A Kung Pao Kosher Christmas

A Kung Pao Kosher Christmas

Lisa Geduldig hosts the 15th annual comedy fest in S.F.

When comedian Lisa Geduldig schlepped out to South Hadley, Mass. in 1993, she figured she was just making her way to yet another comedy club—that is until the venue turned out to be a Chinese restaurant. But instead of crying in her won ton soup, Geduldig ran with the idea and turned it into comedy gold. The result is the alternative Christmastime staple “Kung Pao Kosher Comedy”—a yuck-fest now in its 15th year featuring Jewish comedians at Chinese restaurants. The New Asia Restaurant in San Francisco hosts the event this year. Over the years, the stage show has attracted top comedians such as Henny Youngman—a bittersweet experience as Youngman came down with pneumonia during the run and died shortly thereafter. Geduldig denies killing him and says the Youngman family has exonerated her, commenting that the violin-playing master of the one-liner died doing what he loved. This year’s show features Korean-Jewish comic Esther Paik Goodhart as well as comedy legend Shelley Berman (whom Geduldig promises to safely return to L.A.). Geduldig and I got together recently over a bowl of hot and spicy matzo ball soup.

Paul Kilduff: How do you react when someone wishes you a “Merry Christmas”?

Lisa Geduldig: I get Merry Christmas-ed to death in every store. There’s this assumption that that’s your religion. And I just look at them like a dog that has heard a strange sound. Or my favorite retort is “Happy Chanukah” with as much “uch” as possible. And the springs come out of their heads because it’s like I’m just doing the same thing that you’re doing to me—wishing you a happy holiday for this month that you don’t celebrate or embrace either. It’s definitely a time to feel left out. I don’t speak for every Jew in the country but a lot of Jews including myself feel like it’s not our time. I just want to hide under the covers until it’s over. I love December 26. But it’s funny because now part of my work actually is dependent on Christmas—ironically.

PK: So now you are part of the problem. You, of all people, are contributing to the overcommercialization of this once-joyous holiday. Damn you!

LG: No, no, no. I am part of the solution for what a Jew should do on Christmas. This is what we did when I grew up in New York.

PK: So there’s a tradition of Jews “celebrating” Christmas at Chinese restaurants?

LG: Look on the roster of the reserved tables at a Chinese restaurant in New York on Christmas and it’ll be Goldstein, Rabinowitz. That’s what we do. We go to Chinese restaurants on Christmas.

PK: What’s the deal with Jewish people and their extreme affinity for Chinese food, anyway?

LG: There actually have been studies done on that. I don’t know if it’s the correlation between won tons and kreplach. There’s a study that was done out of New York that I read saying a couple of different things—food being plentiful, being served family-style. It’s a sanctioned place. Jews aren’t supposed to eat pork but there’s a little unknown clause in the Torah that says if it’s wrapped up in won ton it’s okay.

PK: Does it make you feel any better that Jesus was a Jew?

LG: Well, I appreciate the Jews for Jesus because they’ve given me a joke.

PK: What do you think of them?

LG: Oh, just like any proselytizing group. Run!

PK: They do have a nice collection of minivans though.

LG: One of my jokes is that I came out of the closet to my parents. I thought I would make it a memorable day and I told my mom and dad I joined Jews for Jesus. They said they’d write me out of the will. “How could you do this to us? We raised you in the Jewish faith!” And then I say, “I’m just kidding. I’m just gay.” And they go, “Oh thank God.” What I love about that joke is that it goes across all boundaries. It doesn’t matter if you’re gay and coming out to your parents or whatever it is. It just kind of transcends however you disappointed your parents. I have another joke that San Francisco is just full of people who’ve disappointed their parents, and it’s so true. I mean that’s this thread we have in common here.

PK: Does growing up an outsider help when you get older because you don’t really care what people think about you?

LG: It’s good training. Like I just did this show about “a Muslim, a Mormon and Jew walk into a bar” and Bengt Washburn, who is the Mormon comic, has this line about doing his missionary work from 19 to 21 and how the rejection prepared him for life. Imagine at 19: “Okay son, we’re going to send you out there to go knock on strangers’ doors. Ready?” I had never heard of anyone doing Mormon comedy before Bengt. His stuff is brilliant. That’s why I formed the show. He got off stage and I said I think you’re great. I don’t have any shows that you fit into. I’m going to create one around you. He has this in the show: “I know a lot of you just came to the show because you wanted to see what a Mormon looked like. Oh, what the hell, $20? Yeah why not?”

PK: Are comedians ambassadors for their various cultures?

LG: Who better to educate about a culture than a comedian? They’re going to decipher it for you. Here’s the best of. Here’s the worst of. Here are the things you should be focusing on. Here are the things you should be laughing at. What I like to do with my comedy shows is present an “other” kind of comedy than what’s out there. There’s a lot mainstream schlock and dreck and I really scrutinize the comics before I put them on stage.

“Kung Pao Kosher Comedy” will run at the New Asia Restaurant in San Francisco from December 22 to 25. For more information, visit www.koshercomedy.com.


Suggestions? E-mail Paul Kilduff at PKilduff@sbcglobal.net.
The Kilduff File Archive


Age: 45  |  Astrological sign: Pisces

Birthplace: Mid Island Hospital, Bethpage, Long Island, NY

First real job and/or first job out of college:
 I never had a real job.

Favorite pizza topping:

Mideast peace plan: 


Faces of the East Bay