Conference Call: Leah Forster, Dana Friedman, Liz Glazer: "LOL Nidrei: Unforgivably Naughty Jewish Comedy
As someone who used to perform Stand-Up comedy, I love interviewing comedians. I remember performing on a few Jewish/Gay specific comedy shows and it was great seeing the wide range of jokes that everyone performed.
I’m thrilled to get to interview Leah Forster, Dana Friedman, and Liz Glazer as they get ready to perform in LOL Nidrei: Unforgivably Naughty Jewish Comedy at The Duplex (61 Christopher Street) in New York City’s West Village on Thursday, August 22 at 9:30pm. Click here for tickets!
For more on LOL Nidrei visit http://www.lolnidrei.com
1. This August you are performing in LOL Nidrei: Unforgivably Naughty Jewish Comedy at the Duplex. What are you looking forward to most about this show?
Dana Friedman: It’s always fun to produce a show with comedians who have one thing in common, but who are different in many other ways. I’ve brought together Middle Eastern comics (Jewish/Israeli with Arab/Muslim, and some LGBT thrown in), a token hetero guy who fit well into a queer show; at an all-Jewish show we had a token Gentile, or “Gentile-American.” Doesn’t that sound both P.C. and insulting?). With LOL Nidrei, we have three heterosexual guys, two lesbians, and a trans woman. That’s a “walk into a bar joke…” right there.
Because we’ll have diversity onstage, we’ll have a very mixed audience. LGBT+, Modern-Orthodox, with ultra-Orthodox people—they don’t normally come to shows like this, especially not in Greenwich Village. We are working out our own personal (and religious?) conflicts onstage for the amusement of others. That’s always a hoot.
Liz Glazer: There’s a LOT of good pizza nearby. Kidding. It’ll be a great show! The comedians are funny! I love performing with Jews and being able to tell Jewish jokes! But also, truly excellent pizza.
Leah Forster: I love my job! Not just the going onstage part, but watching other Jewish comedians has always been fun for me. Since coming back to comedy, I’ve been seeing takes on Judaism so different from the ones I grew up with, and was allowed to see as a kid. It’s just GREAT!
2. What should audiences expect from this evening of comedy?
Dana Friedman: Each group should expect something they’ve never seen before. One of the comics on the lineup was, in her former life, one of the foremost entertainers for ultra-Orthodox Jewish women. Having come out as a lesbian, she’s not performing for that audience anymore, but they still come to see her in mainstream clubs. As with all of us, Leah’s comedy is rooted in her experience.
Some of those not steeped in the LGBT+ culture may never have seen an Orthodox-Jewish transgender comic before. OrthoTrans is possible. Come find out how.
At least one of the comics has a large Modern-Orthodox following, so the folks will be entertained and surprised. Surprise is a key element in comedy. The others on the show will surprise and be funny too. But, this ain’t Larry The Cable Guy. The show’s not for everybody, which is fine. The theater only seats seventy.
Leah Forster: Since I’m the host/MC, the audience will see me between acts. But they won’t see just Leah. They’ll see characters that my longtime fans already know, and a few new ones. It’s good to change it up, keep the audience on their toes, and have like five “people” bring up the acts throughout the evening.
Liz Glazer: Comedy is about surprise, so my instinct is to say “expect nothing.” But also, my orthodontist’s voicemail message says that he always seeks to exceed expectations. And he’s honestly terrific, so I’d say expect an evening of comedy at least as good as my orthodontist. (Braces not included).
3. Let's play with the show's title LOL Nidrei: Unforgivably Naughty Jewish Comedy. What is the funniest thing to happen to you during a Kol Nidrei service?
Dana Friedman: I got a case of the giggles. There was a sign in the synagogue announcing that the women’s section was exclusively for women. But the word women was IN QUOTATION MARKS. Some poorly- educated kid who wrote the sign had no idea how to use punctuation, and all I could think of was “Next time I come here, I’m bringing some drag queens." Even though it was the holiest day of the year, and everyone was fasting, prayer books were stored in the food area. A few men traipsed through the women’s section to get the books, and I SO wanted to yell “Back in the kitchen where ya belong!” It’s lucky the drag queens didn’t come. All they’d have done is criticize the women’s shoes.
Leah Forster: I only remember fantasizing about pizza the moment the fast started.
Liz Glazer: One time I looked deep inside myself, atoned for my sins, felt one with the Jewish people, and experienced a meaningful connection with Hashem. I think that was Kol Nidrei 5769 (Editor’s note: we’re coming up on 5780). I know that’s not funny but I love the Kol Nidrei scene from “Kissing Jessica Stein” where the grandma says that the guy Jessica’s mom wants to set her up with “has no neck!”
4. What is the naughtiest thing you have ever done either in your stand-up routine or in life?
Dana Friedman: I tried BDSM (that’s bondage, discipline, sadism, and masochism, also known as Jewish Day School). At an S/M club (where I saw more than a couple of Orthodox Jewish men), I was part of a public “scene.”
The man bonding and disciplining and me was a theater major, real Mr. Showbusiness. He tied me to a table, while leading the onlookers in a chorus of “Bringing In The Sheaves,” a gospel/Protestant hymn, about how the farmers praised the Lord for their bounty while bundling crops). (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bringing_In_the_Sheaves).
“Bringing In The Sheaves
Leah Forster: Before I got married—not to my wife, the other kind, before I came out—I told an ultra-Orthodox man that I'm fully Kosher. He said he was too, and I asked: “Is vagina kosher?”
Liz Glazer: I did steal that guy’s girlfriend once. Also, whenever I’m in an Apple store I like to Airdrop photos of my cat Mona to everyone in the store. Most of them decline, which is disappointing but understandable. In standup I think the naughtiest was when I had just started performing but was still teaching law, at the request of the few students who showed up on a day when it had snowed a lot, I did my standup routine for my students during class.
Leah Forster Questions:
5. How did you come to host this evening of comedy? Dana and I have worked together before, and have been friends since long before my return to comedy. We performed on the same shows for Orthodox-LGBT+ audiences, and at one show (for mainstream religious Jews) that got a lot of media coverage. As an out lesbian who had previously worked in the ultra-Orthodox world, spending New Year’s Eve in a very religious section of Brooklyn entertaining Orthodox, and ultra-Jews could get a little dicey. So, we’ve been “in the trenches” together.
Also, I like to host! Audiences from my earlier comedy days know that I do characters. I still do them on Instagram. You can see my Tichel Tuesday Instagram posts. (“Tichel” is a scarf or kerchief some Orthodox women use to cover their hair). Follow my Insta: @leahforster
6. For a lot of your career, you focused your comedy primarily with in the Jewish Community. What made you decide to expand your reach? Was there a specific event or moment that influenced this decision? It built up over time. Little things throughout my life nagged at me to push the boundaries. In the ultra-Orthodox world, that’s just not an option. Ultimately, when I came out, it was time to be more authentic.
But people don’t change completely just because they get gay-married. My comedy is still rooted in Jewish folk-humor, because my life is still a Jewish life. Even if my style has expanded a little, my influences, comedic and personal are the same, and I’m the sum-total of many varied experiences.
Dana Friedman Questions:
7. You are, most likely, New York's first Orthodox Jewish Trans Comic. What has it been like to perform as an out Trans Orthodox Jewish comedian - what have been the greatest rewards? Biggest challenges? The LGBT+ portion of my audience sometimes laughs at things that’ll keep the Orthodox Jews stone-faced, and vice versa. Some Jews laugh at an S/M joke, some are afraid to laugh, some want my phone number. Sometimes the audience surprises me. The LGBT+ people laugh at something totally un-P.C., or the Jews laugh at a joke about the Dykes on Bikes. That’s a reward and a challenge: keeping everybody laughing, even when they’re a really mixed bag.
Some people don’t believe I’m possible. After a Jewish show, a mega-religious kid in a black hat asked me “What’s the real story?” He thought I was playing a character. OK, all comics exaggerate a little bit, or show part of themselves in their stage persona. But I’m not Larry The Cable Guy, or Carrot Top. Leah does some characters, but they are still rooted in real life experience. Yup, lesbians from the ultra-Orthodox world exist too. Come see it! Get a ticket at www.lolnidrei.com.
8. How do you feel being out will help others in the community? This is a tricky one. (It’s also a partial answer to your question about challenges too). Modesty is a tenet of Judaism. Yet, I get up on the stage and joke about it, totally making an issue of myself…Not what you’d call “low profile.” I hope to educate people a little bit about conflict being OK, about everyone, even religious leaders, having all kinds of messed up contradictions in their lives and psyches. It’s FINE. Own it. Laugh at it, if that helps. If you can’t laugh at it, we’ll give you a start.
Liz Glazer Questions:
9. Prior to being a stand-up comedian, you were a tenured law professor. How did you come to leave law for the life of a stand-up comedian? Right after I got tenure, a woman I had a crush on asked me if I had ever considered doing standup, to which I replied, “No.” Then, that same woman asked me if I would like to do standup on a show she was producing. Figuring she would be at her own show, I said, “Yes.”
I didn’t leave law right then, but pretty close. I did the show, and it was a really exhilarating experience. Kind of like having a professional orgasm, but I was a hundred percent sure I was having it. I opened a package on stage that my mom had sent me in the mail and I saw on my way out the door to the show. Thankfully, it had 18 vinyl shoulder covers to put on the suits I would wear to teach because my mom noticed that Mona’s fur would fall on the suits because Mona would sit on top of them in my closet. And first rule of comedy: vinyl suit protectors are funny.
I announced my retirement the following year and haven’t looked back.
10. What have you learned about yourself from being a comedian that you didn't know while teaching law? I feel like I barely knew myself before doing comedy. The main difference between teaching law and doing standup is that as I get deeper in it, I realize that to do it better, I have to dig even deeper into myself. I am the course of study. And yeah, of course figuring out how to get the most laughs is the thing, and writing setups and punch lines is the thing, and booking more and better shows is the thing, but ultimately I am the thing so I better know me the best. That’s been a really gratifying aspect of the journey, because I love that getting better at standup can be a way to become a better person. I’m trying to be one.
More on Leah:
For over a decade, Leah Forster has been an internationally renowned entertainer in the Jewish community. In recent years she's expanded her reach to more mainstream comedy clubs & taken to the internet, exponentially growing her already-substantial fan-base. In addition to theatres all over the world, Leah has appeared locally at Carolines on Broadway, Stand-Up NY, The Comedy Cellar & Broadway Comedy Club, as well as being featured on Breakout.TV.
More on Dana:
Dana Friedman is, in all likelihood, New York's first Orthodox Jewish, transsexual comic. Her performances address a wide variety of topics, including many outside the very unusual norms of standup comedy. She is the producer of Queernucopia: An Evening of LGBT & Allied Comedy Goddesses & Heathens & Right Down The Middle (East) - (no missionaries, just funny positions), which brings together Muslim, Jewish, Israeli, Arab & Palestinian standup comics. Dana has appeared with or opened for Janeane Garofalo, Lizz Winstead, Yanis Pappas, Christian Finnegan, Julia Scotti, Tim Dillon & other major headliners at clubs & theatres all over the New York tri-state area & occasionally beyond, when her parole officer is on vacation.
More on Liz:
Liz Glazer used to be a tenured law professor, but after nine years of teaching law, she retired to be a standup comedian, writer & actor. Liz opens frequently for Myq Kaplan & has appeared at the Tahoe Improv. She’s currently based in LA where she runs “I’m Sure,” Historia & the Friend Zone.