He is opinionated, occasionally obnoxious, foul-mouthed and thinks the Mona Lisa looks like Dana International, yet Pini Ben Tovim is hoping to be the latest Israeli screen character to charm British audiences.
“Pini” is the alter-ego of Tomer Barzide, the writer and star of Pini, a web comedy series following the misadventures of an Israeli cook, his Welsh flatmate Tom Jones and Tom’s attractive and worldly French cousin, Carla.
With a third series already filmed, Mr Barzide is hoping that a screening of some of the ten-minute episodes organised by UK Jewish Film on Thursday (June 7) will encourage British viewers to tune in.
Pini has been a runaway success in Israel, attracting around a quarter of a million hits every episode. Each instalment deals with a different aspect of the contrast between Pini, who left the IDF hoping to become the next Gordon Ramsay-style celebrity chef, and his European friends.
The culture clash — over hummus and Bamba, the difference between Wales and England, and British reticence compared with Israeli familiarity — is explored with comic aplomb as Pini navigates life in a dingy London flat and work at a greasy spoon café.
The idea for Pini came from Mr Bazide’s own experiences as an Israeli abroad after the army, first in Australia and then studying film in London, where he met Mr Jones.
“I was living with roommates from a different culture,” said the 28-year-old, who now divides his time between London and Israel. “It wasn’t my first time abroad but it was the first time that I had tackled situations that normally you don’t as a tourist.”
Tasked with making videos for film school, he developed the first two episodes of Pini. The series was picked up and screened by Israeli news site Ynet.
Mr Barzide said: “London is a great place to write about because you don’t only have the culture clash between Israelis and Londoners, you have it between Londoners and everyone.”
Although his inspiration is his own life, Mr Barzide said the character was based on “a good friend” and nothing like him. “Pini is the Israeli stereotype,” he said. “Everything he does, even if it comes across as sometimes rude or impolite, it’s always because he’s right Some Brits say that it’s spot on about Israelis, others say that it changed their perception of Israelis because he is totally different. But people do say that they wish Pini was their friend.”
Mr Jones said filming Pini had been an education about Israeli culture. “I’d never really met an Israeli before Tomer, although groups of Israelis are notorious on the travelling trail,” said Mr Jones, who has now visited Israel twice. “Pini is a window on to the life of an ordinary Israeli in an exaggerated way. There are so many in-jokes that used to go straight over my head.”
Pini may now make it on to British television. Viewers beware...