Can comedy bring peace to Israel? Can it bring about social change? Only time will tell, but efforts are underway to apply the universal qualities of humor and laughter to address some of the serious issues that arise in Israeli society.
Last December a unique conference was held in Jerusalem. The attendees weren't diplomats or academics. They were largely comedy writers, stand-up comics, and participants in the world of humor.
As Esther Kustanowitz, the conference's social media manager summarized,
The brainchild of comedy writer and exporter of Israeli TV formats Omri Marcus, the conference brought to Israel people who had never been there before, to experience different styles of comedy, examine how comedy informs the social and political perspectives, and to participate in an international writers room.
As the social media manager for the conference, I watched the tweets fly fast and furious throughout the day, documenting the unique proceedings as they transpired. The mayor of Jerusalem was interviewed by a foul mouthed puppet (think Avenue Q, but ruder).
Participants were treated to an inside scoop of from the writers of the German, American, and Israeli versions of the hit show, “The Office.” Two Canadian comedians talked about their Yiddish-language comedy series, YidLife Crisis. The head of television programs for the BBC spoke about his network, Israel in the news, and the changing face of anti-Semitism in Europe. Session panelists talked about pushing the envelope, the process of producing video, and how social change messages can be embedded in comedic contexts.We're waiting to hear if there will be a follow-on to the conference in the coming year. If there is, we'd like to be a part of it.
In the meantime, here is a reporter's eye view of the happenings at last year's conference.
(A SPECIAL NOTE FOR NEW EMAIL SUBSCRIBERS: THE VIDEO MAY NOT BE VIEWABLE DIRECTLY FROM THE EMAIL THAT YOU GET EACH DAY ON SOME COMPUTERS AND TABLETS. YOU MUST CLICK ON THE TITLE AT THE TOP OF THE EMAIL TO REACH THE JEWISH HUMOR CENTRAL WEBSITE, FROM WHICH YOU CLICK ON THE PLAY BUTTON IN THE VIDEO IMAGE TO START THE VIDEO.)