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Jeremy Piven.(Photo by: REUTERS/MIKE BLAKE)
Jeremy Piven looks for laughs in Jerusalem
By AMY SPIRO
01/13/2019
For a man who first began performing stand-up in his 50s, Piven offered a surprisingly polished, well-thought out act.
Jeremy Piven’s glory days are behind him.

After being accused in 2017 and 2018 of sexual assault by eight different women, Piven might never be cast in another Hollywood project. The show he was starring in at the time – CBS’s Wisdom of the Crowd, a remake of an Israeli drama – was canceled after the allegations.

Last year, Piven embarked on a new career as a stand-up comedian, in a bid to reinvent himself and continue working in the entertainment industry.

For close to an hour on a stage in Jerusalem on Saturday night, the actor – most famous for playing Ari Gold in Entourage – relived his golden years in Hollywood, name-dropping celebrities and telling stories from his time on film sets.

For a man who first began performing stand-up in his 50s, Piven offered a surprisingly polished, well-thought-out act. He delivered his show with energy, self-deprecating humor and a remarkably effective set of celebrity impressions, and engaged with the crowd throughout the evening.

The audience at the Jerusalem show – his first out of four gigs in Israel – was enamored with the performance, offering laughs and applause throughout, even when it wasn’t earned. But even Piven – appearing on stage in jeans and a creased, double-breasted jacket – was aware that the medium-sized hall at the Jerusalem Theater was only about 60% full.

“Do you guys realize that The Rock is the highest-paid actor in the world?” Piven said. “He’s never taken an acting class. Do I sound bitter? Because I am. Because I’m here in Jerusalem in front of 11 people. I had more people at my bar mitzvah than are in this room tonight.”

The majority of Piven’s act featured stories from his highlights in Hollywood over a 30-year career, including impressions of Mike Tyson, Chris Tucker, Jackie Chan, Sylvester Stallone and Mark Wahlberg. He even mimicked Owen Wilson as the voice of Lightning McQueen in the film Cars, which he noted is now an option for navigation on Waze.

Piven also made jokes about having an “Ashkenazi hairline,” to a smattering of laughter: “This is the only town I’ve ever been in that gets that joke,” he added, garnering more hearty chuckles. 

Though he has said in the past that he wants to use stand-up in part to clear his name, Piven never directly referenced the allegations against him during his set. He did casually refer to himself as a “degenerate,” and told a story about blowing a film offer after insulting the head of the studio at a party. “And that, ladies and gentleman, is why I’m doing stand-up comedy,” he joked, falsely.

Piven even waded into politics, cracking a joke about how both he and US President Donald Trump have said “more fiction than fact,” before noting that he is aware of Jerusalem’s pro-Trump sentiments.
 
“I know we’re divided,” he said. “He built an embassy here, everything else is shit. Just know that. That’s the only reason I like him.”

It was clear that Piven, 53, was eager for the crowd to like him, to laugh at his jokes and appreciate his Hollywood tales. It was also clear that his stories of celebrity mingling and time on film sets are just about all he has left of a once-promising career.
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