With yuks you get egg roll

With a title that suggests an ill-advised mixture of matzoh balls and mu shu chicken, producer and host Lisa Geduldig opens her 15th annual Kung Pao Kosher Comedy this week.

The cross-cultural confab sets Jewish humor in a Chinese restaurant at the height of the Christmas season. Political humorist Scott Blakeman and Korean-Jewish comic Esther Paik Goodhart will share the stage for eight performances with actor-comedian Shelley Berman.

For Berman, it is something of a homecoming. He was one of a legendary mix of performers — including Lenny Bruce, Joan Rivers, Maya Angelou and a twenty-something Barbra Streisand — who made the hungry i in North Beach one of the nation’s top nightclubs in the 1950s and ’60s.

“That’s where things really got hot for me in my career,” he says. “It was a springboard for all of us and I’d be happy to still be working there. It was the happiest time of my life, personally and professionally. They’d let you try anything there.”

Colleague Mort Sahl persuaded a reluctant Berman to try branching out into recording.

“One weekend at the i, they came in and taped my entire act,” he says. “I thought maybe [the album] would have my picture on the front and it would be advertising for me and that would be it.”

It was so much more. “Inside Shelley Berman” was the first non-music Grammy award winner and paved the way for several more successful albums, all of which are still in print on CD.

“It made a career for me,” Berman says.

It was actually a second career. Berman trained as an actor at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre in the ’40s. He made his first television appearance 50 years ago on “The Steve Allen Show” and has been a regular on the big and small screens ever since, most recently with recurring roles as senile, crotchety Judge Sanders on “Boston Legal” and as Larry David’s father on “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”

Though he eschews legendary status, Berman has lived quite a stretch of the modern comedy timeline. He holds no torch for “the good old days” but he is suspicious of the four-letter fodder that fuels a lot of today’s comedy argot.

“If it comes from a need, from a truth, then fine,” he says. “Otherwise, why? I don’t think there’s anything you can’t joke about. What matters is how you make the joke.”

IF YOU GO

Kung Pao Kosher Comedy

Where: New Asia Restaurant, 777 Pacific Ave., San Francisco

When:6 and 9:30 p.m. Dec. 22 and 24; 5 and 8:30 p.m. Dec. 23 and 25

Tickets: $40 to $60

Contact: (925) 275-9005; www.koshercomedy.com

artsentertainmentOther Arts

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

Recology executives have acknowledged overcharging city ratepayers. (Mira Laing/2017 Special to S.F. Examiner)
Recology to repay customers $95M in overcharged garbage fees, city attorney says

San Francisco’s waste management company, Recology, has agreed to repay its customers… Continue reading

A construction worker watches a load for a crane operator at the site of the future Chinatown Muni station for the Central Subway on Tuesday, March 3, 2021. (Sebastian Miño-Bucheli / Special to the S.F. Examiner)
Major construction on Central Subway to end by March 31

SFMTA board approves renegotiated contract with new deadline, more contractor payments

(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Settlement clears path for all youth, high school sports to resume in California

John Maffei The San Diego Union-Tribune All youth and high school sports… Continue reading

State to reserve 40 percent of COVID-19 vaccines for hard-hit areas

By Eli Walsh Bay City News Foundation State officials said Thursday that… Continue reading

Neighbors and environmental advocates have found the Ferris wheel in Golden Gate Park noisy and inappropriate for its natural setting. <ins>(</ins>
Golden Gate Park wheel wins extension, but for how long?

Supervisors move to limit contract under City Charter provision requiring two-thirds approval

Most Read