What We Have Learned about Life from the Comedians

Twice a year, Los Angeles comic Avi Liberman brings three wonderful comedians to perform in Israel.  The Comedy for Koby tour raises money for The Koby Mandell Foundation, the organization we started  after the murder of our first born son, Koby, by terrorists in 2001.

Proceeds from the comedy tour help fund our activities. In fact, our first show is this Sunday in Modi’in.

In the beginning, people thought that The Koby Mandell Foundation was an unlikely choice for a comedy fundraiser. The foundation was not created because of something funny. No, our foundation began because of a tragedy. We now run camps and healing retreats for bereaved children and mothers and widows.

But Koby was funny and loved to laugh and we believe he would love the tour. Though we introduce the each show with a joke or two, we’re not that funny. But the comedians coach us and even give us jokes.

We not only laugh with the comedians — We learn.

Here are 10 things they have taught us about comedy and about life.

Say Yes to Life.

Butch Bradley taught us that improv is the art of saying yes. Yes black ball, yes soda bottle yet drooling little kids, Old City, yes. Crazy drivers…. it’s all material. Take it all in and use it.

Let Yourself Fail.

Saleem Muhammed taught us that it’s okay to flub, to fail, to not be funny. Another comedian (we can’t remember who…see how we are willing not to be perfect) added that some of his funniest moments are when a joke falls flat.

Take back your power.

Most of us don’t own our own power. When you are on stage, you need to plant the microphone. Duane Perkins taught us: Own the stage.

It’s okay to bring a giant shofar on a plane.

Modi taught us that security will ask you what you did with the other horn.

It’s all around you. Sometimes.

Look around you. Avi Liberman says that there may be a joke waiting to be found. Usually in Mea Shearim. Or digging up Jerusalem for the light rail.

Make sure there is a payoff.

As in, “The thing I like about Jewish people is that they name all of their children after the Jewish holidays: Tisha B’Av, Rosh Ha Shana. I know three girls named Rosh ha Shana.” Ian Edwards

Save your material:

Avi Liberman says: Don’t give the comedians jokes. They have their own.

It takes a long time to write a good line.

Seth and I say: Don’t think if you see Jerry Seinfeld in Vegas it will be different than Jerry Seinfeld in Jerusalem.

It ain’t over till it’s over.

Brian Kiley says: Don’t just start with a great beginning. Make sure the punch line is worth the preparation. Like when you wake up in the morning and the first thing you say to your wife is: You Again?

Locate yourself.

All of the comedians start with praising the stage set, which is usually kind of pathetic, in the city of choice, especially in Beit Shemesh. It pays to know where you are.

Nobody’s funny all the time.

We often say that comedians are performers. Some of them aren’t that funny when we are alone with them. In fact, sometimes we feel like the funny ones, believe it or not. Some comedians, on the other hand (Hello Bob Zany), can’t stop joking.

We love the comedy shows and the comedians. Come to the shows. Support the foundation. Laugh. It can’t hurt. Thanks to Avi and the amazing comedians!!!


About the Author
Sherri Mandell is co-director of the Koby Mandell Foundation which runs programs for bereaved families in Israel. She is the author of the book "The Road to Resilience: From Chaos to Celebration." Her book, "The Blessing of a Broken Heart," won a National Jewish Book Award in 2004. She can be reached at sherri@kobymandell.org