(New York Jewish Week) – Over the years, there’s been no shortage of funny Jews who’ve performed at the Comedy Cellar, New York’s premier comedy club: Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman, Marc Maron and Jerry Seinfeld, to name a few.
Now there’s a new Jewish comedian performing at the subterranean club in Greenwich Village: Israeli celebrity chef Einat Admony.
Grub Street reported last week that Admony, the owner and founder of Balaboosta restaurant and the falafel mini-chain Taim, has been tapped to revamp the Olive Tree Café, the vaguely Middle Eastern restaurant that’s attached to the Comedy Cellar and a place where comedians often gather.
In addition to sprucing up the menu — adding her signature crispy cauliflower with raisins and pine nuts, as well as the falafel that made Taim famous — Admony is going one step further: She’s occasionally performing on the Comedy Cellar’s legendary stage. Just last week, she did a last-minute set opening for fellow Jewish funny woman Amy Schumer.
Admony, 50, who has been credited with popularizing Israeli cuisine in the U.S., is known for her sense of humor: As a guest on “Call Your Mother,” the podcast from our partner site, Kveller, Admony joked that she made her daughter, then 9, sign a contract promising she wouldn’t turn into a monster teenager. “I’ve had a lot of [business] partnerships in my life, I know what a breach of contract is,” she told hosts Shannon Sarna and Jordana Horn.
Of course, being funny is one thing; doing standup is another. But it turns out that Admony had already taken some classes at Comedy Cellar. “It was 2018, and I wanted to take some kind of class that had nothing to do with cooking, restaurants, my kids, my husband, or anything familiar,” Admony told Grub Street, saying she was torn between pottery or comedy — but the latter won out. “It was something I realized I wanted to try.”
Admony added that she’s found an unexpected sense of freedom while performing. “Being an Israeli, I get a lot of hate comments on social media,” she said. “Being onstage gives me a little bit more opportunity to speak my mind.”
Noam Dworman, the owner of the Comedy Cellar and the cafe, is also Israeli; he took over from his late father, Menachem (Manny), in the early 2000s. When Dworman learned that Admony had an interest in standup, he thought she’d be the perfect person to revamp the menu, which itself had become the butt of jokes.
“Even if the space is famous, the food at Olive Tree Cafe is less so — Jerry Seinfeld once joked that watching a dying friend cough up ‘a horrible thing’ put him in the mood for the restaurant’s hummus,” Grub Street wrote. The new menu made its debut last week.
Admony told Grub Street she plans to honor the history of the cafe, both its Middle Eastern roots and its dedication to its comedians. “I tried to take some things off the menu, and they would tell me, ‘No, this has been on the menu for years!’ or ‘No, this comedian likes this dish!’ I’d say ‘Who cares?’” she told Grub Street. “We laugh about it, but I think it’s important that they put the comedians first. I understand that.”
Although Admony “will always be a chef first,” as she told Time Out New York, she sees her passions as two sides of the same coin. “I do see a connection between comedy and cooking,” she said. “We’re individuals and laugh about different things and we enjoy different foods so, in both fields, you have to figure out how to satisfy multiple people.”