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April 10, 2019 9:35 am

Comedian Will Head to Israel Armed With Passover Punch-Lines

avatar by Alan Zeitlin

Eli Lebowicz. Photo: provided.

Is it permissible to make jokes during the Passover seder?

“Of course,” says comedian Eli Lebowicz. “It’s the only way to get people to stay awake.”

The 30-year-old, who lives in Riverdale, New York, will be performing in Jerusalem, Efrat, and Beit Shemesh from April 22-24, which fall during Passover. He said he is excited to have a fan base in Israel. He’s done 75 shows in the past year across America and Canada, but this is his first Israel tour. His in-laws live in the Holy Land, and he will not make jokes about them. But the upcoming holiday is ripe with moments of hilarity.

“The Haggadah has four sons, but there’s really a fifth son,” he said. “That’s the kid who’s back from yeshiva in Israel, who is shushing everyone for talking while he shoves three pieces of matzah down his throat in four minutes.”

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Lebowicz said a key ingredient to his success has been his hustle, which he developed when he was a vendor at Wrigley Field. The Chicago native does not have an agent, and goes after gigs with gusto. He said another key to getting better is repetition.

“It might look easy, but it’s not,” he said of doing stand-up comedy. “It takes a lot of practice, and trial and error. You have to have the discipline to get on stage again and again, and you see the improvement.”

He said he was also inspired by veteran performers like Modi (Rosenfeld) and Elon Gold, whom he opened for and performed on bills with.

“They have such great energy and command of the crowd that comes with their experience,” he said.

The comedian was upset to find that original jokes he posted online were stolen and re-posted without giving him credit. He said it’s a sign that he’s doing something right.

As for his routine, he keeps his comedy clean and doesn’t curse. He can tweak it depending on whether he is performing at a synagogue or a club. He said much of his material is about holidays and Shabbat. He has several jokes about Israel. One stemmed from the fact that he is annoyed about unfair criticism of Israel at the United Nations and college campuses. He thinks it’s fine to criticize the country for what it does wrong instead of making up fake claims.

“Don’t criticize Israel for ethnic cleansing, cause it doesn’t do that,” Lebowicz remarked at a recent gig. “Criticize Israel for being [the] Start-up Nation, and [yet] it still sells chocolate milk in a bag.”

He also has a joke about how family members will ask for a certain favor.

“I can’t wait for the first Israeli astronauts to go to the moon, and their relatives are gonna ask if they can bring a few things to the moon for them.”

Asked about his favorite plague, he said it was Arov, but was confused at how it is often translated as wild beasts, but the Maxwell House Haggadah refers to it as flies, which is a bit lame.

He said Jews are tough critics, and he is not sure if Israelis will be tougher or easier to impress than American audiences.

“I’ll hope they’ve all had four cups of wine,” he said.

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