Get to know Elon Gold. You’ll be glad you did.

July 14, 2017

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Laughter on the Lawn:
Thursday, August 3, Simon Family JCC

Speaking with Elon Gold is like talking to a funny friend. Only he’s funnier. Jewish News recently caught up with him via telephone as he’s gearing up for his 11th year at the Montreal Just for Laughs Festival. He spoke about how he got into comedy, being an observant Jew, and his upcoming performance at the Simon Family JCC.

Jewish News: How did you first get into comedy?
Elon Gold: I was 13 and I started doing impressions of teachers and my rabbi; it was fun and rewarding and satisfying to hear the laughs. It got to the point where my teachers were calling me up to the front of the class to perform these impressions.

I love the process of writing and then performing. When I was a junior at Yeshiva University, I went to the Comic Strip in NYC and did my first stand-up set, where I followed a then unknown Adam Sandler. I remember saying to myself, “if this doesn’t go well, I’ll never do it again” and I ended up having a great first set. It was just one of those lucky first sets. So through college at BU (Boston University), I kept performing. I would go up and down the coast performing, including gigs at colleges. Even though I was an economics major, partly for my parents and partly because I was interested in economics, I thought, I’m sticking with this. Once you get the comedy bug, that’s it. And my parents noticed I was doing well and were very encouraging. I was doing comedy, I got married very young, at 23. Still married, four kids. We just celebrated our 23rd anniversary.

JN: Were did you meet your wife?
EG:
We met at the sweet 16 party of a mutual friend. I went to Westchester Day School and she went to another school in Westchester. When we met, I was head over heels and that night, I said, “I’m going to marry that girl.” I was actually turning 16 the next day. I told her and she was like, whatever. We were best friends for about six months and she woke up one day and was like, oh, you’re kind of cute.

JN: You’ve been in a variety of roles within the entertainment industry. Is stand-up the most rewarding?
EG:
I’ve done TV shows, screen-tested for SNL, been featured at Just for Laughs 11 times and on the Tonight Show 10 times. Acting is easier, but there’s nothing more fulfilling than stand-up. But acting is just so fun. Once you’ve memorized your lines, which is the hard part, the actual “work” is fun. I was in Israel for three weeks recently playing a gay father on the web series, Bar Mitzvah. It was so fun completely losing myself in this role and being that character and that person. I kind of played it as a gay Woody Allen. Like I said, the acting is the fun part.

JN: Did your comedy start with a Judaic focus?
EG: Not at all. My whole first act was doing impressions of comedians with material I would write for them in their voice. I was even billed as “the comic who does the comics.” I would do impressions of my favorite comedians like Howie Mendel, Dice, Gilbert Gottfried, and Steven Wright. And then I started finding my own voice.

It wasn’t until 10 years in or so that I started focusing in on the Jewish stuff. And then I really started paying attention. I live a very Jewish life; I observe Shabbos, my kids are in day school, I do all the holidays and as a comedian, the observational eye is always aware. So when you’re sitting at a Seder and notice that you can throw up on a Seder plate and no one would notice, you now have that joke you were able to find because you’re living a very Jewish life. I was making these observations, but then I had nowhere to share it. I thought, if I share this on a Netflix special, a lot of people won’t get it so I developed this other act for my people. For a decade I had been building this traditional act, and now I think my Jewish act is even funnier than my non-Jewish act. When you go really deep and connect with people, it’s fun for everyone because the whole point of stand-up is to connect and relate to an audience. I can do that with all audiences, but with Jewish audiences, it’s on a much deeper level. I’m able to mock, in a fun way, this life I love so much. I’m always surprised at the reaction of non-Jews to my Jewish act. When I read that non-Jews like it or they share my Christmas tree bit millions of times across the world, I’m excited it can reach them, too.

JN: You’ve performed at AIPAC and Stand With Us. Is the message to support Israel important to you?
EG:
I love performing for my people and for great causes and what’s a better cause than Israel? There are so many great organizations like AIPAC, Stand With Us, and Birthright, that I love to support however I can. I do all of the Stand with Us events. This will be the 11th year that I’m emceeing their annual gala in December. With AIPAC, I performed for 15,000 people at the Verizon Center. It was the most people I’ve performed for and it was amazing.

JN: How does being an observant Jew factor into your life in the entertainment industry?
EG:
I’ve carved this niche of being the go-to Jew at Jewish events, so those are never on Shabbat. As far as my acting, it can be tough. When I was working on Bones, where I was in a recurring role, they asked me to continue on for another episode, but it was filming on Friday night. I wasn’t able to work, so I was written out. It was very upsetting. There have been times when I’m the producer or star of a project and I’m able to control when we film. And even when I’m not producing, there are moments when it’s not an obstacle. When I was a co-star on Stacked, created by Steve Levitan of Modern Family, I told him I couldn’t film on Friday nights and he said I had to explain to my co-star, Pam Anderson, why we couldn’t film on Friday. When I met with her, she said, “Of course! I love Shabbat. I had Shabbat dinner with my friend last week. Let’s do Thursdays.”

JN: What has been your most proud moment in your career?
EG: My Netflix special, Chosen and Taken, and I love it, but that’s not my Jewish act. I’m hopeful my current tour, Elon Gold: Pro-Semite, which is a really Jewish themed act is also able to be featured on a platform like Netflix. You know, it’s challenging to constantly feed two acts. It’s like, having to feed one child is hard enough, let alone two. And then I have four actual kids. So I have four actual kids and two comedy kids to feed and that can be hard, but it’s still rewarding.

JN: What are most excited about with your stop in Tidewater?
EG:
I’m very good friends with David Tessler and he has said great things about the Tidewater Jewish community. I go where they want me and when you hear it’s a nice Jewish community, I want to be a part of that.

Catch Elon Gold: Pro-Semite at Laughter on the Lawn at the Simon Family JCC. To RSVP or donate to this community-funded event, visit www.laughteronthelawn.gr8.com.

- Erin Dougherty

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