Most comics get their start in the comedy clubs of New York or Los Angeles. Alex Edelman took the kosher route. He broke into stand-up playing the clubs of Jerusalem.
It was during a year studying at a Jerusalem yeshiva that Edelman, 27, discovered he had a flair for punch lines.
The Jewish comedian should fit right in when he co-headlines Kung Pao Kosher Comedy, which for 24 years has presented in the Bay Area the perfect blend of Jewish humor, Chinese food and Christmas.
The event takes place Dec. 23-25 at a San Francisco Chinatown restaurant. Sharing the bill will be headliner Elayne Boosler, Eddie Safarty and hostess/Kung Pao founder Lisa Geduldig.
Though this year marks Edelman’s first Kung Pao appearance, he has done the Jews-comedy-and-Chinese-food shtick before.
“It’s the easiest and most relaxing thing,” he says of performing for predominantly Jewish audiences. “I feel truly at home in front of people who like a joke about Sukkot.”
He likely has a few Hanukkah zingers ready for Kung Pao, which this year coincides with the Festival of Lights. Jewish humor is a staple for the baby-faced comedian. Wherever he plays, Edelman tells stories about his Orthodox upbringing (“I’ve done MDMA but I’ve never tried bacon,” he jokes).
Edelman goes on flights of fancy about everything from sword swallowing to Koko the Gorilla. He also recounts tales from his youth, including a three-week stint working at a KFC, which he says is the longest anyone has lasted as an employee there (“I have a pension”).
Born and raised in the Boston suburb of Brookline, Massachusetts, Edelman grew up with “very smart parents and a very strong family.” He attended Jewish day schools and later majored in English literature at NYU.
He also admired comedians such as Steve Martin and Garry Shandling. After a lifetime of cultivating a sharp sense of humor, he took the stage at a Jerusalem nightclub.
Once back in the States, he began working the clubs in New York, and though he acknowledges he wasn’t great at first, he is grateful to the “clubs and comedians who were really patient with me. It was a chance to be independent and try out new things.”
Among them, travel. Edelman is a very well traveled comedian, having performed not just across the United States, but England, Scotland, Canada, Sweden and Australia as well. He won the Edinburgh Comedy Award for Best Newcomer in 2014 at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and has opened for Eddy Izzard in Berlin and Moscow.
“Comedy comes from being an outsider in interesting settings,” he observes. “Travel lends itself to that.”
The former English lit major considers himself a writing comedian, and to that end he has written pieces for Britain’s Guardian newspaper and the Atlantic.
Edelman also has turned that flair for writing into a staff position in Hollywood. He is currently a writer on the new CBS comedy “The Great Indoors,” an experience he loves so far.
“It’s the greatest job,” he says, “and such a fun experience. Everything is new and exciting. The people there are truly funny and patient with me.”
For Kung Pao Kosher Comedy he’ll be back on familiar territory: the comedy stage. And not just any stage. On this one he can let his inner shpilkes fly.
“I’m a Jew,” he says. “That’s a mailing list I cannot unsubscribe from.”
Kung Pao Kosher Comedy, Dec. 23-25 at the New Asia Restaurant, 772 Pacific Ave., S.F. Dinner and cocktail shows nightly. www.koshercomedy.com