Photo caption: Elayne Boosler headlines the 24th Annual Kung Pao Kosher Comedy show, at New Asia Restaurant from Dec. 23-25.
Photo credit: Courtesy, Elayne Boosler
If you’re hungry for community this coming Christmas weekend, then Lisa Geduldig‘s Kung Pao Kosher Comedy is like Wonton Soup for your soul. After 24 years, the popular Jewish-comedy-on-
Christmas-in-a-Chinese- restaurant event promises to satiate with six performances from Elayne Boosler (Tonight Show; Politically Incorrect; five Showtime specials), Eddie Sarfaty (Comedy Central; Montreal’s Just for Laughs Festival: Funny Gay Males), Alex Edelman (Best Newcomer, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and writer on CBS’ The Great Indoors) and Geduldig, herself.
SF Weekly spoke to headliner Boosler about her favorite holiday traditions, how Jews can feel enfranchised over Christmas, her longtime support for Hillary Clinton, and how she’s handling the Trumpocalypse.
Why are you excited to return to Kung Pao Kosher Comedy, this year?
I’m always excited to be part of Kung Pao Kosher Comedy, as I think everyone should be able to enjoy the holiday in his/her own way — and not just be a bystander. This show allows that.
Coming straight from the Middle East this time, everything has so much more meaning for me, and I have so much more understanding about things. And especially since this election, we need to reaffirm laughter, joy, and goodness, and San Fransisco has been a beacon for goodness in this terrible time.
As a Jewish woman, do you or did you ever feel left out on Christmas?
My family was not religious in any way, except that I knew we were Jewish. But we did not celebrate, nor go to synagogue, so I did not feel separate from, or part of, much of anything. So now that I am an adult, I feel free to embrace all the spectacle and joy of every holiday, without any of the religious separations.
Do you have any Christmas or Hanukkah traditions that you can share with us?
My husband is gentile. The first gift he ever bought me was a gorgeous menorah. So, we have a huge Christmas tree with our dog as an angel on top, decorated with mermaids and dogs, next to a gingerbread house with dreidels on it and a gorgeous menorah. We open eight [Hanukkah] gifts and tons of Christmas gifts. Anyone who comes to our house feels welcome and served. As far as church and synagogue, we believe in the religion of kindness, and we try to do good works all year. If everyone just actually believed that much, instead of fighting over religion, things would be a lot better.
Apart from comedy, the other ingredient in Kung Pao Kosher Comedy is, of course, the Chinese food. People who attend the early shows will be treated to a seven-course Chinese banquet and the later shows, a non-alcoholic drink and vegetarian dim sum pairing. What are your favorite Chinese dishes?
I’ve been a vegetarian for 20 years. I do eat fish, though I’m trying to become vegan. So I love all the Chinese food that doesn’t have meat in it. I have been dreaming about the Chinese food that comes with this gig, so I can’t wait. It’s the perfect Chinese food — the same as when I was growing up in Brooklyn.
I know you’ve been a major Hillary Clinton supporter for far longer than 20 years. How did you end up appearing at the White House for the first time, in the early ’90s?
I had worked hard on Bill Clinton’s campaign for president, so I guess when it was time to consider the comedian for Clinton’s first White House Press Correspondent’s Dinner, they thought of me.
As a woman who broke into male-dominated comedy in the early ’70s, could you relate to the attacks that were leveled against Clinton during the election?
When I started out in 1973, I was subjected to every sexist piece of garbage I saw them throw at Hillary throughout this election, and I was nauseated. I thought we had made strides, but it was exactly the same ignorant, punishing B.S. from over 40 years ago. What can I say? America would rather go to war than vote for a woman.
How are you handling the Trumpocalypse?
When I finish the projectile vomiting, which may be never, I will fight to the end to thwart everything this unfit criminal attempts. I have already lost and/or blocked hundreds of idiots from my Facebook fan page. My manager is beside himself. I don’t care. My comedy has always been totally honest.
And while I still understand my job is to be funny, and not preachy or divisive, at this point in time, there is real danger — not just for America but for the world. So while my show will be funny and entertaining, I feel on social media, I can’t just go along to get along, and I am signing, forwarding, demanding, asking, reposting, attacking, calling, writing, doing anything and everything, along with millions of others, to keep the lights on these cockroaches.
You’re well known as an animal rights activist. You even founded your own organization, Tails of Joy. Why is animal activism so important?
A society can be judged by how it treats its weakest members, and for us those are animals. Animals make us more human, soften our hearts, teach us to reach out and care for something beyond ourselves. They provide company, health benefits, joy, community, so much. I founded Tails of Joy 20 years ago to help the smallest, neediest rescue groups all across the country. We’re small but mighty, and if you go to tailsofjoy.net/littleguygrants
, you can see the hundreds of groups we have helped so far. It gives life meaning and makes me want to get up and go to work every night.
What can Jews do to feel more enfranchised during the holiday season, other than Kung Pao Kosher Comedy?
During the holiday season, to feel more a part of things, Jews can do “tikkun” or good works. Volunteer at children’s hospitals, read [the kids] stories, bring a therapy dog with you, bring little gifts, just visit and talk with them, and wear your Jewish star, so when they ask what that is, you can tell them about that, too. Visit retirement homes, visit your neighbors who may be infirm and can’t get out much. Visit and volunteer for people who are even less enfranchised than you. It’s like animal rescue; the more you give to others, the richer and happier you become. Whenever a friend starts whining, I always tell him/her to go volunteer somewhere for the afternoon. That’ll wake you up.
It just so happens that Hanukkah and Christmas cross over this year. Does this feel meaningful to you in some way?
Finally! For once Jews will know when Hanukkah is. By the way, I think we are up to 11 spellings for Hanukkah now, and counting.
Any final words?
Happy Holidays to everyone (and fuck Trump and his Merry Christmas).
Kung Pao Kosher Comedy, Friday-Sunday, Dec. 23-25, 5 and 8:30pm,$49-$69, at New Asia Restaurant, 772 Pacific Ave, 925-743-1282 or koshercomedy.com.