Some of the funniest things are the ones inexplicably woven into the events of everyday life or the ones plastered into our upbringing and heritage. Joel Chasnoff, an up-and-coming comedian, knows this first hand. Drawing from his Jewish heritage and its resulting experiences, Chasnoff presents a show that embraces his cultural identity as well as crosses cultural lines, all while proving there is humor to be found in reality and in seemingly mundane experiences.
Considered to be one of today’s most promising young comedians, Chasnoff has been involved in well-known comedic endeavors around the world including the Montreal Comedy Festival and a USO comedy tour of Korea and Japan. He has presented his act at colleges and clubs across the country, and has also opened for seasoned comedians like Gilbert Gottfried and Jon Stewart on tour. In addition, Chasnoff recently made his first television appearance on the Israeli talk show “Kol Laila Eem Assaf Harel,” a program modeled after “Late Night with Conan O’Brian.” This increasing exposure reinforces what members of the Jewish community have known for a while; Joel Chasnoff is “Jewish humor, redefined.”
With his interest in comedy starting in high school, Chasnoff, an Evanston, Illinois native, solidified his love of performing when holding the position of Director and Head Writer for America’s oldest all-male comedy troupe, the Mask and Wig Comedy Club, at the University of Pennsylvania. Involvement in this organization helped Chasnoff learn the basics of preparing for stand-up comedy and served as practice for writing and delivering material. Upon graduation from the University of Pennsylvania, Chasnoff served in a combat unit in the Israel Defense Forces. At the end of his tour, he performed stand-up comedy, in Hebrew, for soldiers at various Israeli bases, proving that a craft can be practiced and honed anywhere. The honing continued as Chasnoff traveled to over twenty countries in Southeast Asia, the Middle East, South America, and Europe, providing the comedian with invaluable experiences from which to draw humorous stories and anecdotes.
Chasnoff admits that the hardest part of stand-up is finding material to write about. As a comedian, he says that he tries to make a conscious effort to pay attention to the events of his own life and use those as foundation for his comedy. Because he draws so much from his personal experiences, it comes as no surprise that Chasnoff is a favorite in the Jewish world and is well covered by the Jewish press. Although much of his material is “experience-based Jewish humor,” Chasnoff is adamant about his comedy being accessible to all audiences. He has said that everyone can identify with being on the “outside,” and it is in this universal theme that most people, Jewish or not, can identify with the comedy presented.
Currently performing at colleges across the country, Chasnoff will be appearing in Madison tonight at 8:00 p.m. at the Comedy Club on State St. His appearance on campus is being sponsored by the Jewish Cultural Collective, a newly formed organization funded by the Associated Students of Madison. Operating with an all-student staff, the JCC works to bring Jewish cultural events to the campus community. These events include cinema, theatre, well-known speakers and the distribution of a magazine. In regard to spring semester events, the JCC hopes to hold an Israeli film festival and the Jewish Theatre Project as well as bring recognized speakers Jennifer Weiner, author of the book Good in Bed, and Dr. Drew Pinsky to campus. The majority of these events, including Chasnoff’s Valentine’s Day appearance are free of charge. As for Joel Chasnoff’s performance, tickets are available at Hillel, located at 611 Langdon St. Whether you are of Jewish background or not, the comedy, stage presence and honesty are sure to entertain.