Try Guy Zach Kornfeld Reflects on Jewishness Ahead of Local Show

The Try Guys, with Zach Kornfeld at the bottom
The Try Guys, with Zach Kornfeld at the bottom (Photo by Andrew Eccles)

They’re four guys who try stuff. This fairly simple premise has led The Try Guys, former BuzzFeed video creators, to internet stardom.

Now after nearly 180 episodes and 6.1 million subscribers on their YouTube channel, the guys are coming here to finish their first-ever live show tour. They perform at The Met Philadelphia at 7:30 p.m. on July 28.

Ned Fulmer, Eugene Lee Yang, Keith Habersberger and Zach Kornfeld, who is Jewish, formed the comedy quartet at BuzzFeed in 2014. For their first episode, they tried on women’s underwear. For another video, one of their most popular, they attached electrodes to their stomachs to simulate the pain women feel during childbirth. Kornfeld said the goal is to explore and celebrate what it means to be human.

“We started by trying things outside of the normal man’s comfort zone, so anything from performing in drag to swimming with sharks to fighting UFC fighters to wearing heels for a day,” Kornfeld said. “Everything we’re doing, we’re trying to understand people’s passions and identities, and often times that involves some comedic and zany antics, but it’s all in a pursuit of understanding the people and world around us.”

Kornfeld spent much of his childhood in Scarsdale, New York, home to a large and active Jewish community. He described his Jewish upbringing as more cultural than religious, and he dropped out of Hebrew school at a young age. Regardless, Judaism has helped shape his morals, values and sense of humor, he said, and he’s explored his Jewish identity more as an adult.

About eight years ago, he visited Israel via Birthright. He said the trip gave him a newfound respect for and sense of connection to his ancestry. He felt similarly when he traveled across Europe, visiting the regions his family came from in Central Europe.

“When I was growing up, my Judaism was not remarkable,” Kornfeld said. “I was in a town surrounded by Jewish friends where I was just one of the other people. And as I’ve gotten out into the world … I discovered that it was something that made me unique, that instead of using it to be othered, I could use it to celebrate.”

The Try Guys on stage
The Try Guys on stage (Photo by J.D. Renes)

Much of what Kornfeld knows of his family history comes from stories passed down from his grandmother, who was born in Germany in the 1930s, he said. Some of those tales are briefly touched upon in The Try Guys’ first book, released in June, The Hidden Power of F***ing Up. Kornfeld’s extended family members have struggled to talk about their experiences during the Holocaust. One relative survived Auschwitz at a young age and only began speaking about it much later in life.

His maternal grandfather sent money to family members — cousins who he had only met once as a kid — to get them out of Europe and bring them to the United States. He personally financed the voyages for about a half-dozen who were fleeing certain death, and never mentioned it during his lifetime. Kornfeld’s mother learned of the deed only after his death.

To Kornfeld, being Jewish “transcends practice” and is “irrevocably woven into the DNA and fabric of my being.” It’s one of the things that makes Kornfeld feel special, the kind of uniqueness that The Try Guys attempt to celebrate in everybody.; 215-832-0751


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