Jewish comedian Elon Gold prepares to crack jokes in Israel

Comedian Elon Gold talks about his upcoming stand-up shows in Israel and why he’s a bit like Radiohead.

‘I THINK the message of my comedy is more important than any of the jokes... The message is that I love being Jewish, says US comedian Elon Gold. (photo credit: ELON GOLD)
‘I THINK the message of my comedy is more important than any of the jokes... The message is that I love being Jewish, says US comedian Elon Gold.
(photo credit: ELON GOLD)
Elon Gold sees himself as a little bit like Radiohead. The actor and stand-up comedian may have some fame and recognition in the US, where he lives, but in Israel he’s a rock star.
“I performed last year in Ra’anana for Kids Kicking Cancer and I remember being shocked we sold out this big theater in two days,” Gold recalled. “Oh my goodness, I’m a star in Israel... I’m not a star anywhere else but Israel. Radiohead used to say that they were stars in Israel before anywhere else in the world.” The band’s first-ever international gig was in Tel Aviv in 1993.
Now Gold is coming to perform again in Israel for the third time, playing three benefit shows for StandWithUs: two in Jerusalem and one in Herzliya over Sukkot.
While he doesn’t do many shows in the Holy Land, the clips Gold posts on social media garner hundreds of thousands of views, gaining him a cult status among a certain type of Israeli.
“My videos are going crazy viral over there, my shows are selling out there,” said Gold in a recent phone interview from Los Angeles. “Sure, I have a Netflix special and some people in the US know me; but for me, Israel is really the first place to fully and wholly embrace me as a comedian.”
It’s Gold’s uniquely, deeply Jewish jokes that get him shared across Facebook in the thousands – plus “a couple million on Whatsapp which you can’t even count,” he jokes. “I know that every single Israeli citizen shared [his Christmas tree video] on Whatsapp. So there’s a couple mil right there at least.”
Gold specializes in poking fun at the intricacies of observant Jewish life. His riff on what would happen if Jews had Christmas trees is one of his most popular to date.
If Jews had Christmas trees, Gold jokes, there would be “a thousand rules and regulations regarding the trees.” How to shecht it (ritual slaughter according to Jewish law, when to say the blessing, what type of tree – there’d be a whole tractate of Talmud devoted to the issue, he said.
“You must string the lights right to left, but light them left to right,” he said. “And if – God forbid – one of the bulbs is out, the whole string’s no good!” The comedian recently posted a new video about the Jewish calendar and its obsession with time.
“The Jewish calendar is the only calendar with minutes on it,” he riffs. “You don’t open up an American calendar, see an American holiday: Oh, Martin Luther King Day.
Starts 5:48, ends the next day, 6:52.” You know, he said, “no one in history has ever asked, ‘Hey, what time is Christmas this year?’ Tree lighting is at 4:31.”
But Gold also does shows and gigs with a slightly wider appeal. He had roles in the canceled sitcoms Stacked and In-Laws, and also has a Netflix stand-up special, Elon Gold: Chosen And Taken.
While Gold always jokes about his life as a Jew, he said he really has “two acts.
If you watch my Netflix special, that’s an act where I identify as a Jew, and certainly the opposite of shying away from it; I talk about it a lot,” he said. “But it’s not the central focus on my act.”
When he performs in Israel or at Jewish benefits and events, that’s a show where “if I could put out a warning label I’d say ‘Some material may not be suitable for gentiles.’” I mean, where else will you hear jokes about tefillin, building a sukka or blowing the shofar? “How many lulav jokes are out there on Netflix?” he jokes. “I’m experiencing things that are unique to us and to our experiences as Jews.” But while he loves to poke fun, “I think the message of my comedy is more important than any of the jokes,” he said.
“The message is that I love being Jewish and I love our customs and observing them and they’re just funny to me.”
Gold also loves performing benefit shows, and has headlined the Chabad telethon, done stand-up at cancer benefits and appeared at galas and dinners for Jewish nonprofits around the US. He has a special place in his heart for StandWithUs, which he has been working with for more than a decade.
“They’re my favorite organization,” he said of the educational Israel advocacy group, which operates mostly on college campuses in North America. “As someone who has almost college-age bound kids and someone who cares about Israel as much as I do... StandWithUs is out there fighting the good fight. They’re just the biggest and the best at it.”
Elon Gold will perform two shows on October 10 at Beit Shmuel in Jerusalem at 6:30 p.m.and 8:30 p.m. and on October 14 at the Herzliya Performing Arts Center at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are NIS 150 or 250. Visit comedy for more information.