Four veterans of the American comedy scene kick-off a five-city tour in Israel last Wednesday to benefit Crossroads, a Jerusalem-based center for at-risk Anglo teens.
The 2007 Crossroads Comedy Tour has already drawn capacity crowds in Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh and Ra'anana. The comics are scheduled to appear on Sunday in Tel Aviv, then wrap up the tour this coming Thursday in Hashmonaim.
The Tour's founder, Avi Liberman, again served as the opening act. An increasingly recognized comic amongst Israeli audiences, Avi had just returned from a tour in Afghanistan performing for the US and allied troops. He opened the show in Jerusalem by recalling some of the "hairier" experiences of his time in the Muslim country, but said one main benefit of having spent time in the line of fire is it makes Israel look among the safer places on earth.
Avi Liberman cracks Israelis up (Photo: Joe Hyams)
Liberman then introduced long-time comic Mark Schiff who has appeared alongside some of the legends of America's comedy scene and today regularly opens for Jerry Seinfeld. Schiff, who recently published a book chronicling his years on the comedy circuit called I Killed, is an observant Jew living in Los Angeles and clearly welcomed performing for Israeli audiences.
The shows gave him the chance to wear his yarmulke openly on stage while integrating material that would only succeed for an informed Jewish audience, including a hilarious description of how an ultra-Orthodox couple chooses what to wear before they go out for the evening.
Also joining the tour were comedy veterans Reggie McFadden and John Mulrooney, both appearing in Israel for the first time and both saying that they were very encouraged by the positive responses they have been receiving from Israeli audiences. McFadden, who as a tall African-American man stands out in any crowd around Israel, opened his act by saying he's had to tell several disappointed young Israelis that he was not in Israel playing for any of the local basketball teams.
Mulrooney, whose many comedy credits include appearances on The Tonight Show and hosting the hit show Comic Strip Live, reveled in interacting with his audiences, making those seated in the front rows healthy fodder for some good-intentioned ranking.
Describing himself as a "goyim kopf" Mulrooney enjoyed mixing his Irish brogue with some side-splitting attempts at Hebrew and Yiddish. Despite being described by Liberman as the two "religious gentiles" on the trip, both Mulrooney and McFadden clearly overcame any cultural boundaries and succeeded in displaying how humor really is a universal form of communication.
The Crossroads Comedy Tour, now it its third year, benefits the Crossroads Center located in downtown Jerusalem. The Center provides a wide network of educational, cultural, social and where relevant therapeutic services to hundreds of English speaking teens facing many different problems including substance abuse to criminal involvement.