Israeli Comedian’s Routines Translate Well for Philly Crowd


What initially started as a two-month stay in the States for Alfi, one of Israel’s most popular comedians, his wife and four daughters wound up becoming a national tour.

All Guri Alfi wanted to do this summer was to take his wife and four daughters on a tour through the United States. But a funny thing happened on the way to his vacation.
What initially started as a two-month stay in the States for Alfi, one of Israel’s most popular comedians, his wife and four daughters wound up becoming a national tour, all right — but of the busman’s holiday variety. When the Israeli American Council in Los Angeles heard of his plans, he said, the organization jumped at the opportunity to sponsor a comedy tour, which continued to grow in size and scope as more people in the Israeli expat community and Israelophiles heard he was going to be in the country.
Alfi, 38, is perhaps best known for his satirical TV show, Gav HaUma, which translates to Back of the Nation. The show parodies American broadcasts like Face the Nation by cracking jokes on the latest current events in Israel.
Alfi made a stop in Philadelphia, performing for a crowd of 250 at Congregation Rodeph Shalom in a July 15 event hosted by PhillyIsrael in partnership with IAC. The Israeli House and the Consulate General of Israel in Philadelphia also supported the event.
Alfi, who has been performing stand-up since he was 17, said this tour is unusual for him because he’s performing in places like Jewish community centers and temples as opposed to his usual haunts. “As a stand-up artist, I’m performing in clubs and theaters, but this is like playing in their own backyard,” he said. Although he said he feels like he needs to be more proper in places of worship or community centers, he doesn’t let that hinder his performance.
“Instead of doing some Torah and important stuff, I did my material, which is less appropriate than the Torah — I find that funny,” he said.
Alfi said he has performed in the country before, in cities like Miami, New York and Los Angeles. This tour will take him across the continent — after his Philadelphia performance, he headed out to the West Coast and Canada.
He said the thing he enjoys the most is meeting all of the Israelis living in these cities, hearing their stories and learning what brought them to America. But no matter their current address, he feels a longing for the homeland emanating from his fans.
“Their yearning is so great that the minute I start talking about anything” related to the Jewish state, “they immediately just laugh,” he said.
Sharona Durry, PhillyIsrael executive director, said that while many Israeli-Americans go back to Israel during the summer months, Alfi’s show was designed to cater to those in the community who could not return to Israel this year. She added that this is the first time PhillyIsrael hosted a summer performance.
Malka Kantor, a new board member for PhillyIsrael, said Alfi’s performance was relatable across all age groups. The Tel Aviv native has been living in Philadelphia for 51 years, but Alfi’s anecdotes about some Israeli towns made her feel right at home.
While his TV show focuses mostly on politics, Alfi’s stand-up is more personal. He jokes about his life — or what he called his “40-year crisis” — his four daughters, his marriage and what it’s like to live in Israel.
Alfi said this is the best kind of stand-up. Because there is no fourth wall between him and the crowd, he must completely put himself out there.
“When the show starts, everything disappears,” Alfi said. “All that matters is this moment in time where everybody connects on this level of laughter and enjoyment.”
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