“Now I know that in Israel’s vibrant democracy, every word and gesture is carefully scrutinized,” US President Barack Obama said while visiting Israel in 2013. “But just so you know, any drama between me and my friend Bibi over the years was just a plot to create material for Eretz Nehederet,” he joked.
If you imagine an Israeli version of Saturday Night Live, you’ll have a good picture of Eretz Nehederet (“A Wonderful Country”). A show revolving largely around political satire, the program is one of the most watched and influential on Israeli television.
The show’s creator and head-writer, David Lifshitz, recently sold his sitcom “Imported” to NBC, following a long line of Israelis making waves in American television. If you’ve seen Showtime’s “Homeland,” HBO’s “In Treatment,” or NBC’s “Allegiance,” then you’re familiar with American adaptations of Israeli shows.
Creative Community For Peace (CCFP) recently sat down for an interview with David, speaking to him about his shows and the role of comedy more widely. See the abridged interview below:
CCFP: Congratulations on selling your sitcom to NBC. Can you tell us a bit about it? No spoilers of course!
David: It’s about a young soccer player who is hired by a huge British soccer club. The entire family moves to London and it’s nothing like they expected. For instance, in Israel, he’s a huge star and in London nobody knows who he is. He makes mistakes in English such as introducing his fiancé as his Beyoncé. Essentially, it’s a comedy about being a fish out of water.
CCFP: And how will an American audience relate to the show?
David: NBC made some interesting changes. In the American version, it’s a Latino family that moves to London from Texas and they made the mother the main character, rather than the father. It sounds like a lot of fun and I like that it will open up Americans to soccer.
CCFP: Israeli television formats certainly seem to be very popular and cross over many cultures. How would you explain this?
David: Of course you know that Jerry Seinfeld was recently here. Israelis just couldn’t get enough. I think this is an excellent example of how humor crosses over.
CCFP: And can this crossing over of humor offer a better understanding of Israeli society?
David: I think so. CNN, BBC, Fox News, and all other news outlets are only interested in showing war and politics. So any time people can see something about the other sides of Israel, it’s better for everyone. I think it’s crucial to get a better picture of Israel through the many shows crossing over.
CCFP: Of course there are some who don’t want that to happen, who would prefer to boycott Israeli culture. What would you say to the BDS movement?
David: I think that it’s a very wrong idea. We need dialogue. We are open to dialogue. We are the only democracy in the Middle East. It’s not the same situation as it was in South Africa.
CCFP: Thanks so much, David. You do amazing work and we look forward to seeing what you’ll do next.