Israel holds an important place for Avi Liberman, an LA-based comedian who has performed on such shows as CBS’s “Late Late Show” with Craig Ferguson and appears frequently on Comedy Central and E!
The Israel-born, Texas-raised comedian visits Israel twice a year, bringing with him some of America’s best comics on a biannual comedy tour of the country. The comics perform to raise funds for The Koby Mandell Foundation, which assists families and children who are victims of terror.
Liberman himself has arranged widely acclaimed Stand Up for Israel comedy tours since 2001, following a visit during the Second Intifada, where he discovered that many of his old friends were not going out at night because of terrorist attacks.
“I wanted to give people a night out, so that they could laugh a little bit during that very tense time,” Liberman says. Subsequently, the LA comedian began organizing successful comedy tours across Israel to help boost morale.
“There are two important elements to these tours,” Liberman elaborates in an interview with Tazpit News Agency. “First, these top-tier comedians get to do something important for the community here. They don’t just come to tour and see the sites, but they actually perform their material to audiences for an important cause.”
“And while the comedians are here, they also get to see the positive side of Israel,” Liberman explains.
“It is important that Israel get some good press. Many times, I encounter comedians who think of Israel in the context of war. There is obviously a lot more to this country than those headlines,” he says.
“It’s difficult to get comedians to come on these trips,” Liberman admits. “But when they do agree to come, they are just amazed by what they see and encounter.”
The Comedy for Koby May 2013 tour began on May 22 with shows in Beit Shemesh, Modiin, Jerusalem, Raanana, Tel Aviv and Gush Etzion. While much of the audience is made up of Anglos, there are Israelis who also attend the shows, according to Liberman.
The May tour features several top comedians including Wayne Federman, who has performed on The Tonight Show and appeared on The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Legally Blonde, 50 First Dates, Funny People and Curb Your Enthusiasm, among many other shows and movies.
On Sunday night, May 26, during the Jerusalem show, Federman, who performed in Israel 10 years ago with Liberman, joked with the audience about some elements of Israeli life including driving and finding a parking space. “Israelis are some of the calmest and most relaxed drivers in the world,” he quipped, following with a song about Tel Aviv, entitled “I Think I Found a Parking Space.”
For the other comedians, like Ralph Harris who has appeared in Evan Almighty as well as The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Late Night with Conan O’Brien, coming to Israel was a surreal experience. “It’s amazing to actually be here in Jerusalem after reading about this city,” he said.
Comedian Dennis Regan, who claims he knows some Hebrew, opened the Jerusalem show. Regan has made multiple appearances on the Late Show with David Letterman and has toured nationally for many years. This is the tenth year of Comedy for Koby tour, which has brought a slew of North American comedians to Israel.
The Koby Mandell Foundation was created by Rabbi Seth and Sherri Mandell, following the brutal murder of their 13-year-old son Koby and his friend Yosef Ishran by Arab terrorists, on May 18, 2001, while the boys were hiking near their home.
The foundation provides individuals and families with psychological and emotional support, as well as therapeutic programming for children who have been victimized by terror attacks and tragedy. The foundation’s website reports that in more than a decade, terrorism has claimed more than 1,300 lives in Israel, and has left more than 6,000 Israelis wounded, while impacting an estimated 50,000 Israelis.
Showing the power of humor in dealing with tragedy, the Mandells always make sure to open the first act of the Comedy for Koby tour with a couple of jokes of their own.
The last two acts of the comedy tour will take place in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, May 28 and Gush Etzion on Wednesday, May 29. Tickets can be ordered online at www.comedyforkoby.com or by phone at 052-798-5200.