A Jewish, Cancer-Surviving Comedian Is Up for an Adult-Themed Award
When Eitan Levine went to see the hit show Hamilton, he never imagined it could lead to possibly winning an award that would make him a bit of a black sheep in his community.
The 29-year-old comedian said he pitched the idea for an adult film parody of Hamilton as a joke. To his surprise, the film was made and he is heading to Las Vegas where he may end up holding the trophy for “Clever Title of The Year” at the 2019 Adult Video News Awards.
“It’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened to me” said Levine, who grew up in an Orthodox household in New Jersey.
The Manhattan resident said he is single and would like to meet a nice Jewish woman, but there are challenges.
“I always wonder what’s worse for dating,” he asked, “comedy or cancer?”
He is now cancer-free, but recalls how at the age of 10, he had to undergo six months of chemotherapy and had numerous surgeries on his left knee after having a tumor.
“I do have a vivid memory when I was in my bed and my parents were talking in the kitchen,” he said. “My mother said to my father, ‘If something happens, just know that you’re a great father.’ I remember crying. I remember saying I don’t want to die.”
Levine graduated from Yeshiva University with a degree in marketing and worked for Elite Daily, often writing about the Kardashians. He also made a dramatic change in his life and lost 130 pounds.
“I would just melt cheese on everything,” Levine said of his previously poor diet. “There are so many things you can melt cheese on before you hit 322 pounds.”
At a recent performance at Stand Up NY on the Upper West Side — and at a Shabbat dinner on the East Side — he got laughs with the same jokes.
“Ashkenazi food is so bland because the only spice we use is the tears of our ancestors,” he said to both cheers and some playful jeers. “I’m Ashkenazi Jewish. If I marry another Ashkenazi Jew, I have to get genetic testing. Because my ancestors liked the Torah, but loved their cousins.”
Levine, who grew up with grandparents who survived the Holocaust, said he jokes about cancer and the Holocaust in his act, in part because comedy is a way of fighting back and taking power over negative things. He added that even as a kid, he and his family would joke about his cancer, and that his grandparents made jokes about what they went through.
He explained his comedic philosophy: “You can say whatever you want, but it has to be funny and the audience has the right not to laugh.”
He’s done shows for Jewish organizations, and it has made him feel closer to his religion. Levine, who spent a year in Israel and won a Last Comic Standing competition there, said he plans on writing mainstream films. He added that he’s excited about his future, but feels bad for his mother.
“They say Jews don’t believe in hell,” he said. “But for a 29-year-old unmarried Jewish comic, ask my mom. She’s living it. She has been supportive of me in everything except [the adult movie award], and I understand why.”