Comedy for a very
by David-Elijah Nahmod
"Kung Pao Kosher Comedy is an antidote to what to do for Christmas if you're Jewish," said Lisa Geduldig, creator of the now-annual comedy extravaganza. This year's Kosher Comedy show takes place Dec. 22-25 at the New Asia Restaurant, 772 Pacific St. in San Francisco. "There's an age-old connection between Jews and Chinese food because the food is plentiful and you eat in a family setting," Geduldig observed.
This year marks the 20th anniversary performance of Kung Pao. Geduldig, a lesbian, explained how the seeds for the show were planted. "In 1993, I was booked to perform in Massachusetts at the Peking Garden Club. I thought it was a comedy club, but it was a restaurant. I thought it was ironic that I was telling Jewish jokes in a Chinese restaurant."
The first performance of Kung Pao, on Dec. 24 of that same year, not only sold out, but saw 200 people turned away. "The show kept growing and growing," Geduldig recalled. "In 1997, we got Henny Youngman. He died of pneumonia within two months – I was later accused of killing him."
Geduldig fell into comedy by accident. "I came to San Francisco for three weeks 30 years ago, and never left. I was 'best woman' at a wedding, so I made a tongue-in-cheek speech about how I met the couple. I was asked where I performed – I had always been the wise-ass in school, making other kids laugh at the teacher's expense. A few weeks later, I saw a sign for a stand-up comedy class. I took the class, then started performing at El Rio, Josie's Cabaret and Juice Joint, and then I started producing."
What can audiences expect at Kung Pao? "Since I'm gay, and since it's San Francisco, I try to have other gay comedians. There is a gay element to it, and an educational element to it, because not everyone is 'hip.' I ask people to keep it relatively clean so you can bring Grandma and the kids, but I do get raunchy when I perform at El Rio."
This year's Kung Pao line-up includes Judy Gold, herself an out lesbian. She offered her own observations as to why a Chinese restaurant was the perfect venue to see Jewish comics on Christmas. "We are always outsiders," Gold observed. "We, as Jews, are family-oriented, with the big meals. Plus, the Chinese don't cook with dairy, they don't mix milk and meat [one of the Kosher dietary laws]. So the pork is kosher – the Chinese Jew up their food! Jews love Chinese food."
(Photo: Lesley Bohm)
Gold's set will definitely appeal to family audiences, she said. "I talk about my family and my Jewish mother. No one in my family minds, except my older son. But when your mom is a comedian, this is what happens".
Gold tells us that her kids didn't want to be seen with her at Pick-A-Bagel in New York. "But I was wearing sweat pants, so they had reason to be embarrassed."
Kung Pao has grown considerably from the one-night event it was when Geduldig began it all those years ago. "We must be doing something right," she said. "Twenty years running, and we get 2-3,000 people every year. We get big-name comedians, and it's expanded beyond a Jewish audience. It's like a big Bar Mitzvah."
Tickets (Cocktails plus show, $44; dinner plus show, $64): (925) 855-1986 or www.koshercomedy.com