Festivals

Published on July 6th, 2010 | by Sharilyn Johnson

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JFL Toronto: Elon Gold’s Half Jewish, Half Very Jewish

I’ll admit off the top that my expectations for Elon Gold’s show were low. Perhaps unfairly. My one and only experience seeing him live was on a steamy Tuesday night in July of 2006, at the Comedy Cellar in NYC. After that show, I blogged privately that “he got mad at the audience, didn’t want to do his material… I felt like he was wasting our time and we were wasting his.”

Ok, so everyone has a bad set. I’m happy to report my second impression of Gold is much more pleasing.

To categorize the show’s style in simple terms, I’d call it “multimedia standup”. Gold walks the stage with a hand-held mic, pure standup most of the time. There is some light utilization of slide-shows, mainly to assist with “closed captioned for the Hebrew impaired” — which genuinely assist those of us who need it, and contain bonus jokes for the chosen. (And then the video… oh G-d, that video.)

Half Jewish, Half Very Jewish is one of those shows where you know what you’re getting from the title. Indeed, the opening night crowd was of the “very Jewish” variety, no doubt due to this performance functioning as a fundraiser for the Koffler Centre of the Arts.

My own generic white Christian background includes a two-year stint working for a Jewish Community Centre, so I know my mezuzahs from my menorahs on a basic level. But at the core of it, would bacon-munchers like myself get it all? Should a gentile allow themselves to be coerced into giving this show a shot?

If all you know about Judaism is the existence of Hanukkah, you’ll be lost. You can play catch-up by mentally filling in the blanks for most bits, but to really enjoy it you need to go in there with some education. There are individual jokes that rely solely on the knowledge of kosher laws, what the main tradition of Sukkot is (my personal favourite joke), and what a Seder is. No way around it: if you don’t have that info, jokes will be flying over your head at a pretty good clip.

I only truly felt left behind when his impression of his cantor completely destroyed the room. I’ve never stepped foot in a synagogue in my life, and clearly I’m missing out on some quality entertainment.

Gold dips into generic material – on squirrels, texting, British accents – but just to let everyone take a quick breather. He doesn’t linger in it. He knew what people came to hear.

For something billed as a “one-man show”, I would like to see a tighter ending. With many warnings that he was wrapping it up, and doing so with multiple strong bits that all could have been mistaken for a closer, I felt like we lacked a true fade-to-black conclusion.

Based on my own level of enjoyment, and the crowd response, I can confirm the obvious: the more Jewish you are, the more you’ll dig Half Jewish.

The show runs at the Berkley Street Theatre through Sunday — taking Friday night off, of course.

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About the Author

is the author of the book Bears & Balls: The Colbert Report A-Z. Called "one of the city’s most discriminating comedy critics” by NOW Magazine, Sharilyn has been covering comedy for longer than she cares to admit. She served as the comedy reporter for Winnipeg's Uptown Magazine for five years, and was the host of the radio show Laugh Tracks for three seasons. Her work has also appeared in the Toronto Star, the Winnipeg Free Press, The Apiary, and on CBC Radio's national comedy programs LOL and Definitely Not the Opera.



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