong connection to Israel, and though he’s never performed there he’d love to.
“I’ve visited a bunch of times – I even worked for a summer on a Young Judea program,” he recalls. “I did like a month of army training and then I worked in Eilat at the underwater observatory... cleaning the shark tank.”
The comedian’s journey to observant Judaism has had many twists and turns.
When he returned to keeping Shabbat after being in comedy for a few years, “for a while I was trying to find workarounds where I could walk to the club and ask if I don’t have to use the microphone,” he said.
“But it really became too hairy of a situation with that – and also it does kind of ruin the whole spirit of Shabbat for me.”
Lobell said he tries to keep his act fairly universal, but he does have some Jewish content. That includes a story about a discussion in a vegan coffee shop with a woman about the ways they each relax. Lobell told her about keeping Shabbat, about “how I completely unplug from everything from sundown to sundown.”
“That’s really weird,” she said.
“Oh? What do you do to relax?” he asked.
“I get colonics,” she replied.
“I’m going to stick with Shabbat,” he answered.
He also recorded his upcoming album – The Nicest Boy in Barcelona – on a family trip exploring his roots, dating all the way back to the Spanish Inquisition.
“To go back there after 500 years and do an album... and then discover our names at the museum – it was just a really cool discovery.”
When Lobell isn’t doing standup, he also has a podcast called “Modern Day Philosophers,” where he talks philosophy with popular comedians. His guests have included everyone from Colin Quinn to Mayim Bialik, Gilbert Gottfried, Gad Elmaleh, Carl Reiner and Lewis Black.
“Probably my all-time favorite is George Carlin, who I got to interview and got to know,” he said. “I was introduced to him by one of my other favorites – Jackie Mason.”
And his dream guest? Without a doubt, his childhood hero, Jim Carrey. He’s still holding out hope to one day get him on the show.