May 19, 2024
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May 19, 2024
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Going Bananas for Comedy Night

Comedy comes in many different styles and forms, and everyone has their preference: some enjoy slapstick, others prefer satire, while others laugh at just about everything. I have been fortunate enough to attend a few comedy shows, and I always enjoy the wit and humor of the talented performers.

When COVID-19 struck in 2020, I was the student body president at Yeshiva University. All official YU undergraduate in-person events had been pretty much canceled and there weren’t any large gatherings for months. But, all of that changed during Chanukah 2020 when my good friend and classmate, SJ Tannenbaum, and I worked together to coordinate a hybrid in-person and virtual comedy night. SJ, who happens to be a comedian himself, performed alongside famous Jewish comedians Eli Lebowicz, who won YU’s Last Comic Standing in 2009, and Mark Normand, who has appeared on Conan and Jimmy Fallon’s shows.

Due to the COVID restrictions regarding the number of people allowed in a single indoor space, we were only able to accommodate 50 students seated in three separate rooms. Each comedian performed in one room for about 30 minutes and then rotated to a different room. One room had a camera hanging from the ceiling which broadcast the event live over Zoom.

SJ’s jokes were largely focused on the experiences of young Modern Orthodox Jews at YU, while Eli’s banter included witty Jewish jokes and COVID-related jokes. Eli also had some hilarious bits on different weird customs we adopt as religious Jews. Mark, who I found to be the funniest of the three, had a professional style with well-crafted jokes that had a good punchline twist. The event received a lot of positive feedback and made everyone’s Chanukah a little brighter despite the challenges of the year. (To watch the entire event, search YU Chanukah Comedy Night 12/14 on YouTube.)

In contrast, one of the most famous comedians I’ve had the pleasure of seeing is Brian Regan. My friend David is a huge fan of Brian Regan, so when we learned that he was starting a new tour across the country in November and that his first show would be at the Wellmont Theater in Montclair, New Jersey, we were ecstatic and quickly purchased tickets for ourselves and our wives. Brian has been performing stand-up comedy since the 1980s and is now one of the most popular comedians in America, with three Netflix specials under his belt. His style involves observational sarcastic humor, in which he exaggerates everyday situations and brings them to absurd levels through the use of facial expressions and body language. The show was hilarious, and I was in tears of laughter for much of it. David, being a big Regan fan, added commentary and insights that enhanced our enjoyment of the show.

Another comedy event that my wife Ahuva and I recently had the opportunity to attend was at the Bananas Comedy Club at the Renaissance Meadowlands Hotel. Each week, the club features different celebrity comedians who have often appeared on popular TV shows. The night is divided into three acts: an opener, a featured performer and a headliner. We are big fans of the Netflix series “Cobra Kai,” and when we saw that Bret Ernst, who plays Daniel Larusso’s cousin Louie on the show, would be the headliner for the Saturday night show a few weeks ago, we bought tickets for ourselves and four friends.

Upon arriving at the hotel, we followed the signs to the Bananas Comedy Club and were directed to a counter where we scanned our tickets. A hostess then escorted us to our table and we were each given a business card from Larusso Auto (the company featured in “Cobra Kai”) and a profile of Bret as a comedian. Printed on the other side of the card was the “Cobra Kai” snake logo. The room was small, with about 20 tables and about 100 people in the audience. Waiters and waitresses served drinks, including Shirley Temples for my wife and me.

Once the show began, the lights dimmed and a spotlight shone on the center stage. The show was great, with each act getting funnier and funnier. The humor was geared toward an adult audience, and each comedian shared jokes or stories based on their stage of life. The opening comedian focused on the challenges involved when planning a wedding, the featured comedian shared comical stories about raising children, and Brettrelated stories and jokes about the struggles of dating and his recent relationship breakup.

After the show, we were excited to see that Bret had stuck around in the lobby to talk to guests and take photos. When it was our turn to meet him, I thanked him for the performance and asked if he preferred working with Ralph Macchio (who plays Daniel) or Billy Zabka (who plays Johnny Lawrence). He told me that he was closer to Ralph because they had hung out more and gone on more trips together.

Attending these shows has helped me understand better what I now believe comedy means to many comedians. I believe that for them, by bringing people together to laugh at the annoying or difficult parts of life, comedy is a way to remember to stay positive. At the end of his show, Ernst made a comment alluding to his turning his pain into something funny that we could all laugh at. Sometimes it’s important in arduous situations not to be overly negative, but instead to focus on the positive and make the most of the situation. Many comedians are excellent storytellers and actors who know how to turn their life experiences into humorous bits.

Tomorrow evening, Motzei Shabbat, the Sisterhood and Men’s Club of Congregation Beth Aaron in Teaneck are presenting a comedy night with Eli Lebowicz at 8 p.m. I have never seen Eli live in person, but I enjoyed his routine at the YU Chanukah hybrid event in 2020, and I follow him on social media. His tweets are often featured in newspapers and are full of comedic gold. I highly recommend getting tickets to this show—it’s only $36 per person, including dinner. My wife and I have already bought tickets, so be sure to say “hi” if you see us there! Beth Aaron is located at 950 Queen Anne Road.

Bananas Comedy Club: Saturday nights at 7:30 or 10 p.m. Admission: $13-$50, depending on the comedian. Renaissance Hotel, 801 Rutherford Ave., New Jersey 07070


Zachary Greenberg is the TABC track coach. In 2018, Zachary participated in the YU Great Debate between the YU Democrat and Republican Clubs. Additionally, he recently watched the new Disney film Enchanted (2007) on Disney+. If you have any recommendations of fun places for Zachary to cover, email him at [email protected].

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