Rabbi David Talks Funny to His Congregation
Review of David Klimnick’s New Show The Honest Rabbi: Rabbinically Approved Laughter at the Off the Wall Comedy Theater.
Rabbi David began by attacking the audience. Not something I am used to seeing in a comedy show. However, he turned myself and the audience around real quick.
Speaking to his congregants is what he does right. Convinced he is making the world a better place, he doesn't just want to make you laugh. Through a heartfelt comedic lens, he wants to bring you into his realm of Jewish living. A soulful dialogue about his love of religion and Israel and his desire to improve ourselves is the glue of Rabbi David’s new show.
His audience members become his congregation. What’s he sermonizing? Well, that might be questionable. Definitely laughter, love for Israel, and the Jewish people. This can be expressed by his fifteen-minute soliloquy about how Jews have to stop stealing his coat from the coatroom just because it also has lapels. He expressed his irritation, “I can’t wear a jacket to shul anymore. Every time I brought a coat, somebody took it.” I could have walked away happy just hearing him berate the eighty-year-old guy in the front about off tune singing in synagogue, “If you are singing a different song, you can’t call it harmony!”
Sitting in his audience were his congregants consisting of all religions. He even shows respect for anti-Semites, as “they do so much of a better job of getting Jews to move to Israel than the Jewish Agency.”
To quote Rabbi David, who felt a need to keep on preaching to me, “Vulnerability opens the door to your soul and makes you lovable. People are only willing to laugh once they love you.” Vulnerability is what allowed the crowd to bring David in. Once he was embraced, the belly laughs started. “Those laughs are the deeper connection. The soulful religious laughs.”
Looking back on what David said, the growing laughter had to do with the developing connection and love created. His lovable character shined when he recounted his childhood to his pupils, “Kosher means that you can’t have milk and meat together or friends.” The audience roared with laughter and David took it deeper, ending with his signature bit about Jews wearing a baseball cap to hide their Judaism. He then said that it doesn’t work, as his father is “walking around with a beard, a baseball hat and a suit.”
This moment of vulnerability opened Rabbi David up to a whole new deluge of audience rebuke. Though, unlike Noah, David had a microphone.
It was at this point that he knew he could take the audience to the next level rebuke. Kilimnick genuinely teased them and made it clear that he wasn’t going to get them any wedding gifts. His routine about registries had him scolding the new couple, “Mazel Tov. If you know what you want, buy it yourself.” He then went off on how much weight he has put on at Jewish celebrations, complaining about Israeli weddings, saying, “They expect you to give a gift equal to the amount you ate… I can’t afford that.” Rabbi David will not be invited to or officiating any weddings anytime soon.
He may not be a rabbi that suits everybody. Some people want a rabbi who gives over Jewish knowledge. I want my comedian to talk educate about Jewish life.
Hearing David talk about comedy is refreshing. It’s disturbingly sacred to him. His eyes squint and his words come from the gut. This is his art. This is his passion. Kilimnick’s honesty and raw emotion drew me in. And that’s how I became a congregant.
My Rabbi David reprimands all, including parents who don’t let their kids eat candy. He has no shame, as he claims that Jewish education is based on candy. And I quote, “It’s your choice. Do you want your kid to grow up to be an athlete with decent teeth, or a Torah scholar with diabetes!? It’s your choice.” Only my rabbi would say something like that. All other rabbis I have learned from said that health is a precept of the Torah. He cares.
As Rabbi David says, “Our rabbis teach that Torah is truth. In comedy, you can only get a laugh if it connects with people and resonates as true. When done right, comedy is a part of holy expression. That is what makes humor one of the necessary aspects of our religious experience.”
It's when people express who they truly are inside, that’s what makes the world a special holy place. That is the brand of Rabbi David. Honest and true. He may not know too much Torah, but he is honest. That is the kind of comic that speaks to the masses. The masses who want to improve the world. The masses who like to laugh and share a deeper connection with their tradition. The religiously curious that still love Gd’s miracle of funny.
I give this comedy sermon and unique show of tradition a fervent Five Stars.
Check out Rabbi David’s new show at Jerusalem’s Off The Wall Comedy Theater. David will also be performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this summer, and coming to preach funny at a community near you.