Laugh it off

After being snowed out of their performance two weeks ago, Anglo comedy troupe ‘Hahafuch’ is back on stage to show fans the lighter side of life.

Hahafuch comedy group 521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Hahafuch comedy group 521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The most challenging task when interviewing a group of comedians is deciphering which answers are candid and which offered in jest. This was certainly the case when The Jerusalem Post sat down with “Hahafuch,” Israel’s one and only premier English-speaking comedy troupe, as they were wrapping up a rehearsal for an upcoming show.
Founded in 2009 by a group of Anglo immigrants, the troupe’s shows consist of comedy sketches, improvisation, videos and original plays performed in front of diverse audiences throughout the country.
THE NAME “Hahafuch” is a play on words combining the English onomatopoeia “ha ha” and the type of coffee known in Hebrew as “hafuch,” which one group member jokes “is this country’s most popular, but nobody can tell you if it’s a latte or a cappuccino.”
Molly Livingstone, a co-founder of the troupe and one of the show’s writers, says that while the performances are in English and therefore their target audience is obviously Anglos, “Our shows also speak to new immigrants, tourists, and [native] Israelis as well.”
Livingstone, a 29-year-old Jerusalem resident who says she is “married, with an infant son, and a dog who I saved from a trash can in Silwan,” feels that the humor in the shows tries to “push the limit” while poking fun at the real-life experiences of those who call Israel home.
Sketches tend to focus on the lighter side of rather serious topics including the war in Gaza, elections, or the frustrations experienced by many Anglos, especially new immigrants, when dealing with Israeli bureaucracy.
Acknowledging that comedy can be perceived as crude at times, Livingstone insists the group tones down its act, particularly in Jerusalem, to take into account the possible religious sensitivities of the audience.
That being said, 37-year-old divorcee and father of two Josh Kaplan, who has been an actor and writer with the troupe for three years, and who at first glance seems like the quietest or perhaps the tamest member of the group, admits that “I like to be dirtier than I’m allowed to be. Well at least in my head I like to push the envelope, but I do think it comes out in my writing.”
Kaplan says that his comedy scripts are usually the most abstract, citing one featuring a talking falafel ball and another musical number on the seemingly countless number of stray cats who call Jerusalem’s streets and trash containers home.
Another of the actor/writers is Mazkeret Batya resident Debbie Kaye, who describes herself as a freelance photographer and “mother of four kids, and two dogs.” Kaye, who immigrated from Sydney, Australia, 16 years ago, says – half seriously – that when she found out about the troupe she was “hitting a stage of desperation in life,” and sent an email to Livingstone demanding that she “get me out of the house!” While Kaye admits she probably spends more on gas traveling to and from the various venues than she takes in from her share of ticket revenues (all the writers/actors have “day jobs”), she views writing scripts and performing as highly therapeutic.
“In Israel, you can either cry or you laugh about everyday life,” she says. “But now I don’t get upset anymore. Working in comedy, which pokes fun at our reality in this country, is truly therapeutic.”
In addition, she says, “Our audience can completely relate to our subject matter. I have people ringing me all the time insisting on what we need to discuss. So it really is better than hiring a psychologist, not only for us, but for them [the audience] as well.”
THE TWO newest members of the group are Dudy Stark, who has a vast background in media and broadcasting, and Eran Kraus, described by the others as the “token Israeli” since, while born in the US, he immigrated with his parents at a very young age.
Kraus is a professional actor with an impressive resumé in comedy – both as a writer and actor on television and as a sketch performer.
Stark jokingly says that he joined the group “because I lost a bet, and also it doesn’t hurt that we have a bar in the same room during shows.”
He then admits that his true motive for joining was his desire to work closely with Hahafuch’s main director – comedy guru Gary Rudoren.
Rudoren, who arrived in Israel from New York six months ago and took over the reins at Hahafuch, is a well-known writer, director and teacher of sketch comedy in the US with over 25 years of experience in the field. He has worked with and trained/directed some of the biggest names in the industry, including various cast members of the long-running popular NBC sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live.
Rudoren says that while sketch comedy is relatively new in Israel and nowhere on the level of Chicago, New York or Los Angeles in terms of popularity, he sees a bright future for the industry here.
“Our shows at Hahafuch, with our large audiences – we have been challenging the fire codes,” he says. “When that happens, you know that people are starting to take an interest.”
Livingstone agrees that sketch comedy is becoming a big part of the cultural scene in Israel, particularly in Jerusalem.
In fact the group’s upcoming show on January 30, which is titled “50 Shades of Blue and White: A Painfully Funny Night of Laughter in Jerusalem” is being held in the performance theater of the Beit Avi Chai Cultural Center.
ACCORDING TO Livingstone, “While Jerusalem is not yet the entertainment capital of the country, our mayor is really pushing it. Also, Beit Avi Chai – this whole building represents culture, and they see the value in our performances.
We are hoping to be long-time partners with them and continue to perform here on a regular basis as their mission is streamlined with what we are trying to do.”
Livingstone’s long-term vision for Hahafuch goes well beyond entertainment. Working as a freelance public relations consultant, she says that “comedy is a platform for hasbara [public diplomacy]. It allows us to communicate with people about Israel in an honest way.”
Livingstone has started conducting comedy workshops for tour groups and educational programs in Israel, and even hopes to build a lecture series discussing Israeli humor, specifically black humor, and its roles and impact in a society that experiences war and terror.
She has even held meetings with the Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Ministry to discuss potential collaboration initiatives in which Hahafuch would become a tool to help the international community relate to Israel via the field of comedy. The ultimate goal for Livingstone, as stated on her business card, is to be “Israel’s ambassador of comedy.”
As the interview concludes Livingstone and Kaye take to the stage to rehearse a sketch for their upcoming show.
Without revealing the specifics and thus spoiling the routine, the best way to sum it up would be “utterly hysterical.”
To order tickets for the January 30 performance at Beit Avi Chai’s Het 7 Theater: or call (02) 621-5900.