Only at a comedy conference in Jerusalem would participants from all over the world be able to sit in on a non-diplomatic peace talk with two Israeli comedians and two Arab comedians, and a mediator from Germany whose opening remarks were, “no one ever said anything a politician can do, a comedian can do better.”
Today I, along with many others, watched comedians take down the conflict and add many more issues to our cause. Representing the Palestinian side, Ghazi Albullwi, broke out a power point presentation (he was quick to thank the technology side of that to his Jewish friend) explaining that the conflict between the Jews and Arabs is not about religion or politics but simply sex. On the hot topics like the Right of Return, he and fellow Palestinian representative Omer Marzouk suggested a slight change in the narrative and asked for only a Right to Visit using the Airbnb model.
From the Israeli side, it was comedian and host of popular Israeli TV show, “State of the Union” (Matzav Hauma) Lior Schleien who compared the Israelis and Palestinians to a married couple trying to get divorced. And going along with the sex theme, expressed his frustration with rarely getting it on. To paraphrase him: “we only have wars every two years and it’s only in Gaza. Not even full penetration, just the tip.” And as for the contentious subject of Jerusalem, Lior added, “we all share the same toilet…Jerusalem.” So there’s that.
A city known for it’s conflict, religious strife, and well, I could go on and on, for two days, the city got its comic relief, with international comedic writers and performers coming together for the first Comedy For a Change Conference. The conference, the brainchild of successful comedy writer Omri Marcus, morphed from idea to reality within months, bringing together some of the entertainment industry’s most prestigious including Director of BBC Television Danny Cohen, “The Daily Show” Executive Producer Steve Bodow, writers from the hit TV series “The Office,” and even our own stars, Noa Tishby, “The Jews are Coming” creator and writer Natalie Marcus, and many others.
The name-dropping list, along with the incredible topics of discussion, all added to the conference’s main theme, of how comedy can truly influence and make a change in our world. On the eve (super long eve of still another eighty plus days) of elections in Israel, we have already seen comedic attempts from both the left and right camp to grab our attention and our votes. The conference shed light, fitting during the eight days of Hanukkah, on how important humor is, as a coping mechanism for daily life and a common ground and language bringing together people from all over the world, to laugh, think and discuss.
Comedy is no longer just about the laughs, and maybe it never was. Perhaps it is this old tradition of Jews and their humor that made it so fitting to have the conference take place in Jerusalem.
How many people can say they saw the Mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, have a conversation with a drunk puppet (that would be the famous Red Orbach) asking him if being mayor is just a hobby since he is so rich and that most of Jerusalem’s mayors end up behind bars, so how long does this mayor have left, enough for another drink?
Jerusalem may not have the Hollywood sign, but it is a sign from God that led this conference to success. OK that is a bit dramatic, but nevertheless true, that from this conference we shall see the fruits of its labor with new collaborations (suck that BDS), more humor, and Jerusalem as the capital of funny (what it’s still Hanukkah, isn’t that all about miracles?).