Jewish comedian embraces American, Israeli cultural gimmicks

posted in: 2016-2017, Opinion | 0
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Alyson Kay
Staff writer
@alysonlyn

Photo from Wikimedia Commons through Benji Lovitt
Photo courtesy of Benji Lovitt from Wikimedia Commons

 

On Friday night, comedian Benji Lovitt performed in front of a packed room at Hillel during Israel week. The audience laughed at Lovitt’s humorous descriptions of college and Israel, as he mentioned myths about Israel and the people who live there along the way.

Lovitt started by encouraging people to come to the front of the empty first row, on the promise that he would not make fun of anyone during the show. He claimed that doing so wouldn’t be a good idea for a single Jewish man.

“You’re probably going to show up on my JSwipe next week,” Lovitt said, referring to the popular Jewish dating app.

Lovitt then began talking about this university and the many superstitions about campus, including the Testudo statue and the point of failure. Lovitt joked if you rubbed Testudo’s nose, you don’t have to go to shul.

“You’ll save a lot of time, but you’ll be a bad Jew,” Lovitt said.

He quipped that he can never be sure his UMD jokes are funny, since he can only do them here.

He also made fun of The Diamondback’s diversion section, unfavorably comparing the sudoku puzzle to the internet.

“Sudoku can last, what, 10 minutes? YouTube can last forever,” Lovitt said.

Many times during the night, he called on audience members to share their experiences. In his first bit about Israel, he asked the audience what their names were, and how Israelis had incorrectly pronounced them. An audience member named Becky had been called “Betty” and Cassidy became “Caseedee.”

Lovitt talked about the humorous names that he’d been called, including “Bungee” and “Bengay.”

He mentioned how social interactions with Israeli people changed after he’d moved to Israel – saying before he moved, they would ask whether he would move to Israel, and after he moved, they’d asked him why he didn’t stay in America.

Lovitt also quipped on the tendency of his generation in Israel to complain about the country if anything went wrong. He compared his generation to the previous, which settled and built the nation.

Although Lovitt’s show contained a lot of phrases and sentences in Hebrew, they were still easy for non Hebrew speakers to understand. He didn’t just translate the Hebrew into English. During a joke about flying to and from Israel, using El Al airline, and getting questioned by security staff, he asked questions in Hebrew, but answered them in English. This unorthodox approach made it easy to guess what the security staff was saying.

Lovitt talked briefly about Jewish summer camp, saying the one thing that people never learn there is Hebrew, because they only teach nouns.

He also talked about the stereotypes of Israeli culture, comparing the “rude” Israelis with the “fake” Americans.

“Americans are polite but not nice, and Israelis are nice but not polite,” Lovitt said.

He explained how Americans who go to Israel want to emulate Israel as much as possible, which doesn’t happen to Israelis visiting America. If anything, Israelis who visit America become more Israeli.

Lovitt also discussed how people can be anything in the Israeli army. He even joked about dating a girl who was a dancer in the army, talking about what it would be like for the army to go on missions with a dancer.

For his last segment Lovitt tackled the difficulties of learning Hebrew. These ranged from difficulties pronouncing words, to embarrassing and often inappropriate wrong translations.

In the end, Lovitt’s performance wasn’t just comedy. It helped us all to see Israel and ourselves in a new light.

Alyson is a senior journalism major. She can be reached at kayalyson73@gmail.com.

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