Coney Island is historically known for the hot dog eating contest on July 4, but soon it may also be known for hosting the world’s premier Jewish comedy festival. To be sure, the 4,000 who sold out the Coney Island Amphitheater on Aug. 16 needed a laugh. For many, it was the first time attending a large event since the pandemic began. And let’s not forget inflation and high gas prices and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and terrorism in Israel and anti-Semitic incidents all over the place. Some Jews in the audience think the current president doesn’t remember what he’s supposed to say, while others wish they could forget what the former president used to say.
But comedian Elon Gold didn’t forget. In a perfect Donald Trump impersonation, he noted how The Donald said conflicting things about Russian leader Vladimir Putin, like “He’s a nasty guy, he’s a horrible guy and we’re very close.” Gold added that President Joe Biden is like the substitute teacher of presidents. Gold launched into a masterful impression of Jackie Mason if he had to deal with not touching his face during Covid, and then gave us what Rodney Dangerfield would sound like if he was an Orthodox Jew.
“I tell ya my mother, she never liked me, when I was a baby, I tried to nurse, she pushed me away and said, ‘hey you’re still fleishig,’” Gold said in an uncanny Dangerfield voice, noting a three or six-hour prohibition of milk after meat.
Gold had perhaps the best joke of the night, saying how it was silly for Jew-haters to chant “Jews will not replace us.”
“We don’t want to replace you,” Gold said. “We just want to put braces on you…we just want to manage your portfolio…we don’t want to replace you, we want to place you, in a 30-year fixed low interest mortgage…we want to fit you for glasses, heal you teach you, inspire you, make you laugh, represent you in a divorce, and she replaces you.”
I’ve seen Gold and Modi Rosenfeld (known simply by his first name) perform together at Stand Up NY numerous times, and while they were electric, this time the voltage felt on another level. Their chemistry shows. Gold got a big reaction from the crowd when he said that more Jews left New York for Florida than did from Egypt “because the only thing worse than Pharoah was (Bill) de Blasio.”
Modi showed power and ferocity. When he saw a reporter in the crowd wearing a Covid mask, he quipped: “You’re in a room of Orthodox Jews. Half of this room’s vaccinated. The other half identifies as being vaccinated.”
He pointed out a double standard when it comes to insulting groups.
“You say something bad against somebody who is Asian or Latino or Black or Gay or Trans, you’re done,” he said. “You gotta change your Twitter, get a lawyer, get a new job. If somebody says something bad against somebody who is Jewish, the worst that could happen is they make them visit a Holocaust Museum, which is the stupidest idea in the world. You’re taking somebody who hates Jews into a Holocaust Museum. They come out of there. Wow! Did you see that. That was amazing!”
Jeff Ross, known as “Roastmaster General,” was the headliner of the night. He told Modi he looked like John Travolta’s rabbi and told his sidekick, Dave Attell, he looked like an owl come to life as a human. Attell told Ross he looked like Putin if instead of joining the KGB, he joined the KFC. But Ross turned the roasting on himself, saying he knows he looks like a version of Vin Diesel who is neither fast nor furious. Ross paid homage to the late Gilbert Gottfried, recounting how the wild comedian agreed to play Hitler in a “Historical Roasts” on Netflix.
“He was the best Hitler ever,” Ross said. “My hero, Mel Brooks, said that comedy is revenge through ridicule. What better way to ridicule the Nazis than have their leader portrayed by the loudest, most obnoxious Jew in history.”
Los Angeles resident Jessica Kirson got a standing ovation for her cutting act, when she imitated southern women, as well as millennial and older women, saying one said to her after a show: “You’re so pretty up close, but on stage, you look like an animal.” She added that those in the audience not laughing were miserable people who should have gone bowling.
Alex Edelman, who hustled from his hit one-man show “Just For Us” to make it to the festival, said his father is a genius who created an artificial heart and nearly won the Nobel Prize for medicine, but if one would ask his mother, she’s “married to the dumbest piece of crap who ever lived.”
TJ Miller oddly wore a yarmulka folded in half on his head, but his reasoning became clear when he explained that he’s a “maybe Jew” as his mother was adopted and he may or may not be Jewish. He showed off his physical comedic skills by juggling three matzah balls and eating some of them.
Leah Forster, who had many fans in the crowd who know her from her “Tichel Tuesday” online posts, said that she recently survived a fire on Fire Island-and specified that she wasn’t joking.
Forster, who was raised Ultra-Orthodox, implied that her mother would not have wanted her to be doing comedy and talking about being a lesbian.
“If my mother was still alive, this would have killed her,” Forster said. “She’s probably looking down, correction, my bad, she’s probably looking up.”
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, who biked to the event from Manhattan, told the Journal that “being Jewish isn’t only about suffering and depressing issues. We shouldn’t only be doing events about how to combat anti-Semitism. We should celebrate our Jewishness. We should laugh. We should choose joy. It’s so important.”
Queens resident Merav Kho said she loved “how [the festival] talked about inclusivity and Jewish pride and we don’t get to see that so often and we need it in these times.”
The event also included the award-winning kosher brisket of the Wandering Que, founded by Ari White. A man who stopped near me appeared to choke as he laughed at one of Modi’s jokes as he had a mouthful of brisket. As I do not know the Heimlich maneuver, it is fortunate he recovered.
On the music side, Laivy Miller, son of Matisyahu, performed one of his original songs early in the night.
“I felt a great vibe from the crowd and I went with it,” Miller said.
Nissim Black brought the energy and had a rousing duet with Gad Elbaz on “Hashem Melech.”
And even the security guards were bobbing their heads when Kosha Dilz, whose real name is Rami Matan Even-Esh, performed “Schmoozin” and “Span-Hebrish.”
He also served as a DJ along with Mikey Darwish. Dilz, who appeared on the recent season of “Nick Cannon Presents: Wild ‘N Out” on VH1, was clearly pumped.
“The energy tonight was incredible,” he said. “You could see in the eyes of the audience that this is so powerful, and I can’t wait to bring this to LA.”
The producer of the Chosen Comedy Festival, co-owner of Stand Up NY, Dani Zoldan, confirmed that the plan is to bring the show to L.A., given its initial success.
“I’m very happy,” Zoldan said. “We sold out 4,000 people, my mother was here, and next time we will be doing this in LA. You can see how much people enjoyed it. To have Elon and Modi and then Dave (Attell) and Jeff Ross onstage at the same time, it’s unbelievable to see such great comedic minds and it was unforgettable.”
As he was headed to the afterparty, Gold couldn’t hide his excitement at the prospect of bringing the festival to L.A., his home city, and possibly others.
“We rocked the house,” Gold said. “This is something very exciting. We’re gonna make it a tour and do LA next and then Miami, Tel Aviv and Montreal. With me and Modi performing together, it’s a hard thing to pull off, especially with those egos on stage. It was symbiotic.”
Alan Zeitlin is a New York based writer. His articles have appeared in The New York Jewish Week, The Forward, The Jerusalem Post and other publications.