From left, Cathy Ladman, Gary Gulman, Wendy Liebman and Lisa Geduldig appear in the 25th annual Kung Pao Kosher Comedy. (Courtesy Kung Pao Kosher Comedy)

From left, Cathy Ladman, Gary Gulman, Wendy Liebman and Lisa Geduldig appear in the 25th annual Kung Pao Kosher Comedy. (Courtesy Kung Pao Kosher Comedy)

Catching up with Kung Pao Kosher Comedy’s Lisa Geduldig

Lisa Geduldig, standup comedian and founder of Kung Pao Kosher Comedy, took a few minutes during a recent Hanukkah celebration at her home to answer questions about the San Francisco institution of “Jewish comedy on Christmas in a Chinese restaurant” on its 25th anniversary.

So what’s the origin of Kung Pao?

In October 1993, I was booked to play Peking Garden Club in South Hadley, Mass; I just assumed it was a comedy club, and was surprised it was a Chinese restaurant. I liked the irony of doing Jewish jokes in a Chinese restaurant. Then I thought about Jews and Chinese restaurants on Christmas, and got the idea of booking Jewish comedians to play on Christmas — and couldn’t get it out of my head. I came back to San Francisco and starting calling restaurants.

Where and when was the first show?

On Christmas Eve 1993 at the Four Seas. It’s closed now — it’s Mr. Jiu’s.

Was it a success?

Four hundred people came and I had to turn 200 away. Then it kept getting bigger, I kept adding shows, before and after Christmas, too. It moved to Hunan Restaurant, and in 1997, to New Asia, where it is today.

What have been turning points?

In 1997, Henny Youngman appeared; he was 91 and had been performing for 70 years. I found his number in the book and called him on the phone; he was firing one-liners at me. And when I introduced him at the show, I got choked up, the only time that’s happened. He died of pneumonia two months later. Even though people accused me of killing Henny Youngman, the show was the last time his grandchildren saw him alive — performing onstage, the way he would have wanted it.

How has Kung Pao changed over the years?

The late show has gotten earlier, because I’ve gotten older. (I was 31 the first year; now I’m 55.) The audience has become more diverse, too, although it’s still mostly Jewish. There also used to be a vegetarian buffet table, but that stopped because we needed an armed guard because people who did not sign up for it were taking from it.

What hasn’t changed?

It’s a benefit. The first year, on the spot, we raised $500 for the late Tamar Kaufman, a journalist battling brain cancer. This year, partial proceeds will go to survivors of the North Bay fires and Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. Also, we’ll have fortune cookies with Yiddish proverbs (translated into English, such as “With one tuchus, you can’t dance at two weddings”). Every year, I email Kevin from the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory, he supplies 2,200 cookies. And some people have come all 25 years.

What can you say about 2017’s performers: Gary Gulman, Cathy Ladman and Wendy Liebman?

This is a “best of” event; they’ve all played Kung Pao before, some more than once. They’re all household names, they’re all very funny and smart; their humor’s clean. They’re friends and people I respect.

Who would be your dream lineup?

God, Jesus and Moses — and maybe Seinfeld can open for them.

Anything we haven’t talked about that’s important to mention?

Yes! Those who don’t have plans shouldn’t think twice about coming alone; they’ll meet new friends at their table. I created the event so people wouldn’t feel left out and like they don’t belong on Christmas; now we have this great tradition!

IF YOU GO
Kung Pao Kosher Comedy
With Cathy Ladman, Gary Gulman, Wendy Liebman, Lisa Geduldig
Where: New Asia Restaurant, 772 Pacific Ave., S.F.
When: 5 (dinner show) and 8:30 p.m. (cocktail show) Dec. 23-25
Tickets: $52 to $72
Contact: (925) 743-1282, www.koshercomedy.comCathy LadmanComedyGary GulmanHenny YoungmanKung Pao Kosher ComedyLisa GeduldigNew AsiaWendy Liebman

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Advocates with the San Francisco Public Bank Coalition hold a rally outside City Hall before the Board of Supervisors were to vote on a resolution supporting the creation of a public banking charter on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Should San Francisco run its own public bank? The debate returns

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, momentum was building for San Francisco to… Continue reading

Apprenticeship instructor Mike Miller, center, demonstrates how to set up a theodolite, a hyper-sensitive angle measuring device, for apprentices Daniel Rivas, left, Ivan Aguilar, right, and Quetzalcoatl Orta, far right, at the Ironworkers Local Union 377 training center in Benicia on June 10, 2021. (Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters)
California’s affordable housing crisis: Are labor union requirements in the way?

By Manuela Tobias CalMatters California lawmakers introduced several bills this year that… Continue reading

People fish at a dock at Islais Creek Park on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
What Islais Creek tells us about rising sea levels in San Francisco

Islais Creek is an unassuming waterway along San Francisco’s eastern industrial shoreline,… Continue reading

Organizer Jas Florentino, left, explains the figures which represent 350 kidnapped Africans first sold as slaves in the United States in 1619 in sculptor Dana King’s “Monumental Reckoning.” The installation is in the space of the former Francis Scott Key monument in Golden Gate Park. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
What a reparations program would look like in The City

‘If there’s any place we can do it, it’s San Francisco’

Officer Joel Babbs, pictured at a protest outside the Hall of Justice in 2017, is representing himself in an unusually public police misconduct matter. <ins>(Courtesy Bay City News)</ins>
The strange and troubling story of Joel Babbs: What it tells us about the SFPD

The bizarre and troubling career of a whistle-blowing San Francisco police officer… Continue reading

Most Read