February 24, 2020

Elon Gold Gets Into the Hanukkah Spirit

For comedian Elon Gold, this is a busy time of year, with stand-up appearances in his native New York, here in Los Angeles and in Israel, where he performed in Jerusalem on Nov. 24. He spoke with the Journal about Hanukkah memories, Christmas admiration and his comedy-centric dreams.

Jewish Journal: What Hanukkah memories stand out from your childhood?

Elon Gold: My parents were teachers on teachers’ salaries. We lived in an apartment on Pelham Parkway in the Bronx. I remember unwrapping one present and it was a package of three Bic disposable pens. But it was still a nice tradition, a gift every night. These customs continue generation after generation and I’m doing that with my family. I’ve got four kids, 9 to 18, and by night five [the presents] get very shvach (weak). But we end it with a bang on the last night. Hanukkah is not a religious holiday like Yom Kippur when you’re in shul all day. There’s no obligation other than lighting the menorah. It’s not so much a religious observance as a fun family tradition that recognizes our heritage and our people.

JJ: How are you celebrating Hanukkah this year?

EG: I’m doing five shows in New York and my family is coming with me. Then I come back to L.A. to emcee the (pro-Israel nonprofit) Stand With Us “Festival of Lights Gala” at The Beverly Hilton on Dec. 9, for the eleventh year in a row.  

JJ: Got a good Hanukkah joke?

EG: “There aren’t any songs on the radio for us, other than Adam Sandler and his great ‘Hanukkah Song.’ You know why? All the great Jewish songwriters were busy writing Christmas songs. They knew where their bread was buttered.” My brothers and I used to take Christmas songs and make up new lyrics, with a funny, Hebraic twist. 

JJ: You do an annual Christmas Eve comedy show.

EG: “Merry Erev Xmas” at the Laugh Factory, making Christmas fun for the Jews in L.A. This is our 10th year. Russell Peters, Alonzo Bodden, Ben Gleib and Dom Irrera will be there this year, and surprise guests. I love the whole holiday season, starting with the night before Thanksgiving through New Year’s, including Christmas. I kind of enjoy it. I like the lights and listening to Christmas music. I can get into the spirit of it, even if I don’t observe it.

JJ: Do you have any TV appearances coming up?

EG: Judd Apatow asked me to be in Season 3 of his show “Crashing” on HBO. I’m in two episodes. I think the first and second. I take Pete [Holmes, the lead actor] to one of my shul gigs. It premieres in January. I’m on a new family show on Netflix called “Best. Worst. Weekend. Ever.” I’m playing a really funny character, a pet store groomer, loosely based on a couple of Israelis that I know. I’m an integral part of the story about these kids who are trying to get into Comic-Con. I have a stand-up special streaming on Amazon Prime, “Elon Gold: Chosen & Taken,” and I’m working on my next hour-long comedy special. In July, I did an appearance on [“The Late Late Show With] James Corden,” where I got to dispel the inaccurate Jewish stereotype that Jews are obsessed with money. When there’s a message behind the joke, it makes it a little more important. I’m proud of that.

JJ: When did you know you were funny?

EG: In eighth grade I started doing impressions of my teachers, but the first time I knew I wanted to do this for a living was at a Purim spiel at Yeshiva University High School in my sophomore year. I wrote and performed two one-man sketches. It went so well that seniors and juniors that never looked at me, let alone talked to me, came over and said, “You’re funny, dude.” It was so gratifying. 

JJ: You always planned to do it as a career?

EG: For a while I was into the stock market, read The Wall Street Journal, but jokes come so naturally to me. This was what I was meant to do. Unlike a lot of people, it was never my intention to get into comedy to get girls. I met my wife when I was 15, and I knew I would marry her. We’re together 30 years. Our 25th wedding anniversary is coming up in June.

JJ: What’s on your career wish list?

EG: There are projects I’m trying to develop, including a comedy TV show with Howard Gordon, the [co-]creator of “Homeland.” I’m very active on WhatsApp and I want to keep putting out viral clips and have people share my work. For the first time in my 25-year career I feel like I have fans who are familiar with my stand-up and are excited to come see me live. 

I love being the go-to Jew for fundraisers and gala dinners. I get to help a cause and make people laugh — a total win-win. I’m happy where I’m at and creatively at the top of my game but I’m not satisfied. I don’t think I’ve scratched the show-business surface. A lot of comedians put in 20 years before things start cooking for them and hopefully I’m one of them. Meanwhile, I’ll keep coasting like I am. As long as I’m paying the mortgage, I’m OK.

Elon Gold hosts “Merry Erev Xmas” at the Laugh Factory on Dec. 24.