“Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy.” (Psalms 126:2)
Jewish comedy legend Jerry Seinfeld, who landed in Israel Friday for a short tour, cracked up an audience of 11,000 Israelis for 90 minutes straight during his Saturday night set in Tel Aviv.
The 61-year-old comic and actor, one of the most successful Jewish comedians in history, sold out four shows during his first-ever comedy tour in Israel.
At his first performance on Saturday night, he ran onstage to roaring applause at the Menora Mivtachim Arena in Tel Aviv, exclaiming, “Oh, my God, I’m in Israel! Oh, my God! Unbelievable!”
He teased the audience about the frenzied hype surrounding his Israel tour, saying, “Look at yourselves – how proud are you of yourselves, how proud are you that you got tickets to this show? You don’t even care about this show. You just want to tell everybody … you want to make somebody else feel bad.”
Indeed, when tickets for his performance – originally intended to be a single show – went on sale in October, they sold out so quickly that the comedian added three additional shows in Tel Aviv, all of which sold out just as rapidly. Seinfeld expressed astonishment upon landing in Tel Aviv that his shows were so popular in Israel, saying, “I was very surprised. I couldn’t believe anybody bought a ticket.”
He added that he was “so happy to be back. So happy to be back in Israel again.”
Though Seinfeld made few direct references to Israel during his set and stuck mostly to a practiced routine which often referenced brands, sports and cultural phenomena generally found in America, his Israeli audience lapped it up with constant laughter and applause throughout the show.
However, he did drop some Israel-related humor, saying in one spot-on joke that Israelis have two answers to any question: “no problem” or “that’s impossible”.
Seinfeld mostly touched on universal topics like marriage, parenthood, the differences between men and women, and modern society’s ubiquitous obsession with technology.
During an encore and question-and-answer set, Seinfeld reminisced on his previous Israel visits, which included volunteering on a kibbutz as a teenager in 1970. On an Israel trip in 2007, he had joked about the experience, “When I was 15 and worked in a kibbutz, no one was interested in meeting me. No one wanted my autograph or to be photographed with me. They just let me hack away at the banana leaves.”
Upon some audience members asking that he say a phrase in Hebrew, he replied that he had learned Hebrew “for my Bar Mitzvah and that was enough”. He compromised by saying, “Shalom, how’s that work for you?”
Native New Yorker and “Seinfeld” fan Vered Albelda, who attended the Saturday night show, told Breaking Israel News, “It was great to walk into the arena to the sounds of Bobby Darin and Frank Sinatra, some real NY sounds from the Old Country. Seinfeld made jokes about being welcome even when ‘the other three [from “Seinfeld”] aren’t even here’ and when a question came from the audience about the size of his plane versus Ted Danson’s, laughingly reminded everyone that television isn’t real life.”
She added that as an American, she felt she could enjoy the show a little better than some of the Israelis at the show. “With bits about Pop-tarts and Hungry Man dinners, there were some jokes his partially Israeli audience weren’t all laughing at, but for the Americans in the audience, we couldn’t get enough. I laughed so hard my mascara smudged from the tears,” she said.
Seinfeld, who made his name with a nuanced brand of neurotic Jewish comedy, is famous worldwide for his incredibly successful New York-based sitcom, “Seinfeld”, which ran for nine seasons, and his many film, TV and web projects since the show went off the air, as well as his ongoing stand-up career.