At the Jewish Week’s 17th annual “Funniest Jewish Comic” contest on Sunday night, one competitor gave the audience a scare right at the start with a hackneyed set up as old as Moses.
“Knock knock,” he said, pretending to be his parents in a hoarse, crackling voice.
The crowd cringed.
Tentatively they played along, “Who’s there?”
“Not our son because he never visits us.”
The audience roared.
After three preliminary rounds spread out over several weeks, the seven finalists reconvened in the main room of Broadway Comedy Club on West 53rd Street to perform their best five minutes to a packed house for paid spots and assorted prizes.
Roy Schaeffer, 55, an insurance man from Rye Brook, took first place.
Schaeffer talked about his struggle with losing weight, saying that exercise is exhausting and “cuts into his eating time.” When he asked his wife to diet with him she was offended, reminding him that they’ve been married for 25 years and that she can still fit into her wedding dress. “She forgets she was eight and a half months pregnant at the time,” said Schaeffer.
Coming in second place, Belinda Boxer, a 23-year-old Manhattan native, won the judges over with her unapologetic candor and laidback likability.
She focused on the idiosyncrasies of living in New York City and why everything is her parents’ fault. “Whenever anyone asks where I live, I say Brooklyn … Heights. So they know I’m not poor,” she said.
Recognizing that it’s become the status quo to have a therapist in New York, Boxer said that she loves her therapist, but now has a problem: “We would briefly talk about my issues and then play cards for an hour. So now I blame my parents’ divorce for my gambling problem.”
The third runner-up, Rena Blech, was also this year’s first-ever “popular comic,” taking home an extra dose of confidence along with her cash prize. “Not everyone agrees with the judges. So here was a chance for the audience to contribute to the process,” said Geoff Kole, producer of the contest for the past 12 years.
The 35-year-old, in a long skirt and headscarf, wades in the pool of risqué without ever leaving the shallow end. “I met a guy on frumster who asked if I was shomer negiya,” she said, referring to the practice of not touching a member of the opposite sex until marriage. “I took one look at him and said, ‘I just started.’”
This year’s judges were David Goldman, founder of the David Goldman Agency; Gloria Nadel-Davidson, author and actress who produced her own cable show, “In The Spotlight”; and Kole, creator and star of “Geoff Kole Presents” on MNN Network and a regular at Broadway Comedy Club.
In addition to the contestants, the lineup included a handful of professional comics. Freddie Roman, creator, producer and star of “Catskills on Broadway” opened and a number of the club’s regulars, including Davin Rosenblatt, delivered polished sets.
Elon Altman, a New York-based comedian, who is in the final four of Cozi Cheesy Comedy Search, hosted the event. Even NY Blueprint’s resident editor and stand up comic by night, Maya Hackity-Hack Klausner, took the stage for a quick set.
Last year’s winner, “High-Powered Howard” Newman, closed the show.