Why This Comedian Calls Himself the Israeli John Belushi
by Alan Zeitlin
Raanan Hershberg said that when he’s on the comedy stage, he will offend both political parties, and be very good at it.
On “The Tonight Show” starring Jimmy Fallon, the Jewish comedian, and Queens, New York resident, noted some facts of life.
“Once you turn 75 in America, you do not have a lot of options,” he said on the show. “You really don’t. You can either be put into a nursing home, or run every aspect of government.”
In his YouTube special, “Jokes From The Underground,” filmed at The Comedy Cellar, he said that Fox News Channel playing suspenseful music while talking about rising Covid numbers was insensitive. He also said a Fox News report claimed that the new vaccines could turn someone Jewish.
With clever wordplay and a George Costanza-like cadence at times, Hershberg will have you laughing.
He hails from Louisville, Kentucky, and is a fan of the University of Louisville’s basketball team, the Cardinals. He performs at clubs all across the country, and said at one show, someone yelled “Heil Hitler.”
How did he get into standup comedy?
“I was writing screenplays and I wasn’t having success,” he said in an interview. “I had some problems with drugs and alcohol, and I kind of fell into [comedy]. I think a lot of people who hit rock bottom go into comedy. But I realized I can do a much better show when I’m sober, so I worked hard and steadily improved.”
He often jokes about his overprotective mother.
“My mom is such a Jewish stereotype that if she was in a movie just being herself, people in the audience would get offended,” he said in the special, adding that they would think it’s an antisemitic portrayal.
He said she hinted that he gained weight during the pandemic by saying: “So I see you’ve gained weight during the pandemic.”
He said he realizes his mom could pass away soon, but that doesn’t stop him from trying to get off the phone with her as soon as possible because she nags him.
Talking about current events, he said, “Rudolph Giulian got brought down by Borat, a fictional character … that’s like if Austin Powers arrested Mike Pence,” he said in the special. “There was a coup on the capital that looked like if the French revolution was re-enacted by Carnal Cruise passengers.”
He also said Ukrainians are so tough, “even their Jewish comedians will fight to the death.”
He said that in the South, people call him Ron, because they can’t pronounce his first name. He also said that having a career in comedy is tough, because the goalposts are always moved.
“It’s really hard to be okay with where you’re at,” he said. “You always want more and more, and want to get a bigger crowd and a better special.”
In his special, he said that people know he is Jewish and always ask him his political opinion about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He said his peace plan would be one word: shorts.
He said he would tell the extreme factions on both sides what they both have in common.
“You both are very overdressed for the dessert,” he quipped.
He said that people complain, sometimes correctly, about cancel culture in America, but noted that “in other countries, you can get arrested or worse.” He said he has overcome nerves and anxiety and is confident in his performance ability.
His self-deprecating humor is highly impressive, and he gets better as his sets go on.
As for his future, he said he is working on his next hour of material.
“I’m not dying to act in films,” he said. “If it happens, it happens, but I am focusing on my bits.”
The author is a writer based in New York.