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Kung Pao Chuckling 

A San Francisco holiday institution for Jews and their alienated friends

Wednesday, Dec 24 2003
On this Christmas Eve and sixth day of Hanukkah, let's finally put to bed a long-standing Jewish stereotype and raise another. Contrary to the opinions of a few confused militia members, and wacko religious nuts, Jews control neither the world's finances nor the media (if we did, a lot fewer of us would be mercenary freelance writers who roll pennies to buy Muni passes, thank you). But we do rather proudly control American comedy. In fact, I capriciously estimate, we're a 3 percent minority that has comprised 80 percent of America's professional comedic workforce since the beginning of the 20th century. From vaudeville to the movies to TV, from the Marx Brothers to Lenny Bruce to Jerry Seinfeld, we own an impressive American legacy. Yes, like most insecure, problem-prone groups, we're funny. Combine that with our estrangement from Christmas hype and our bizarre knack for scoping out the best Chinese restaurants, and you've got the makings of a San Francisco holiday institution for Jews and our alienated friends.

Local Jewish lesbian comic Lisa Geduldig formulated the unlikely idea of Kung Pao Kosher Comedy in 1993 after being unwittingly booked to perform at a Chinese restaurant in Northampton, Mass. Since then, KPKC has grown from a four-show Christmas Eve and Day shelter for the holiday fatigued to an eight-show extravaganza. Alongside some of the best of the younger generation's top yuk-masters, featured performers have included late one-liner king Henny Youngman and Catskills vet Freddy Roman. Each evening offers an early seven-course non-kosher dinner show (complete with a Yiddish joke inside a fortune cookie) and a later nonalcoholic-cocktail-and-egg-roll show.

And what a show it is: Besides ever-sharp MC Geduldig, this year's talent roster features sought-after stand-up comic and writer Judy Gold, star of her own HBO special, At the Multiplex With Judy Gold; Bruce Smirnoff, who has opened for such musicians as Julio Iglesias and Kenny Loggins (we like him anyway) and held down a one-man show, Other Than My Health, I Have Nothing ... and Today I Don't Feel So Good; and Ed Crasnick, who won an Emmy writing for Win Ben Stein's Money. And as she's done in her mensch-y way from the beginning, Geduldig has found another couple of causes for the event to benefit (partial proceeds go to the Familial Dysautonomia Hope Foundation, helping those with a neurological disorder that disproportionately affects Jews, and the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgendered Family Assistance Project at Jewish Family and Children's Services).

Now, in case you're one of those schlemiels who've waited until today to score tickets to this shindig, do yourself a favor and get on it -- you've already missed out on the booked-solid dinner shows for Christmas Eve and Day. And that's the kind of poor planning that'll ensure we'll never control the world.

About The Author

Ron Nachmann


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