It’s been a good week for comedy in Israel. First, the twice-a-year Comedy for Koby show has been traveling around the country to great acclaim – I blogged about it yesterday. And in a few minutes, raunchy (and embarrassingly funny) U.S. comedian Sarah Silverman will improbably appear on a panel at Shimon Peres’ “Israeli Presidential Conference” entitled “My Recipe for a Better Future” (Silverman is also performing two nights of standup next week in Tel Aviv).
But Silverman’s introduction to Israel was in a much less glamorous setting. Last night, she attended that most mundane of Israeli activities: the school play, in which her niece was on stage. I was there too: Silverman’s sister, Susan, lives around the corner from us, and our kids go to school together at Jerusalem’s Sudbury Democratic School. Here’s a nearly 20-year-old clip of Silverman riffing on her sister’s recent marriage:
Part time paparazzi that I am, I was feeling pretty confident as I sauntered over to Silverman and introduced myself to the controversial comic superstar. Silverman was nearly incognito in sweats and a baseball cap – but it didn’t much matter: most of the Israeli kids there probably never even heard of her. I gave her some tips on where to eat the best falafel in Israel and wished her a good trip – her first ever to Israel.
Silverman then noticed the cargo pants I was wearing and bemoaned the fact that she couldn’t get similar pants for women. She then turned to her sister and made some racy comment – which I unfortunately couldn’t completely hear – that compared my pants with a woman’s body part. Either Silverman was already in performance mood, or she just naturally wisecracks.
“This Normal Life,” she mused. “I’ve heard of that. I’m sure I’ve been on your site.” Sure, Sarah, nice small talk. But she continued. “So…where did you come up with the name?”
“Do you really want to hear?” I asked. “It’s a sad story.”
“What, did someone die?” she said.
“Actually, yes,” I replied.
I proceeded to explain how I started the blog in 2002 after a cousin was killed in the terrorist attack at Hebrew University and how I wanted to demonstrate to the world that, despite all the murderous atrocities in those difficult years, Israel was still a “normal” place and we were going about our normal activities, not cowering in our homes waiting for the next bomb to go off.
I then changed the subject and asked if she’s picked up any good material yet for her act.
As the Democratic kids left the stage to thunderous parental pride, I was struck by how I had shared with the famous Sarah Silverman that inherently Jewish reality, the one that is so part and parcel of everything we do in Israel, it’s even included in the Jewish wedding ceremony: that, even in our greatest joy (meeting a celebrity, shlepping nachas from our talented kids), we must always remember our sadness and suffering. At the wedding, the groom breaks a glass. Some of us blog. Ah, the vagaries of modern life in our beleaguered state.
Welcome to the real Israel, Sarah. We’re pretty normal here. Most of the time.