(From left) David Attell, Jeff Ross, Modi and Elon Gold on stage at the first annual Chosen Comedy Festival in Brooklyn, NY, on Aug. 16. Source: Shiryn Ghermezian
More than 4,000 people gathered at the Coney Island Amphitheater in Brooklyn on Tuesday for a night of laughter and musical performances by Jewish comedians and artists as part of the first annual Chosen Comedy Festival, hosted by the comedy club Stand Up NY.
The event, the first comedy festival of its kind to feature all Jewish acts, benefited the Ukrainian Emergency Performing Arts Fund, which supports performing artists staying in Ukraine during the country’s ongoing war with Russia. The festival was hosted by Jewish comedians Elon Gold and Modi.
“The focus of tonight is about celebrating and doing Jewish comedy,” Gold told The Algemeiner before the event began. “These are some of the top Jewish comedians [and they] do stuff that speaks to our people, to our shared experience, to our collective experience.”
The evening opened with performances by singers Moshe Reuven and Laivy —who is the son of reggae and hip-hop singer Matisyahu — and rappers Kosha Dillz, and Nissim Black, the latter of whom was joined on stage for a surprise performance by Gad Elbaz. Together the duo sang their collaboration “Hashem Melech.”
Kosher food trucks provided food to the audience for purchase and throughout the evening, Modi and Gold introduced 11 Jewish comedians on stage, including Alex Edelman (twin brother of Olympic athlete AJ Edelman), Eric Tabach, Leah Forster, Jared Freid, Gary Guz, T.J. Miller, Jessica Kirson, Zarna Garg, and from Israel, Ofer Shechter and Yohay Sponder. The show closed out with legendary comic Jeff Ross and his surprise guest Dave Attell, who formerly hosted Comedy Central‘s “Insomniac.”
While majority of the puns made by the comics throughout the night were Jewish-centered and poked fun at Jewish traditions and communities — Sephardis, Ashkenazis, Chassidim and Chabadniks — other topics were also covered and some of the acts paid tribute to late, great Jewish comedians, including Rodney Dangerfield, Bob Saget and Gilbert Gottfried.
Gold joked about the importance of food to the Jewish community and the stereotype that Jews are money-hungry. He said, “There’s the stereotype that ‘Jews love money’ — We don’t love money. We need money to buy food! We’re food insecure.”
He earlier told the almost exclusively Jewish crowd at the Coney Island Amphitheater, “Jewish audiences are our favorite audiences,” while Moi quipped, “this is the biggest minyan I’ve seen in my life.”
Dani Zoldan, owner of Stand Up NY and founder of the Chosen Comedy Festival, told The Algemeiner on Wednesday that he was happily surprised by the event’s turnout and praised the comedians for their outstanding performances on stage.
“It’s great to see Jews from all religious backgrounds come together to laugh,” he said. “It’s rare where there’s an event like that, that’s purely about comedy. It wasn’t a political event, there was no agenda, it was just making people laugh. That was the goal and we accomplished that. The comics crushed it … For a first year festival, I’m very happy.”
Zoldan added that he looks forward to hosting the comedy festival again next year in Brooklyn and taking it to Los Angeles, Miami and Israel, while bringing in new talent to perform each time. He said, “I believe we planted a seed this year and hope to do this event for many, many years to come.”
Zoldan came up with the idea for the Chosen Comedy Festival four months ago while talking on the phone with Gold. The comedian and Modi immediately got on board and when Zoldan called other Jewish comics asking if they would join the lineup, they all agreed right away to participate, he told The Algemeiner.
When asked how he would describe “Jewish comedy,” Gold told The Algemeiner that it’s not much different than other types of comedy, which is all “about complaining.”
“You complain about your wife, girlfriend, husband, government, politicians, other people — that’s all of comedy. Jewish comedy probably takes it a step further where you’re also complaining about the littlest things… the minutia of everyday life. That’s going deep into complaining and then you complain about Jewish things. I don’t make fun as an outsider. I poke fun as an insider. I live such a connected Jewish life that I can’t help but think of observations about Judaism.”