There were these two rabbis...


"Have we got any Jews in?" asked compere Andrea Hubert.

Of course we had. On stage and in the audience. A few dozen of us, all there to laugh - and groan - at the potential Jewish Comedian of the Year in a small, spot-lit studio in the heart of JW3.

Or at least we were putting a few through to the next round as 11 of them joked their way through a two-hour gig for a chance at Saturday's final.

And nothing was taboo. There were tales of biblical bistros, Nazis, grannies and the perils of ice-skating.

"Really, Jewish comedian of the year should be subtitled who can best remember their barmitzvah speech," quipped Ben Van der Velde, 27.

"My family background is from Poland, Germany, Holland and Turkey so my genetic code looks like a horrifying World Cup group, or a terrifying Eurovision semi."

And there was the visual stuff. Candy Gigi, an Edinburgh Fringe favourite, brushed her teeth with a toilet brush while yelling "I'm on J-Date!"

Journalist Sarah Sheldon raised a laugh when she announced: "My nana's ideal job for her grandchildren was newsreader, so she could check
we weren't dead
every day."

The competition was one of several events organised as part of the UK's first ever week-long Jewish comedy festival. Co-producer Gareth Berliner said: "The humour isn't a million miles away from other cultural minorities like Indian families, or Italian families with the mother, but there are some things that are only funny to a Jew."

Comedian Steve Jameson, known for his alter ego Sol Bernstein, judged the contest along with JW3 director Raymond Simonson and arts director Prem Mistry. "Jews are naturally funny. Sit in a roomful of Jews and you are going to laugh. Go to a shiva and you're still going to laugh," he said.

Joshua Ross, 28, one of those who made it through to the final, was voted New Comedian of the Year at Leicester Square Theatre in November. He said: "Jews and comedy go well together. In my family there is a tradition of using comedy as a crutch."

The six voted through were: Sarah Sheldon, Danny Hurst, Ben Van der Velde, Joshua Ross, Joe Jacobs and Candy Gigi. Andrew Brown, 35, who didn't make it, said: "It was still a good excuse to write some Jewish jokes."

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