A sold-out crowd of Jews “in the know” were thrilled to pay for laughs with internationally acclaimed comedian MODI at the Variety Playhouse on a cold Thursday night, Dec. 14, for his first Atlanta appearance.
A cross section of ages and theologies, most of whom had seen some of MODI’s schticks on social media, agreed with the entertainer that in view of today’s darker times, 90 minutes of back-to-back laughs were well deserved and well executed. The “thing” about MODI is he’s edgy, current, and correct in his observations, but he doesn’t cross over into vulgarity and foul language. Good comedians, often truth tellers, don’t necessarily need to.
Those of us who are fans know what topics to expect and were delighted to hear them, some repeated with new twists. The professionalism about MODI is that he doesn’t stop for a breath and truly gives his all into performing … loud and clear, with the right emphasis on the right words. And he can really sing the brochas and a rousing “Hatikvah” which closed the show.
Fan Rabbi Joshua Heller came to see MODI’s comparison of Sephardic to Ashkenazi Jews, the former of which is much more verbal and expressive. MODI compared a Sephardic hamotzi to a subdued Ashkenazi one, where the Sephardi drags out each word … pointing to the challah repeatedly back and forth to his wife, who kneaded it, and yelling L’chaim at every breath.
Israeli-born MODI joked about the way Sephardi name newborns after living adults vs. Ashkenazi who might select a tragically dead relative, “Who would do that to a child? You’re named after a cousin who died at 9 of diphtheria… if you’re going to pick a name, go with someone like Hugh Hefner, who lived a playboy life until the end.”
MODI’s favorite word, goyim, is well, an underlying theme, as he referred to a group of fans who were not Jewish and felt compelled to explain our often-unexplainable customs. He offered, “How do you explain shiva (mourning after funeral) to someone? Ask, oooooh how did they die? Who was the doctor, feigning concern.”
One of the most uproarious explanations (and also famed pianist Joe Alterman’s favorite bit) was MODI’s explanation of a Shabbas elevator which is preprogrammed to stop on every floor for 24 hours. “It may be what Hitler and Goebbels experienced which made them go over the edge in anger.”
MODI’s analysis of the Royal Family is this writer’s most favorite scenario. Thursday night, MODI updated the Queen’s funeral where they “lugged the body around for 23 days like tracking an Amazon package. Jews plan a funeral if someone [old] in Florida is taking a nap just in case … waiting with a shovel.”
Modi is particularly expert at describing royal jewelry and who landed what gems. “Kate got the beautiful necklace. Megan got earrings from Zales, holding up the rear procession like a nebach.”
The most current news comment was about the testimony of the three female college presidents. He decried, “Where did they dig up three such ugly gahargit women with no makeup. For heaven’s sake, run a comb through your hair; more importantly, who wove in their not-so-hidden antisemitism.”
MODI, who is married to his manager, Leo, addressed head on the “gossip” of his homosexuality.
“Married life is great. The main yenta in our building is on my floor. Leo is a millennial and has good manners like saying ‘you’re welcome’ vs. ‘no problem.’
He’s 22 years younger … my mother said instead of losing a son, she gained a grandchild. I gained a tech expert. Leo has a watch that doesn’t tell time … I have a gold Rolex so I must be doing OK.”
And then there was MODI’s recounting of trying to perform during COVID on zoom. “And who remembers having temperatures taken at the door answering formulaic questions about COVID, ‘Do you have any body aches, sniffles, etc.? Every Jew wakes up daily with four COVID symptoms!”
Pre-show, Dr. Barry Zisholtz and medical partner, Dr. Hal Scherez, told the AJT that they had just returned from the Republican Jewish Coalition in Vegas where MODI performed. Zisholtz said, “After hearing Steve Scalise and new Speaker Johnson, it was a welcomed addition to laugh with Modi.”
Check MODI’s website to see what the next stops on his tour will be.