Didja hear the one about the Jewish jokes benefit

You want funny? Take Italy; that's funny. But don't take my word for it; take Bunny's word for it.

"So recently I was in Italy for a vacation, and then it hit me," said the 75-year-old during a phone interview from his St. Helena home. "The difference between Italian mothers and Jewish mothers is that Italian mothers tell their kids, 'Eat this or I'll kill you!' and Jewish mothers tell their kids, 'Eat this or I kill myself!'"

You hear that sound, pal? That bud-ump-bump? That's the sound of a drum roll. And that sis-boom-bah? That's a cymbal. Those are sounds that mean Bunny Goldstein is funny. But don't take my word for it; take Al Steen's word for it.

Yeah, that's right, the former child music prodigy who began working in two-bit bands when he was 14 years old and helped put himself through medical school that way.

What's that you say? You in the front row, with the multicolored payes and the Reformodox button? You're asking if this is the same Al Steen who used to run in the same circles as the band called Lawrence Welk and his Hawaiian Juicy Fruit Orchestra? The same Al Steen who later co-owned the Whitehall Lane Winery in Napa Valley, home to some of the best merlots around?

Yeah, pal, that Al Steen, the same one who will be performing with his buddy Bunny Goldstein in "Jewish Jokes Go Hawaiian," a benefit on Saturday, Feb. 9 for Napa Valley's independent Congregation Beth Sholom. But what do I look like, Al Steen's press agent? I'll just let the man speak for himself.

"So there's this Jewish guy, and he's thinking about buying some real estate in Afghanistan," said Steen, 73, from his Napa home. "And his friend says, 'What, are you crazy? A Jewish guy buying real estate in Afghanistan — who ever heard of such a thing?'

"So the guy turns to his friend and says, 'What, you never heard that the "Tallis ban" is over?'"

Yeah, pal, this guy Steen's got some chops, just like his buddy. But just because they both like to drop a well-turned line doesn't mean that they are out to upstage each other.

"Bunny has really mastered the art of 'building the boff,'" said Steen. "He's kind of like Jackie Mason, in that he takes a concept and just keeps on adding to the intensity until he hits you with the clinker."

"Al's not only a stand-up guy, but he really knows how to put an audience at ease and then surprise them a few good zingers," retorts Goldstein."

We got a heckler in the crowd? A wise guy, maybe? You there with the Groucho Marx mask (not very funny by the way). You say you think you're even funnier than Goldstein and Steen? You think you got what it takes to make the yentas yuk? Well then by all means, step right up to the mike come Feb. 9. It all goes to a good cause, and there will be plenty of good salmon (courtesy of Steen's brother, Art), some very serious wines and a plenty of loud Hawaiian shirts.

"Everyone's gotta' bring a joke as part of their admission," said a semi-serious Steen. But that shouldn't be a problem, according to Goldstein.

"You'd be surprised how many hams there are in a Jewish audience," he quips.


"Jewish Jokes Go Hawaiian," a dinner event, takes place at Congregation Beth Sholom, 1455 Elm St., Napa at 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 9. Members $50, non-members $60. Information: (707) 253-7305.