Kung Pao Kosher Comedy: Jewish comedy on Christmas in a Chinese restaurant

  • by David-Elijah Nahmod
  • Tuesday December 5, 2023
Share this Post:
(L-R upper) Wendy Liebman, Rich Aronovitch, Talia Reese, (L-R lower) Lisa Geduldig and Arline Geduldig will perform in Kung Pao Kosher Comedy.
(L-R upper) Wendy Liebman, Rich Aronovitch, Talia Reese, (L-R lower) Lisa Geduldig and Arline Geduldig will perform in Kung Pao Kosher Comedy.

After a hiatus of several years, Lisa Geduldig's ever-popular Kung Pao Kosher Comedy, a Christmas tradition in San Francisco, is back in Chinatown. The show will take place on Saturday December 23 through Monday December 25. There will be a dinner show at 5pm and a cocktail show at 8:30pm. The show will also be livestreamed. The annual show, which offers Jewish-style comedy on Christmas in a Chinese restaurant, had to go virtual for a few years due to the pandemic.

This year Kung Pao is at a new venue. The New Asia Restaurant, which hosted Kung Pao for twenty years, has been converted into a Chinese supermarket. Last year, when Kung Pao returned to being an in-person show, Geduldig had taken the show to a synagogue, but now she is very happy with Kung Pao's new home.

"Imperial Palace is one of the two remaining Chinese restaurants in Chinatown with a banquet room," Geduldig explained in an interview with the Bay Area Reporter. "I chose Imperial Palace because the food is good, and the banquet manager knows Kung Pao because he worked at New Asia some twenty years ago."

Imperial Palace is also accessible to the disabled as it offers an elevator, something Geduldig says that she herself needs.

"I was a spring chicken when I started Kung Pao," Geduldig said. "31, now I'm 61."

Besides Geduldig herself, performers for this year's show are comics Wendy Liebman, Rich Aronovitch, Talia Reese, and Geduldig's 92-year-old mother Arline Geduldig, who will be joining in by video all the way from Florida. The elder Geduldig began performing on her daughter's monthly virtual Lockdown Comedy shows in 2020 when the two were living together in Florida.

"My March 2020 two-week visit turned into 17 months because of the pandemic," Geduldig said. "And I asked her if she wanted to be a guest on the first show, and she was so funny that she became a regular."

One of the more fascinating comics on the program is no doubt Reese, an Orthodox Jew who balances her religious life with her show business life.

"Sometimes it's tough because I don't work on the Sabbath," Reese said in an interview. "I miss out on Friday night shows and doing full weekends on the road. But on the other hand, it's great to have a predictable schedule where I can pack in a full week of shows and events, but then I know I'll be cooking on Friday and focusing on family, prayer, and lots of eating for a day. Basically I'm available 24/6."

Some of the things that inform Reese's comedy are dating versus married life, as she's been married twice. She talks about life in New York City, Netflix shows she's watching, and life as a comic and mom. She also talks about her religious life.

"I have a lot of jokes about taking on rituals that I didn't grow up with," Reese said. "Some suitable for clubs, others only for religious audiences. I'm always calibrating my act depending on the denomination of the group I'm performing for."

Reese added that she's always been a comedian.

"To quote Lady Gaga, I guess I was born that way," she said. "From the time I was a kid I was into pranks, messing with teachers, and performing in comedies. Then fast-forward to university and I was the director of a comedy troupe for two years, so comedy was always in my blood."

Geduldig is proud of the fact that she's gotten some legendary comic names over the years, like Henny Youngman, who performed at Kung Pao in 1997.

"I had the pleasure of working with Shelley Berman and some months later had dinner at his house in LA with him and his wife," she said. "When David Brenner performed I met some of his cousins who came to the show, and then we sat around together in the Green Room. They remarked how much I looked like their cousin. Henny, Shelley and David have all since passed away. Actually, Kung Pao was Henny's last show. I loved working with Elayne Boosler and many others. All the headliners and I have become like family."

Geduldig noted that she show is generally suitable for families and that sometimes three generations will attend together; teens, parents and grandparents. People always ask her if they can bring kids, and she always promises to ask the comedians to keep it clean, but she can't guarantee that there won't be an F-bomb or two.

"Some years there's an additional queer comedian on the bill," she said. "This year I'm the only one."

She reports that the audience is primarily Jewish but not exclusively.

"The first few years were probably 98 percent Jewish," she said. "We get Chinese/Jewish couples and people in interfaith relationships. Since the show always takes place on one day other than Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, people who celebrate Christmas can attend on the other day."

Kung Pao Kosher comedy has been going strong for thirty years. Geduldig promises that it will continue for as long as they continue to have one to two thousand attendees. The show will also continue to be live-streamed.

"We can cater to the national audiences we created during the pandemic," she said. "And some locals who don't want to attend in person for whatever reason, health or other, can view the show virtually. Many order Chinese takeout to eat while watching the show to have the full Kung Pao experience."

The 31st Annual Kung Pao Kosher Comedy, December 23, 24, 25, 5pm (dinner show), 8:30pm, cocktail show, Imperial Palace Restaurant, 818 Washington Street, $30-$100. www.cityboxoffice.com www.koshercomedy.com

Never miss a story! Keep up to date on the latest news, arts, politics, entertainment, and nightlife. Sign up for the Bay Area Reporter's free weekday email newsletter. You'll receive our newsletters and special offers from our community partners.

Support California's largest LGBTQ newsroom. Your one-time, monthly, or annual contribution advocates for LGBTQ communities. Amplify a trusted voice providing news, information, and cultural coverage to all members of our community, regardless of their ability to pay -- Donate today!

Featured Local Savings