Sydney Arts Guide shot a few questions across  to Robyn Reynolds (pictured) one  of the panelists on the Tragedy of Jewish Comedy forum which will take place Saturday week  at the Bondi Pavilion Theatre.

Q. The panel is called the Tragedy of Jewish Comedy, is this saying that jewish humour is still a response to a history of suffering? That’s a very old topic. What is the panel hoping to gain by hosting the discussion? Is it likely that there will be any new insights?

A, But our sense of humour has been passed down! I feel like we’re going to chat about intergenerational trauma and the rippling effects it’s still having today. And, we’ve got a good range of ages on the panel too. I think it’ll be really interesting to compare classic old school Jewish stand-up against Gen Z memes.

Q. Where are the headline Jewish acts like Jerry Lewis, Joan Rivers, Jerry Seinfeld and Woody Allen early in his career who could carry a big show?

A. The talent is here. The money isn’t. Once Australia starts sinking money and time into going out and watching stand-up like America and the U.K., there’ll be a bigger platform for home-grown comedy. To anyone reading this, please go and support the acts down at your local Fringe Festival – the tickets are ridiculously cheap, and I promise, you’ll discover hilarious comedians right on your doorstep.

Q. Are Jewish comedians only interested in Jewish issues, per se, or are they also interested in current discourses such as climate change?

A. I can’t speak for all Jewish comedians, but no, I don’t think you could even build a five minute comedy set just by talking about Jewish issues. Good comedians have to talk about everything!

Q. Has the woke movement killed satire and political incorrectness for Jewish comedians?

A. I mean first up, being woke is not a bad thing at all, “woke” just means that you’re “alert to racial prejudice and discrimination”. If anything, as a small Jewish lady comic, I feel much safer at gigs now, compared to when I first started. There’s a lot less tolerance for “jokes” that are actually just thinly veiled hate speech. There’s still roast battles, there’s still satire, and there’s definitely still dark material – but now the bar is set higher; you have to be really clever to make the audience laugh at something inappropriate and that’s categorically A Good Thing.

Q. Is there such a thing as a typical Jewish comedian these days?  Comedians like Woody Allen, Lenny Bruce, Don Rickles and the writer Philip Roth played up their Jewishness. Other comedians like Jack Benny, Milton Berle and Jerry Lewis avoided their Jewishness. How would you describe the situation now? Are any Jewish comedians afraid to declare their Jewishness?

A. Hmm I guess there’s not such a thing as a “typical Jewish comedian” at least in Australia. If I were in New York, maybe my answer would be different.

About being afraid to say I’m Jewish on stage: I can only speak for myself, but yeah there are some gigs, where I’ll do my whole set and not mention being Jewish. Not because I am afraid. I just sometimes get a vibe of the room and think, these people have never met a Jew and I can’t be bothered to be their first.

The full panel which should lead to some very stimulating discussions for the event is Robyn Reynolds, David Baddiel, Shoshana Gottlieb and Ben Ellwood.

David Baddiel
Ben Ellwood
Shoshana Gottlieb
  • David Baddiel: David Lionel Baddiel is an English comedian, presenter, screenwriter, and author. He is known for his work alongside Rob Newman in The Mary Whitehouse Experience and his comedy partnership with Frank Skinner. He has also written the children’s books The Parent AgencyThe Person ControllerAniMalcolmBirthday BoyHead Kid, and The Taylor TurboChaser. In November 2022 Baddiel fronted a Channel 4 documentary David Baddiel: Jews Don’t Count.
  • Robyn Reynolds: Our MC for the evening, Robyn is an award-nominated comedian and writer, originally from the UK. In 2022 she was nominated for Best Comedy at Sydney Fringe Festival, and shortlisted for the Emerging Writer Award (NIDA). A captivating performer, Reynolds has sold out shows at Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Sydney Comedy Festival, Wollongong Comedy Festival and Bondi Festival. “Reynolds is a gregarious raconteuse” – ArtsHub
  • Shoshana Gottlieb: Shoshana is a writer and Jewish educator based in Sydney. She is the creator of JewishMemesOnly on Instagram. She has spent the last three and a half years posting silly jokes on the internet and getting recognised for it on the streets of Jerusalem. Shoshana has an honours degree in Creative Writing from UTS, a certificate of Advanced Jewish Education from the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies. When not thinking of new ways to (lovingly) make fun of Judaism, she’s usually watching, reading about, and discussing romantic comedies.
  • Ben Ellwood: Ben Ellwood is a stand-up comedian, podcaster, TV writer and dog trainer. He is currently writing for Hard Quiz and The Project. Ellwood is a seasoned comedy writer and a beloved staple of the Sydney Comedy Scene. He forms one half of the production team behind Mic in Stand, one of Sydney’s favourite live comedy nights. For Ellwood, comedy is blood borne. His grandfather was a victim of the Jewish holocaust who claimed that laughter and comedy is what got him going through all the hardships.

The Tragedy of Jewish Comedy : A Panel Discussion is an event that is part of this year’s Sydney Jewish Writer’s Festival.

The Sydney Jewish Writers Festival (SJWF), powered by Shalom, celebrates the richness and diversity of contemporary Jewish writing from around the world.

From 23 August to 27 August, the Festival will host 22 live in-person events, and more than 25 Australian-based presenters, along with prominent international writers, will gather to discuss, dissect and explore this year’s Festival theme: Identity. All events will take place at the Bondi Pavilion.

Featured image : Robyn Reynolds