The People vs. Moses
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Elon Gold Loves To Make ‘My People’ Laugh
05/21/14
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New one-hour special on Netflix: “Jews are skeptical,” says Elon Gold.  Courtesy of Elon Gold
New one-hour special on Netflix: “Jews are skeptical,” says Elon Gold. Courtesy of Elon Gold

Elon Gold says he may be the only comedian around who has two completely different acts — the “secular one” for non-Jewish audiences and the Jewish one for “my people.”

One night he may be performing for a Chabad event, the next night “doing a corporate gig in the South for 800 goyim,” he said in an interview with The Jewish Week, asserting that such diversity has made him a better comic.

Non-Jews love to laugh, he says. They’re easy.

Jews, on the other hand, are “skeptical; they’re not willing to have too good a good time. It’s a real challenge to make them laugh.”

But Gold, 43, who grew up in Westchester and went to Jewish day schools, including the Yeshiva University high school for boys known as MTA, loves the challenge. “They make me dig deeper,” he says of Jewish audiences.

His one-hour comedy special now airing on Netflix, “Elon Gold: Chosen and Taken,” is mostly geared to the widest possible audience, a blend of witty observations, dead-on imitations (including President Obama, Ray Romano, Jeff Goldblum and a squirrel on drugs) and a touch of blue for the adult crowd. But in our interview he took pride in noting that he opens his special with a routine that spoofs prejudice by citing stereotypes about the various ethnic groups in the audience, including blacks, Asians, Italians, Puerto Ricans, gays and Jews. (For the latter, he says “thanks for showing up, despite the high cost of gas.”)

In one routine, Gold says he is a proud Jew but observes that Judaism is the religion that doesn’t proselytize, because it’s such a hard sell. He imagines a recruiting ad that asks, “Do you crave persecution?”

In the interview he described himself as “the go-to Jew for all the fundraisers,” the comedian who understands just how far he can go with Jewish audiences — like commenting on the hypocrisy of those who keep kosher at home and then enjoy “a festival of traife” in a restaurant: “I’ve never heard someone say ‘I’m a strict vegetarian but I eat meat out.’”

In truth, Gold, who is married and the father of four children in Jewish day schools, says he is observant, adhering to the very rituals and customs he “pokes fun at” in his act. “My message is not self-hating,” he says, “it’s just self-mockery” over the “extreme levels our customs can have, almost taking all the fun out of them.

“I love to go to the line and don’t cross it. I don’t like to offend; I love to make people nervous, titillating” on the edge, he said.

Describing the less-than appealing look of the contents of the seder plate, he says “you can throw up on it and no one would notice.

“People love that, they relate to it.”

One lengthy routine explores what laws the rabbis would come up with if Jews had Christmas trees. What would the height requirements be for the trees? How do you cut them down? Do you light them from right to left? And do you make the bracha before you bring the tree into the house or after?

Gold, now Los Angeles-based, got the comedy bug after receiving big laughs for his imitation of his rebbes at an MTA Purim party when he was a 15-year-old sophomore, giving him the courage to try stand-up at an Open Mike night when he was 16. The audience loved him, he said — modesty is not Gold’s most noticeable trait — and he has been making a good living at it since he was a student at Boston University. He majored in economics to make his parents happy but was busy doing shows on the campus circuit,  “where most of the audience was older than me.”

He’s been doing it fulltime ever since, acting in some movies and television shows — he co-starred with Pamela Anderson in a short-lived prime-time sitcom called “Stacked” — but mostly traveling the country, honing his stand-up material … times two: For the Jews and for everyone else.

gary@jewishweek.org

Last Update:

05/21/2014 - 17:30

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