October 15, 2018

‘Broke’ life is rich in comedy material for Danny Lobell’s show

Danny Lobell, a Shabbat-observing, struggling Los Angeles comedian, might get his big break soon by revealing how it feels to be “Broke as a Joke.”

In his one-man show, which opens June 8 at the Hollywood Fringe Festival, Lobell, 34, provides a comedic take on the not-always-funny life of a struggling stand-up, with a focus on the unusual jobs he’s had over the years, including selling lightbulbs door to door, hawking cassettes on a Broadway tour for Jackie Mason and trying to launch a hipster egg company with his neighbor, Blanco the gangster.

“Basically, it’s a collection of stories, jokes and anecdotes from my life that have been compiled into one cohesive piece of work, my funny stories that have come out of my struggles with money over the years,” Lobell said from Israel, where he was attending a wedding.

Binding together the stories in “Broke as a Joke” is the comedian’s menschlikayt as Lobell ultimately comes to realize that money is best spent toward improving the world.

“I discuss sort of my mentality with money and how it’s changed,” he said. “I discuss growing up with a family that struggled with money and being somebody who’s then struggled himself and where I’ve wound up with all of it.”

The show, which is meant for audiences age 18 and older, is one of more than 375 being staged across Hollywood through June 25 as part of the Hollywood Fringe Festival, a showcase for emerging and underground artists.

Born in Queens, N.Y., Lobell was raised on Long Island in a religious family before he moved to Brooklyn as a young adult. His father, a photographer, and his mother, an occupational therapist, raised four boys. Lobell, the oldest, attended a yeshiva until he was kicked out for misbehaving. He was “sent to a [second] yeshiva for messed-up Jews in high school,” he said, which “led to me and a friend trying a hairless cat-breeding business” — another job spotlighted in his show.

Working with animals has been a recurring activity in the life of the comic, who wanted to be a veterinarian until he realized he wasn’t good at science. In the new show, he tells a story previously featured on the radio show “This American Life,” about how he and Blanco adopted chickens in the hope of starting an egg business. Unfortunately, their Brooklyn neighbors weren’t interested in being awakened by a rooster, and a city inspector was troubled by the idea of a rooster living in an apartment.

“Broke as a Joke” is Lobell’s first one-man show, but his body of work includes stand-up comedy, live storytelling and podcasts.

His podcast, “Modern Day Philosophers,” features interviews with well-known comedians and actors, including Carl Reiner, Mayim Bialik and Marc Maron, and up-and-comers like Jessie Kahnweiler of the internet series “Dude, Where’s My Chutzpah?” Lobell and Kahnweiler met on the 2013 Yiddish Book Center program “Tent: Comedy,” a professional development workshop in Los Angeles for promising stand-up comedians.

Lobell’s connection to Judaism runs deep. He wore a yellow suit to his bar mitzvah because he was in love with the Jim Carrey film “The Mask,” and he recorded his forthcoming comedy album, “The Nicest Boy in Barcelona,” in Spain because his family was kicked out in 1492 during the Inquisition, when Jews were ordered to leave Spain or convert.

“A lot of my stories are seen through the filter of a Jewish eye,” he said.

His current side job while he pursues comedy is no laughing matter. He works at Centered Health Adolescent Treatment Center, a rehabilitation facility in Malibu serving teenagers struggling with addiction and mental health issues. Drawing on his comedic skill set as well as his previous experiences battling alcohol and food addiction, Lobell records a podcast with the patients called “Media Therapy.”

“I empathize with a lot of them as someone who struggled with addiction for so many years,” he said. “The same feeling I get from stand-up, I get from working with kids.”

Danny Lobell’s performances of the hourlong “Broke as a Joke” begin with a preview on June 4, followed by shows on June 8, 10 and 11 at Sacred Fools Theater. For ticket information, visit sacredfools.org.