I'm a soldier in the War on Christmas. Well, actually, I'm more of a conscientious
objector. Because of my personal beliefs, not to mention my Semitic background, I choose to sit out the extreme sport of shopping every December.
My main goal during this post-Thanksgiving haze is to be able to hightail it into a store for groceries or toilet paper and not walk out humming a Christmas song that was subversively pumped through the ventilation system, and into the minds and out of the mouths of unsuspecting shoppers.
Next to a KKK rally, there's nothing a Jew loves more than the month of December. We all breathe a collective sigh on December 26: "Is it safe to come out yet?" OK, maybe I'm being a little over-dramatic and generalizing a bit. But let me put it this way: I hunt and gather for the entire month. I can't bear [no pun intended] to go into a store.
Maybe they should play Chanukah songs all month. I can just hear it now: "Oh, no! They only have one song! Oh Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel... I wish they'd make it out of something else already."
For the past twenty years, I've dedicated myself to entertaining refugees escaping the alienation of Christmas. One day in 1993 while mixing solutions in my comedy lab, I invented the antidote to the age-old dilemma, "What are Jews supposed to do on Christmas?" I came up with the formula for Jewish comedy on Christmas in a Chinese restaurant and after toiling over possible names, I chose Kung Pao Kosher Comedy. An alliteration-lover's delight.
Actually, the concept was born on a very fateful October night that year when I was booked to perform stand up comedy at a women's comedy show in South Hadley, Massachusetts at The Peking Garden Club, what I thought was going to be a comedy club, but ended up being a Chinese restaurant.
The fact that I was telling Jewish jokes in a Chinese restaurant changed my life and the lives of thousands of others who would normally hide under the covers and wait for December to be over. A phone conversation the next day with an old friend in New York led to the Jewish comedy on Christmas in a Chinese restaurant idea, which is based on the tradition of Jews going to Chinese restaurants on Christmas.
What started as a joke in a phone conversation became an institution in San Francisco and has since catered to tens of thousands of comedy aficionados and has served that many Yiddish proverbs in its fortune cookies. My three personal favorites: "With one tuchus you can't dance at two weddings." "A goat may have a beard but that doesn't make him a rabbi." And "You can't pee on my back and make me think it's raining outside."
Some people have attended the show for all 20 years. We've created a sense of belonging and community. We've experienced births and deaths. We've made the words Kung Pao a vernacular in Jewish homes. We even had someone bring a service animal rooster one year. Vern, the service rooster, apparently calmed his owner's anxiety. And he was allowed into a Chinese restaurant on Christmas. Did I mention this event takes place in San Francisco?
In 1997, Henny Youngman, the King of One Liners, performed his last shows on the Kung Pao stage before passing away two months later at the ripe age of 91. I don't think it was cause and effect. We haven't killed anyone else yet. Not bad, eh?
Well, I gotta go now. The bison are calling me.
Lisa Geduldig is the creator, producer, and MC of Kung Pao Kosher Comedy. Go to KosherComedy.com to find about The 21st Annual shows, Dec 24-Dec 26 in San Francisco.
What do you think, is Christmas the best time of the year for Jews or the worst? We'll be discussing all things Jewish Christmas at 1:30pm EST on Christmas eve. Click here now to share your thoughts and let us know if you'd like to be a live on-air guest.