Who Doesn’t Need A Good Laugh? TC Jewish Humor Festival Goes Virtual

Benji Lovitt, for better or worse, has gotten plenty used to performing in the middle of the night.

“I’ve been saying for months: if you’re going to work at 2:30 in the morning, let it be from your living room during a global pandemic,” he said.

Lovitt, a Texas native who has been living in Israel for the past 14 years, is headlining the annual Minnesota JCC Twin Cities Jewish Humor Festival, running from Jan. 28-31, which will be virtual. Lovitt will be opening the show live at 7 p.m. on the 28th – or 3 a.m. Friday from his Tel Aviv apartment. Jonathan Gershberg will host the opening night.

Lovitt has adjusted to performing for crowds via Zoom, but he said it has definitely been a process. “When I was first starting to do online shows, I set like three clocks. I woke up, showered, got dressed up, had coffee… I was nervous,” he said. “Now I set my clock for two in the morning, roll out of bed, am wide awake, and go back to bed!”

For the Zoom shows, Lovitt asks that a few people be unmuted at a time so that he can hear laughter from the audience. “If three people are laughing you feel like you’re killing it.”

Like Lovitt, Robyn Awend, the Minnesota JCC director of cultural arts, has also adjusted to a world of virtual programming.

“Our goal is to help people stay as connected as possible through shared experiences,” she said  “We continue to adapt and pivot so that our programming – some new and some favorites, continue to engage. And, while there is nothing like gathering in person, our virtual audiences have been overwhelming.”

Like the Twin Cities Jewish Film Festival in the fall, the Humor Festival will be fully virtual. It will still include the widely anticipated Queer Comedy Night – which is regularly sold out. Thanks to the event being virtual, there will be no limit to the number of people who can participate. This event features a line-up of nationally recognized comedians who have performed on stages all throughout the country.

The Night of Jewish Storytelling will feature local talent, sharing a wide array of personal stories that will inspire every facet of Jewish humor. It’s the second year of this particular event which was a huge success last year.

“The stories presented this year feature everything from Jewish mothers vs. Jewish mothers-in-law, chutzpah vs. attitude, introspective to hilarious,” said Awend. “During these unusual times, sharing local stories by members of our own community feels more poignant than ever.”

In addition, the Festival features a workshop specifically for Teens: Humor In Hard Times: Writing Satire With Anthony Sisler-Neuman

Opening night with Lovitt and the Teen Worksop will be live on Zoom; Queer Comedy Night and the Night of Jewish Storytelling are both recorded and available on-demand for the duration of the festival. The all-access ticket covers all events with the exception of the Teen Workshop.

“This year’s Humor Fest feels more important than ever,” said Awend. “This past year has proven that, creating space for laughter, healing, conversation and joy – whether in-person or virtually – is what keeps us all connected.” 

2021 Schedule


What War Zone? Standup Comedy from Israel

Thursday, January 28 • 7 p.m.

LIVE Virtual Event

Join host Jonathan Gershberg as he welcomes comedian Benji Lovitt, LIVE from Israel. Benji presents a hilarious picture of Israel by deconstructing cultural differences and the immigrant experience in Israel. Benji’s energy and enthusiasm will make you laugh out loud as he sheds light on Jewish holidays, cultural differences, and of course, humor during a global pandemic. Q & A to follow. Recommended for 18+

Jonathan Gershberg is a writer, comedian and producer based in Minneapolis, MN. In 2015, he created Minnesota Tonight, a local late-night comedy show filmed at Brave New Workshop.

Presented in partnership with Israel Center of the Minneapolis Jewish Federation

Thursday, January 28 – Sunday, January 31

Watch At Your Convenience

Queer Comedy Night

Featuring Dana Eagle with guests: Lisa Geduldig, Liz Stone & Geulah Finman

Virtual Event

Dana Eagle has been seen on NBC’s Last Comic Standing, The Late, Late Show, Comedy Central, and Comics Unleashed. She has taken several trips overseas to perform for the troops in Iraq. In 2017, Dana’s book How To Be Depressed: A Guide, hit the shelf and in 2018 it was released in four languages.

Lisa Geduldig is a San Francisco-based comedian and comedy producer. Her annual show Kung Loa Kosher Comedy (Jewish comedy on Christmas in a Chinese restaurant) has been a tradition in San Francisco since 1993. She currently produces Lockdown Comedy on Zoom.

Liz Stone is a co-producer of Live Comedy on Zoom and is a regular at the San Francisco Punchline, Cobbs Comedy Club, The Laugh Factory, Rooster T. Feathers, and Laughs Unlimited.

Geulah Finman is a tall, dark, and handsome queerdo. Her upbringing in a Hassidic-Jewish home lends to a refreshing, nuanced and hilarious (mis)conception of the world. She is native to Detroit and recently moved to San Francisco where she performs and produces shows across The Bay Area. She draws her audiences in with an exuberant and over jocular tone, cutting deep on issues like gender dynamics, religion, and income inequality.

Emcee: Coral Best is a Bay Area native who got her start in comedy talking about her invisible disability of having an ostomy bag, or what she likes to call her “gift bag from hell.” After recovering from her major medical crisis, she marched straight to a stage, found her calling in comedy, and has never looked back!

Recommended for 18+; Adult language and content

Presented in partnership with J-Pride a program of Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Minneapolis

A Night Of Jewish Storytelling

Virtual Event

Back by popular demand, this event features a star-studded cast of local talent, sharing a wide array of personal stories that will inspire every facet of Jewish humor. Join us for this event that will have you laughing, crying, and saying OY VEY GEVALT!

Featuring: Avi Aharoni, Galit Breen, Elise Cole, Suzanne Fenton, Jonathan Gershberg, Jessi Kingston, Anthony & Haley Sisler-Neuman, and Judy Victor.

Emcee: Kim Kivens is a nice Jewish girl who was born in New Jersey and raised in Minnesota, an actor seen on local professional stages and a voice-over talent heard on multimedia. Her favorite roles are wife to Joe and mother to Lily. Recommended for 18+

Sunday, January 31 at 2 p.m.

Humor In Hard Times: Writing Satire With Anthony Sisler-Neuman

LIVE Virtual Event • $5

Everyone needs a little humor to help us through the hard times. In this workshop, we will learn how to form a strong comedic point of view on topical news (2020 has PLENTY!) You will brainstorm, draft, and rewrite short pieces in the style of satire/parody (think Saturday Night Live or TikTok.) Since satire is the comedy of outrage, students will be asked to free write and work on pieces about topics that are meaningful to them.

Suggested age 12+

 For tickets, visit tcjhumorfest.Org.

Disclaimer: Tickets purchased in advance include a service fee

For more information, visit tcjhumorfest.org or contact Robyn Awend, Twin Cities Cultural Arts Director, at [email protected] or 952.381.3416. Presented in partnership with the Minneapolis Jewish Federation and the St. Paul Jewish Federation.

This article is part of TC Jewfolk’s Partnership program. For more information, check out our media kit.