TEL AVIV — Last week Sarah Silverman was invited to participate in Israel’s third annual Presidential Conference, after which she performed two shows in Tel Aviv. The first of her two shows took place on Saturday night at Yarkon Park’s Wohl Amphitheatre, where the crowd was buzzing with excitement in several different languages, and sweating from the Israeli summer’s potent mix of heat and humidity.
Todd Glass opened the show and started the night off strong. His brand of sarcastic, train-of-thought complaining resonated with an almost entirely Jewish audience, despite his admission that he was nervous about which references he could use and still make sense… “Do you guys know what Olive Garden is? Backstage I’m thinking, ‘do they know who Mel Gibson is- should I not do my Mel Gibson joke because he hates Jews?’…”
Then Sarah came out and performed a mixed-bag of tricks. She started off with quintessential Silverman style story telling – you know, stuff like how as a little girl she used to shower with the water that ran directly off her mother’s Jew bush, or what it was like to grow up as a Jew in New Hampshire and being blamed for killing Christ in the third grade. She also told some quicker set-em-up punch line jokes, like how she loves babies, but doesn’t want to have to raise kids, so she developed the brilliant idea of only adopting terminally ill babies.
It was apparent during her set, as with Glass’, that there was a slight cultural disconnect that kept her from being comfortable telling certain jokes, namely her racial jokes. At times it also seemed like not everyone in the crowd necessarily understood all of the jokes, but still laughed because they absolutely adored her. In any case, I can’t imagine a much tougher place to pull off stand-up comedy than in Israel, but both Silverman and Glass did just that.
After about 25 minutes of stand-up, Silverman treated the crowd to a song about divas, which used the word “cunt” no less then 30 times, and ended on a song about how everyone is going to die – an interesting choice given the location – but it was still a success.
In between her stand-up and her musical finale, she had a 25-minute Q&A with the audience, where Glass came back out to be the man with the mic in the crowd, and between the two of them, they created some of the best comedy of the night with their ad-libbed responses.
Mixing in sincerely sweet words of encouragement to girls in the audience who said they wanted to be Israel’s Sarah Silverman, with brutally honest responses to dry, meandering questions like, “I’m getting bored- what’s your question,” and “kill yourself,” the Q&A part of the show actually ended up being the best. The only awkward moment of the night was when Silverman asked the crowd, completely seriously and almost trepidatiously, “are there any… Pal-es..tin-ians here…tonight?” which was met with a silence that basically said, “bitch please.”
All in all it was obvious that Silverman was slightly out of her element, and a bit overwhelmed to be such a famous Jewish woman performing for the first time in the Jewish state. Expectations were high, but she delivered like a diva, without being a cunt.