Jokes about JDate, Hebrew school, tefillin and “making aliyah to Florida” abounded at the 11th Annual Funniest Jewish Comedian Contest Monday night.
More than 100 people packed the basement of the Broadway Comedy Club on the West Side for The Jewish Week-sponsored event, produced by actor and comedian Geoff Kole.
This year’s winner was Eric Fier, 42, a father of four and a psychiatrist from Atlanta. Fier’s set included his dismay at finding out that his oldest born son’s name, Yoni — short for Yonatan, which means gift from God — means “vagina in Sanskrit.”
Fier’s routine included some racially charged and crass humor, which prompted emcee Michael Salloway — a previous winner of the event — to ask, “Can you talk like that with a yarmulke on?”
Fier, who identifies as Orthodox, ventured into amateur comedy seven years ago, but took a break when his youngest child, Rachaeli, was diagnosed with Tay-Sachs, a predominantly Jewish genetic disease. But a year and a half ago he decided to “stop grieving her eventual death” and return to comedy: “a wonderful outlet.” Today Rachaeli is 7 and still fighting the disease that is generally fatal by age 4.
Second place in the competition went to Victor Wishna, 35, who started the show with a disclaimer about his amateur status. “I have in fact, previously accepted money for being Jewish,” he said. “My bar mitzvah was a prime example.”
Mike Jacobs, 59, took third-place honors, with a routine about “Jews being screwed out of sexy names” like Antonio and Roberto and being stuck instead with Herman, Shlomo and Irwin.
The other 11 finalists were a diverse group, from 18-year-old Steven A. Sorch to 66-year-old Terri Glatzer — all of whom had passed one of the three preliminary rounds of competition. The audience was mostly teenagers and Jewish grandparents, one of whom received a ribbing from contestant Derek Lamer for falling asleep during the show.
Judges of the contest were Rabbi Jason Herman, of the West Side Jewish Center; Gloria Nadel, public television host; and David Goldman, a television producer.
Headliners included Freddie Roman, legendary — “which means you’ve outlived all your fans” — for his show “Catskills on Broadway” in the early ‘90s.
But Yisrael Campbell of “Circumcise Me” fame stole the show, when he appeared in his beard, peyos and with a plastic shopping bag — “the haredi briefcase,” he said.
Campbell, whose hit show discusses his three conversions to Judaism — Reform, Conservative then Orthodox — said his father accused him of “only converting to get work in the entertainment industry.”
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