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Elon Gold & Friends Bring Laughter to Teaneck When We Need It the Most

Elon Gold headlined two sold out shows at Debonair.

At 6:40 p.m. on Tuesday, December 5, a line of people wrapped around the corner by Debonair Music Hall on Queen Anne Road. The crowd was there to see popular Jewish comedian Elon Gold, who sold out both a 7 p.m. and a 9:15 p.m. show that night with help from local fellow comedians Eli Lebowicz and Dovi Neuburger. For all of the comedians that evening, and for the attendees that night, one thing was abundantly important: in a time like this, the community needs to laugh.

Backstage at Debonair before the show, Gold, Lebowicz and Neuburger chatted with The Jewish Link about the last-minute decision to put on this event in Teaneck, which was arranged in less than a week.

“People are always looking for what to do on a Tuesday night,” said Gold. “Dovi [Neuburger] reached out to this venue and made it happen.” Gold continued that he had a performance in Toronto on Sunday, and decided that he should pay a visit to his parents and his daughter, who attends Stern College. “I said to myself, ‘I can’t just go to New York and not work.’ So I did. I’m here for two nights, and last night, I got to spend time with my family.”

“Also, the Jews need a reason to laugh,” Lebowicz chimed in. “With everything going on, we needed to do this.”

Dovi Neuberger, a Teaneck native, produced the show and opened the performance.

Gold explained that he usually performs at comedy clubs in Manhattan during his New York visits, but determined that it would be nice to offer something to those in northern New Jersey without making them travel. “It’s laughing without the schlepping,” he quipped. “If you can have a top-notch comedy show in your backyard, then why not?”

A few months ago, Lebowicz mentioned a “little venue in Teaneck” to Gold, referring to Debonair—so when Gold began arranging his New York visit, he asked Lebowicz about it. Lebowicz immediately got in touch with Neuburger, who put it all together in a “second and a half.” With six days notice, they sold out two shows; evidence to the fact that the Jewish community is eager to laugh during this distressing time.

“I dropped everything on October 8. It felt like nothing was important except defending Israel right now,” said Gold. “It was like, ‘if not now, when? If not me, who?’ How could I not use my platform for this?” He continued that for several weeks, he felt uncomfortable with the idea of sharing his comedy on social media. “Even now it feels insensitive; it’s still war, and there are still hostages and people dying.”

As the weeks after the October 7 attacks went by, Gold couldn’t bring himself to perform at all. “It felt like 9/11, but more personal. Nothing felt funny. It’s a horrible world, and people are mourning, but I’m working on my next bit. I was embarrassed to be a comedian.” Gold subsequently canceled many of his gigs, feeling like he “couldn’t and didn’t want to be funny.” Finally, Gold had to face his fears, at the insistence of the organizers of a Jewish Federation event he had booked months before, who told him he “had to be funny” for the sake of the honorees.

Eli Lebowicz performs a set right before Elon Gold.

“I performed at this dinner at the Beverly Wilshire in Los Angeles, and they were really laughing. I saw with my own eyes the fact that we need the laughs so we can continue living our lives. After that night, a veil was lifted…it was so emotionally and mentally healthy for me to have that shared experience of joy once again. We may get back to crying right after this, but we have to take a break so we can continue.”

The performances that evening really did afford the community a break from the hardship and anxiety we’ve all been experiencing since October 7. Neuburger opened up the first show with a couple of jokes about the Teaneck crowd, drawing from his own experience as the child of a local rabbi, as well as some jokes about Jewish dating, before introducing Elon Altman. Altman, who did not grow up religious but has become an “honorary yarmulke comedian,” performed a set with lots of references to Jewish culture and anecdotes from his marriage.

Neuburger then introduced Mikey Greenblatt, a member of J-Sketch comedy and the person behind @jewishvibes on social media, for a set riddled with jokes about Israel and facing pro-Palestinian trolls. “Whenever someone comments ‘Free Palestine’ on one of my posts, I just reply ‘sure, I’ll take it.” [Note: During the 9:15 p.m. performance, Ami Kozak performed in lieu of Greenblatt]. Greenblatt was followed by his fellow J-Sketch comedian Eli Lebowicz, who continued with the Israel theme, complete with bits about El Al and packing suitcases for people in Israel.

All four of the opening acts were topical and did a great job of warming up the audience for the headliner of the evening. Gold opened his set with jokes about Teaneck and the kind of crowd that was in attendance, noting that Jewish crowds usually take some time to start enjoying themselves at a comedy show. “You spend the first part of the show just assessing the situation…then you can laugh.” Throughout his set, Gold broke out a series of impressions, including Trump (and what he would sound like as a rabbi), his own son, three of his “friends’ dads” (with one lengthy impression of persona named Harvey who just loves Shabbos), and Jackie Mason. Gold closed the show with an impressive rendition of “religious Rodney Dangerfield” which received an uproarious applause from the audience.

After the show, Gold did a meet-and-greet with VIP ticket holders, while Neuburger and Lebowicz continued to share with The Jewish Link about the planning process for the evening’s festivities.

“I started producing these shows in Teaneck several months ago, when I arranged a comedy special called ‘Too Poor to be in Israel for Sukkot,’ which was a hit,” said Neuburger. “We realized there’s a real demand for comedy here, and we sold out shows within hours.” After October 7, the comedy world took a pause, and so did Neuburger, until he and Lebowicz decided to launch the “Standup for Israel Comedy Tour,” a series of shows which would benefit Israeli relief organizations.

“Our initial instinct as Jewish comedians was to lay low after all the tragedy, but for whatever reason, we saw that comedians were the ones taking the forefront of the debate,” Lebowicz explained. “We realized this was not the time to lay low—we have to bring our community together and speak out.”

Lebowicz continued that they wanted to work with Gold on Tuesday’s performance because of the advocacy work he’s been doing with his platform. “Elon has been one of the biggest proponents of being vocal and dealing with Israel in a humorous way. And we really needed him here in Teaneck.” He added that the goal of bringing laughter to a community who needs it after the “toughest few months of our lives.”

“We can’t lose sight of what’s going on in Israel, or what’s happening on college campuses, or even just what’s happening in the Jewish community,” Neuburger shared. “Laughter is how we deal with it. It’s deep in our blood.”

Channa Fischer is digital editor of The Jewish Link and is the resident 20-something in the office. She resides in Washington Heights.

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