The Legacy Hotel in east Jerusalem turned comedy club last weekend where Mark Breslin, the Jewish founder of Canada’s very own Yuk Yuks, thought it would be a good idea to entertain a predominantly Arab neighbourhood with some of his Canadian comedians’ finest jokes—about Israel. Not at Israel’s expense (which might have gone over a little better) but about Israel— that is, for an Israeli audience.
Comedian: “What does a polite Israeli magician say?…. “To-DAH!” (Todah means “Thank you” in Hebrew)
Nobody laughed — and not for the obvious reasons.
The emcee who kicked off the show got hissed off the stage. His opener: “Man, what a beautiful country, we are having such an incredible time here in Israel.”
His crime? Saying “Israel,” not “Palestine.” (East Jerusalem is technically a part of Israel, but the majority of its residents identify as Palestinians.)
“It took just seven seconds,” Sam Easton said of his opener. “I’ve never seen anyone blow it in seven seconds.”
Yuks Yuks founder Mark Breslin brought his six person comedy troupe to the Holy Land on May 31, for a “culture swapping week-long comedy tour,” co-sponsored by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
But his troupe’s stint on the wrong side of town gave—if only for a night—a voiceless and embittered Palestinian people the rare opportunity to (however indirectly) heckle its own government. Which is kind of cool, no matter what side you’re on. And where blowing off steam is concerned, it’s decidedly preferable to detonating yourself at a coffee shop.
Of course, McGill University professor and Zionist firebrand Gil Troy would argue otherwise: “Once again,” he wrote in an especially fiery Jerusalem Post column about the heckling, “Israeli democratic openness defeated Palistinian totalitarianism.” That’s right, Totalitarian Heckling.
In the end, there’s only one thing to take away from this; a universal principle maybe–one that transcends social, religious, and cultural bounds.
Government and comedy don’t mix.
Except, of course, here: