Backstory: Kosher comedy over egg rolls
As a respite from Christmas, a group in San Francisco gathers to hear Jewish comedians at a Chinese restaurant. It's become a tradition.
On Christmas Eve, Jay Luxenberg, a doctor in San Francisco, will be doing his usual ritual: dining at a local Chinese restaurant with his wife. While there, he'll be getting a healthy serving of laughs to go along with his chicken chow mein.
Mr. Luxenberg, who is Jewish, has been doing the same thing for nearly 13 years. He is part of a small but increasingly tightknit group of people in the San Francisco area who have found their own form of entertainment on Christmas.
In this case, it's attend an evening of Kung Pao Kosher Comedy, a four-day event started by local comedian Lisa Geduldig in the 1990s as a respite from the usual holiday hype.
While the show was intended as a gathering for Jews, today people of all religious and ethnic backgrounds look forward to the annual event, and attend year after year.
Friday night, and for the next three days, four comedians – all Jewish – will perform on stage twice nightly at the New Asia Restaurant in Chinatown. As the website puts it: It's Kosher comedy, not kosher food. In the end, close to 3,000 people will attend – one third of which are returning audience members.
"It's fun to be with other people who don't celebrate Christmas," says Betty Weinberg, a regular attendee. "We look forward to it every year."
The community that has developed around the show was fostered in no small part by Ms. Geduldig herself. She oversees all aspects of the event, including publicity, and acts as the master of ceremonies every night. Up until three years ago, she used to sell tickets from her home.
"Since I sold the tickets for 11 years, I got to know everybody's story, everyone who's coming," she says. "I know so many of these people. [They] feel this proprietorship and this kind of pride."
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