May 17, 2024
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May 17, 2024
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The Chosen Comedy Festival: Choosing to Laugh

Two Jews walk into a bar … actually, 4,200 filled an amphitheater. On a beautiful Tuesday night in August thousands of people came together to celebrate life and laughter at The Chosen Comedy Festival. The star-studded event was the brainchild of Stand Up NY comedy club owner Dani Zoldan, conceived along with comedians Elon Gold and Modi Rosenfeld. Though it was definitely an homage to classic Catskills comedy, there was nothing stale about it. Billed as the first-ever festival of its kind, judging by the tremendous reception, it will most certainly not be the last.

As the exuberant crowd converged at Brooklyn’s Coney Island Amphitheater for the nearly sold-out event, held a few days after Tisha B’Av on a balmy summer evening by the beach, one could sense an extra-special feeling of gratitude to be able to gather—especially after two long years of various COVID limitations.

Musician and rapper Kosha Dillz kicked off the festivities with his emcee styling and his own interactive performance, getting the audience warmed up with chanting “Everything is Kosha!” Opening acts included Hasidic chart-topping singer Moshe Reuven, and the event featured the debut of Laivy Miller, progeny of singer Matisyahu. The excitement was palpable as Jewish rapper Nissim Black took the stage—followed shortly after by superstar Gad Elbaz in a surprise guest appearance.

As the official hosts for the comedy portion of the night, Modi and Elon ignited the crowd with their brilliant banter, leaving the audience rolling with laughter and ready for more to come.

Elon, on break from filming for his recurring role on “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” wowed the audience with his sharp observations and insanely spot-on impersonations, especially during an ode to comedic legends such as Jackie Mason and Rodney Dangerfield.

“Jewish comedians have been such a part of the culture, not only for Jews but for everybody,” Elon said. “We need this festival; we need to celebrate and do Jewish comedy like this, and it’s just the start. We’re going to do them all over the world from Miami to Tel Aviv and annually—so this is the inaugural one, like the first Woodstock.”

Though he left his beloved alter egos “Nir” and “Yoeli” at home, Modi’s wicked wit and talent were in full force. His Ashkenazi vs. Sephardi comparisons truly hit home as the mixed audience laughed at themselves and each other with love and unity.

Modi even imparted some words of Torah, sharing a Gemara in which he learned how anshei baduchei, people who make other people happy—aka comedians—will be involved in bringing Messiah. “Four thousand, two hundred forty people coming to The Chosen Comedy Festival is truly a sign that Moshiach is here!” he said enthusiastically.

Notable names included seasoned multi-hyphenate entertainer Jessica Kirson; the “Roastmaster General” and producer Jeff Ross; and young comedian Alex Edelman, who is currently performing in his hit one-man off-Broadway show “Just for Us” for a few remaining weeks.

Despite the packed amphitheater, the crowd clearly felt like one big mishpacha, as exhibited by an audience member who yelled out to ask if Alex had attended Camp Seneca Lake as a kid. (He did, in case you’re wondering, too…)

With a wide range of styles and Jewish affiliations represented that evening, the comic material covered everything from the religious to the risqué —and everything in between. From popular seasoned performers to newer up-and-coming talents, the diverse group proudly showcased their Israeli, Jewish and “Jew-ish” backgrounds.

Online celebrities and fan favorites like Leah Forster and Indian comedienne Zarna Garg represented and held their own amongst the other impressive comics in the lineup—veteran comic Dave Attell, Jared Fried, Gary Guz, T.J. Miller, Yohay Sponder, Ofer Shechter—and actor Eric Tabach, who brought his endearing Jewish stage mother along for the evening.

Throughout the night of absolute levity were a few especially soulful moments, such as when Gad joined Nissim on stage to perform their famous inspiring rendition of “Hashem Melech 2.0,” while audience
members across the amphitheater passionately belted out the lyrics along with them.

As ardent lovers of the arts, event organizers earmarked a portion of the proceeds to benefit the Ukrainian Emergency Performing Arts Fund. Complete with kosher food trucks and festival swag for sale, the “first annual” Chosen Comedy Festival was truly an experience to savor—with lots of memorable laughs to keep the joy going as we anxiously anticipate the next one.

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