August 20, 2019

An interview with comedian Elon Gold, proud pro-Semite

Elon Gold attended Jewish day schools, including Yeshiva University’s high school, but his comedy routines are clearly not prepared under rabbinical supervision. A recent bit described Israel as “the nipple of the Middle East breast.” because, as Gold said, it’s the most sensitive area, and he doesn’t get to visit it as much as he’d like.

The New York-born, now Los Angeles-based comedian, actor, writer and producer has been making audiences laugh since his first stand-up routine at a high school Purim party. The married father of four, who is Modern Orthodox, has starred in two TV sitcoms, made nearly a dozenTonight Show appearances, has a comedy special on Netflix, and will make his 11th appearance at Montreal’s prestigious annual “Just For Laughs” comedy festival the week of July 24.

In 2011, Gold began writing and producing routines and videos about what he calls “Pro-Semitism,” which eventually developed into the new show he’ll be debuting in Montreal, “Pro-Semite.” He spoke about it in this edited conversation with the Jewish Journal.

JEWISH JOURNAL: How did the “pro-Semitism” bits become an entire show?

ELON GOLD: Unfortunately with all the new anti-Semitism in the world … I mean, you don’t see a headline “Pro-Semitism Sweeping Europe”… I realized there was a show here. Jews have contributed so much to the world, whether it’s medicine, science, technology, the arts … so where are all the pro-Semites? Comedians talk about what bothers them. And this really bothers me, whether it’s outright anti-Semitism or expressed as anti-Israel sentiment and the BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions] movement.

JJ: With anti-Semitism on the increase, both here and abroad, how do you find the funny in this dangerous and worrisome time?

EG: I love to find the funny in hate because then you get to expose the ignorance of bigotry. More important than the laugh is the message that’s behind the laugh. Comedians get across lots of messages disguised as jokes. Those jokes resonate and stay with you.

JJ: What can the audiences in Montreal expect from this new show?

EG: Chris Rock’s first special was called “Bring the Pain,” and his second was called “Bigger and Blacker.” My first special was “Chosen and Taken,” and this one should almost be called “Louder and Jewy-er!” I’m going to be even Jewy-er in this show, and I’m going to go deep and hit the heavier topics. One example is the anti-Semitic hate incident that happened to my family several years ago. Now I’m ready to talk about it onstage. Comedy is tragedy plus time.

I have a whole bit about the perception of Israel as the Goliath in the Middle East, and the joke is, we know Israel is still the nebbishy little David … but now, David went to the gym. He built himself up, and if you mess with him, he’ll kick your ass.

I also see Israel as Sandy from the movie “Grease.” At first, she was naïve and weak and picked on by Rizzo and all her friends. Then she came into her own, and that’s what Israel is now: tight leather pants on a permed Sandy, with a cigarette dangling out of her mouth saying (in an Israeli accent), “Ehhhhhh, what you think of me now, Rizzo?!”

The message is, we’re not the Goliath. You can’t compare the 50 Arab countries to the one Jewish state, the billion to the few million, the oil to the no oil. The joke I tell is, it’s difficult for me to explain Chanukah to my non-Jewish friends without perpetuating a stereotype. I say, we bought enough oil to last one day, and then a miracle happened, and we didn’t have to purchase any more for another week. And they’re always like, “Wait, so you built a holiday around a ‘buy one, get seven free’ deal?!” Meanwhile, the Arabs have all the oil, and not one oil-related holiday!

JJ: Can comedy change anti-Semitic attitudes?

EG: I think it can change awareness and perspective. I don’t think it’ll change attitudes, and no actual anti-Semite who might see this show is going to come out of it saying, “You know, he’s right. The Jews have contributed a lot. I should like them”. He’ll still believe what he believes.

JJ: You do different shows for all-Jewish and non-Jewish audiences. What will you do for the mixed crowd in Montreal?

EG: If I could put a warning label out for this show, it would say “Some Material May Not Be Suitable for Gentiles.” [Laughs] But the truth is, it’s still going to be universally funny.

JJ: Jews have always been persecuted, and then they’ve made fun of that persecution. Do you see yourself as part of that historic tradition?

EG: Absolutely. But I also talk about my persecution as an actor in Hollywood! They say Jews run Hollywood, but how come I haven’t gotten a decent acting gig in four years?! I talk about the cliché that Jews run Hollywood, but why wouldn’t they? They started Hollywood! That’s like saying “Blacks run the rap music business.” Yeah, well, they started it!

Nowadays it’s all about diversity and minority hires in Hollywood. But I don’t benefit from that. To Hollywood, I’m a white guy, but to the Bel-Air Country Club, I’m a minority. Neither works in my favor. But I’m a white guy, the way Almond Milk is milk. It’s the right color, but it ain’t milk!


For tickets to “Pro-Semite”, go to www.hahaha.com and to learn more about Elon Gold, go to www.elongold.com.