So I met up with a friend of mine who’s an Israeli Stand-up Comic. I went to check out his all-Hebrew show. Watching Stand-up in a language you don’t understand is a neat experiment, especially as a stand-up. I found myself trying to decipher the jokes by tone and body language. Kind of like how an almost blind person can sometimes see shapes, I could see the shapes of the jokes… The old bait and switch, the act out, the rant, comedian in pain over something menial and mundane and of course the beat boxing comedian was particularly easy to understand. Like love, beat boxing is a universal language.
The rhythm of the show was very similar to a show in the US. Without knowing what was said I could tell the guys in the crowd were laughing at edgy things that were either angry or irreverent. The girls were laughing at things that were familiar, energetic and friendly. The comedian “type” was also easy to figure out. The intellect, the party animal, the angry guy were all on display and easy for this non-Hebrew speaker to point out. Not understanding the words seemed to make some things clearer.
Think laughter isn’t contagious? A few times I found myself laughing with the crowd with absolutely no idea what the joke was. I caught myself each time and dialed myself back to “not a fraud”. It’s one thing to not get the joke and still laugh on cue. It’s quite another to laugh when you haven’t the faintest idea what was said. What if he was talking about flogging black people or eating babies but not ironically eating them? It’s possible. It’s not like other countries are as politically correct as we are. Still, I was captivated by the exchange between performer and audience and it really put into focus how much of the crowd’s perception of the performer is based on how they look as opposed to what they say.
The whole experienced reminded me of a friend who’s grandfather did not speak any English but still loved to watch the show “Sanford and Son” I guess “you big dummy!” transcends language.
I’m writing this blog in my hotel room in Tel Aviv watching a German court show. I have no idea what the trial is about but the woman in the yellow shirt sure looks guilty.
This blog brought me back to the time I translated English to English in a NYC laundry mat.