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page 45 august 26, 2013
other comedians, such as Lynne Cohen and Dan Ciggy (Cigelnik), play to the diversity of their crowds by avoiding overtly Jewish material. There are anti-Semites in the world and there are anti-Semites in comedy clubs There are people that are still going to think, Hey, it doesnt matter how funny he is. Look at this Jew tell a joke, said Ciggy, 28. As a professional comedian, he does sets at least five times per week and often tours to Toronto and Montreal, his hometown, though hes called Ottawa home for the past decade. Instead, he opts for racy material, which he said all comes down to delivery. The material is [only] half the battle, Ciggy said. I say outrageous things, but in a silly, lovable way. For Cohen, an Orthodox Jew, religion is more about guiding her comedic values: she steers clear of sex and bathroom humour. On the agenda, however, is poking fun at IKEA, global warming, wheelchairs, marriage and marijuana smokers. I dont know what the line is, she said. I try hard not to swear, but sometimes swearing is just so perfect. Cohen, 56, a lawyer and freelance journalist, has been performing at Yuk Yuks amateur night once every two months since January 2009. Her goal, she said, is to get paid, even $50, just to say she went pro. I used to be a more serious person It didnt really dawn on me until I married my second husband that most of life was really very funny, she said, mentioning that it was a short while after she became more religious that I realized comedy was the way to go. Though hes only 17, Itzy Kamil has been making people laugh for quite some time. In 2010, he won the Cappie award for best comic actor for his role in the Ottawa Jewish Community Schools production of The Last Night of Ballyhoo. For the past year, Kamil has been giving his own material a whirl during open mike nights at comedy clubs like Yuk Yuks and Absolute Comedy and other local pubs (when hes allowed in). I dont remember my first 10 times on stage because I was just so nervous, he said. But, after a while, you get used to it, noting hes getting bigger laughs as time goes on. I have been cursed with being the most generic: I am a white Jew who complains. Thats like 40 per cent of comedians But you can find your own style, he said, adding, with a smile: I guess thats just part of the journey. You never know. Maybe Ill be a prop comedian like Carrot Top. While being young is a theme in his act, Kamil insists that its not his shtick. I want to make jokes that, if I told them 20 years from now, theyd still be funny, not just cause Im 17, he said. The recent Ottawa Jewish Community School grad, who works nights at Rideau Bakery, said he hopes to go from sixminute amateur sets, which he performs once or twice per month, to paid 15-minute feature sets in the coming year. As far as the rest of his future goes, hes less certain. Im very bad with decisionmaking, so Ill probably be homeless in five years I dont really see myself anywhere. [Just] having a good time, a dog, he joked. I dont know if I want to be famous I just want to be a comedian. I guess I want to be
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ottawa jewish

August 26, 2013 Page 45

Section Two

Locals going for laughs at Ottawas comedy clubs


By Ilana Belfer Rabbi David Rotenberg admits comedy clubs are not necessarily the most kosher of places. Yet, thats where youll often find him kippah, tzitzit and all. And hes not alone. At least three other Jewish community members are making rounds of the local stand-up circuit. When I get up on the stage it takes people a moment to get used to it, said Rabbi Rotenberg, 30, whos been doing stand-up on and off for 15 years. In comedy circles, hes considered a semiprofessional. In other words, he gets booked for paid gigs, but is primarily a teacher (and a dad). One time, a woman was so excited she yelled out, Yay Jews! Its like, oh, thats fantastic. Not only do we have anti-Semites to deal with, but also overzealous cheerleaders. Another time, people started shouting Mazel tov! throughout the show. For the most part, though, people are accepting, he said. If I just went on stage looking like a religious guy and I didnt say anything about it it would be kind of weird, said Rabbi Rotenberg. But I deal with it right away, and thats sort of the persona I have on stage. For instance, he wrote an entire bit about the time a salesperson wished him a Happy Heineken during the holiday season. I take it to the most absurd conclusion, he said. Its about not letting [misconceptions about Judaism] slide and going really sarcastic with it. Thats more or less my style. He also doesnt use profanity or discuss anything that is too offcolour. I like to think of myself as edgy for a rabbi, but clean for a comedian. Without the visible need to confront their Jewishness head on,
Rabbi David Rotenberg is edgy for a rabbi, but clean for a comedian.

Lynne Cohens goal is to get paid as a comedian.

Dan Ciggy avoids overtly Jewish material