Jewish Humor Festival Featuring Mix Of National, Local Talent

Despite transitioning to a new role, at the Sabes JCC, Twin Cities Jewish Humor Festival founder Claire Avitabile couldn’t pass up a chance to help Twin Cities Jewish Cultural Arts Director Robyn Awend create the lineup for the Festival’s 10 anniversary.

“Robyn and I have worked together over a decade, and we wanted the 10th anniversary to be successful,” Avitabile said. “We’re also celebrating all the new performing arts space in St. Paul, and it’s the first time the opening has been in St. Paul. As we bridge this new era with one CEO, we felt great about having two ticketed events at Sabes and two at St. Paul.”

A partnership of the Sabes JCC and the St. Paul JCC, this year’s festival will feature stand-up comedy, a family-friendly workshop and gallery exhibition.

“It’s been so exciting to bring humor to the Twin Cities every year for 10 years!” said Awend. “There is nothing better than a good hearty laugh in the middle of a Minnesota winter and we know this year’s Fest will do just that.”

This year features both local and national talent – including NPR’s Ask Me Another host Ophira Eisenberg with Elise Cole, an evening with Simpsons showrunner and writer Mike Reiss, Scott Blakeman with guest Mike Vogel,  Julie Goldman and Riley Silverman, a superhero self-portrait workshop, plus art exhibitions featuring a variety of works by dynamic duo Frank & Pamela Gaard.

“Scott Blakeman has wanted to be part for years but I never found a place for him,” Avitabile said. “It’s always tricky with politics, but I think he’ll be great”


Saturday, January 19 at 7:30 p.m. 

Comedian Ophira Eisenberg with special guest Elise Cole 

Location: St. Paul JCC

A comedian, writer, and host of NPR’s Ask Me Another, Eisenberg has appeared on HBO’s Girls, Gotham Live, The Late Late Show, The Today Show, The Nightly Show, Comedy Central and VH-1. Selected as one of New York Magazine’s “Top 10 Comics that Funny People Find Funny”, and featured in the New York Times as a skilled comedian and storyteller with a “bleakly stylish” sense of humor, Eisenberg’s debut memoir, Screw Everyone: Sleeping My Way to Monogamy was optioned for a feature film with Zucker Productions. She is also a regular host and storyteller with The Moth, her stories being part of their award winning radio show, podcast and NYT best-selling book. Her comedy special Inside Joke was released by New Wave Entertainment and available on Amazon and iTunes.

Elise Cole is an Iranian-Jewish comedian from Minnesota, and 2018 co-producer of the Minneapolis based show, People of ComedyRecommended for 18+. 

$18 Advance; $20 Same Day  (Limited tickets remaining).

Ticket includes pre-show candy and popcorn bar in the JCC lobby at 6:30 p.m.

Monday, January 21 at 7:30 pm 

“The Simpsons & Other Jewish Families”

An Evening With Mike Reiss 

Location: St. Paul JCC

Reiss has won four Emmys and a Peabody Award during his 28 years writing for The Simpsons. He ran the show in Season 4, which Entertainment Weekly called “the greatest season of the greatest show in history.” In 2006, Reiss received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Animation Writers Caucus. Reiss has written 19 children’s books, as well as Springfield Confidential, a best-selling memoir of his three decades at The Simpsons.

Reiss has written jokes for such comedy legends as Johnny Carson, Joan Rivers, Garry Shandling… and Pope Francis! For his comedic contributions to the charitable group Joke with the Pope, in 2015 Pope Francis declared Reiss “A Missionary of Joy”. Recommended for 12+. 

$12 Advance; $15 Same Day 

Thursday, January 24 at 7:30 pm

Comedian Scott Blakeman with special guest Mike Vogel

Location: Sabes JCC

A nice Jewish boy from Brooklyn, Blakeman has performed his contemporary Jewish comedy around the world, including the Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal, the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland, as well as many colleges, theaters, clubs, Temples and JCCs. Scott has performed three times at San Francisco’s renowned Kung Pao Kosher Comedy, is an original member of the New York political comedy show, Laughing Liberally, and was the resident comedian on MSNBC’s live coverage of the White House Correspondents Dinner five times.

Twin Cities comedian, licensed attorney and father of three, Vogel returns to our Humor Fest for the 3rd time. He started doing comedy in 2008, while in law school, and never wanted to stop, even while he was studying for the Bar Exam! Recommended for 16+.

 $12 Advance; $15 Same Day

Saturday, January 26 at 7:30 p.m.


Hosted by Jayce Koester of JPRIDE

Location: Sabes JCC

Back by popular demand after selling out in the 2011 Jewish Humor Fest – Julie Goldman’s stand-up is delightfully in-your-face, honest and aggressively funny. Featured on HBO and headlining throughout the US at clubs, colleges, festivals and events, she’s been described as “unapologetically un-PC “ by Go Magazine, and “a hilariously irreverent, butch lesbian” by AfterEllen. Julie has been seen on everything from Bravo’s The People’s Couch, co-hosting the Vanderpump Rules After Show, and on LOGO’s Big Gay Sketch Show. You can enjoy a little Julie with your politics on the hit podcast Dumb Gay Politics with Julie & Brandy.

Highlighted by VICE for her “wry observational comedy, radical openness and casually inviting demeanor,” Riley Silverman has been seen on Take My Wife, Comedy Central’s Not Safe with Nikki Glaser, and multiple appearances headlining Portland Queer Comedy Festival and the All Jane Comedy Festival. Her debut comedy album, Intimate Apparel, was a No. 1 best seller. Riley was listed as one of “100 Queer Women We Love” by GO Magazine, and “10 Women Comedians Who Smash the Patriarchy” by The Culture TripRecommended for 18+.

$18 Advance; $20 Same Day

Ticket includes pre-show celebration with food & drink in the JCC lobby at 6:30 p.m.

Sponsored in part by JPRIDE


ARTrageous Comic Superhero Self-Portrait

Sunday, January 27 • 1 – 3 pm

Location: Sabes JCC & St. Paul JCC

In this workshop, family members can come up with their own Superhero persona, including “funny” superhero traits, and design their own mask, emblem and wrist cuffs. We will take photos of each pARTicipant on-site so they can draw their own portrait to display next to their photo. Each pARTicipant will also make up their Superhero Comic to complete the project!

Recommended for children 5 & older, but all are welcome. Children 12 & under must be accompanied by an adult. 

$5 Per Person (includes supplies); Children 4 and under are free. 

Register at

Art Exhibition

January 3 – 27 

Location: Sabes JCC & St. Paul JCC

Artists Reception: January 27 from 3-5 p.m. at Sabes JCC

This exhibit features a wide variety of works by dynamic duo Frank & Pamela Gaard. Their vibrant paintings explore humor in both subtle and obvious ways through portraits, figures and everyday life. Franks pictures are cartoon-like depictions of life, usually in fluorescent colors. Pamela’s abstract and language-based works explore time, memory and healing, and are meditations on everyday life — mnemonic “prayers” of emotion, experience and events often quite private in nature.

Free and open to the public.

Festival events will take place at the St. Paul and Sabes JCCs. Tickets range from $12-$18. For tickets, visit or call  1-800-838-3006.