Celebs Save Purim With Slapstick Spiel to Benefit Charity
Purim is the time when Jews like to party. But with more than 500,000 Americans dead from COVID-19, great economic loss, and social restrictions, it was clear the holiday would be different this year. But there was still a reason to smile, thanks to a group of Jewish celebrities who participated in a Purim Spiel to benefit the Met Council, which raises money for the hungry and poor in New York City, and was using funds raised from this event for COVID relief.
It was notable that the great comic Elon Gold participated, despite previously sitting shiva after losing his brother Ari — a noted LGBTQ icon — to leukemia at the age of 47. Gold played the narrator. He was hilarious, and also was the executive producer of the show.
Though he screamed a bit too much, Jeff Garlin of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “The Goldbergs” fame wore a Cubs jersey and made for a decent King Achashverosh. As Haman, Bob Saget, of “Full House” lore, came out swinging with a joke that was below the belt. Saget was grumpy, which worked for the role.
But comedian Howie Mandel showed his true talent, taking the role of Mordechai very seriously. Mandel’s best line was when he had to tell Queen Esther (Bari Weiss) to hide her Jewishness when she went to meet the king.
He also told her to keep her eyes peeled for antisemitism. Weiss, who writes about modern antisemitism, previously worked at The New York Times, and resigned from one of the most coveted jobs in all of journalism in part because staffers mocked and attacked her for being pro-Jewish and pro-Israel.
Though she was the only non-entertainer of the bunch, Weiss held her own, and it was enjoyable to watch her give and take with Mandel. Jeff Ross, a comedian and roastmaster extraordinaire, brought some great laughs to the cold table reading, as did comedy legend Judy Gold, who played Queen Vashti.
Comedian Russell Peters traversed in some dangerous waters, saying Jews are good in business, but not for business. Comedian Eli Leonard and social media stars Montana Tucker and Violet Benson also participated.
Robert Smigel was hilarious, as was comedienne and author of “Girl With No Job” Claudia Oshry, who proudly announced that she went to yeshiva. Susie Essman from “Curb Your Enthusiasm” came on at the end for a funny rant that was kosher (no cursing), and had perfect timing.
To watch the event, go to https://www.purimfunnystory.com/
The author is a writer and educator in New York.