Elon Gold is a New York comedian known best for his impressions, stand-up, as well as his work on the Fox sitcom Stacked. He’s hosting this year’s Bar Mitzvah Show at our most highly anticipated Just For Laughs festival. We had the chance to chat with Gold over the phone this week. Don’t worry, they kept it kosher.

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Montreal "Just For Laughs" Comedy Festival - Day 3 Performances and Backstage

Your JFL show is called The Bar Mitzvah Show– why is that? (Beyond the fact the comedians are Jewish, I’m assuming you won’t be putting on any tefillin?)

I will be telling a story about putting on tefillin, but it’s a great tradition at the festival. The Montreal comedy festival is the greatest festival in the world– it’s world-class, world-renowned. Others have come and gone and this has stayed for God knows how many decades already, and within that tradition is another great tradition of bringing the Montreal Jews out for a big show called The Bar Mitzvah Show. It’s very much like an actual Bar Mitzvah, except you get paid less.

Like my one-man show, this show really is geared towards a Jewish audience, but everyone will enjoy it the same way everyone enjoyed My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Unlike that, you don’t have to be Jewish to appreciate the humour– most of the comedians are just doing stuff about their personal lives, their experiences as Jewish people and their families and relationships, as well as our general traditions.

A lot of your comedy comes from your Jewish identity and culture, but it’s not Woody Allen neuroses or Larry David chutzpah. What do you think pushes so many Jews into show business?

It’s that we’re all tortured souls and need to express ourselves. It’s the only way to get out of the misery that is being Jewish. I don’t know how non-comedians who are Jews live their lives because we’re all programmed to be miserable and complain. That’s why I see comedy as a professional complainer– I complain about politics, my relationships, my wife, my kids… what better for a Jew than to get paid to complain?

It’s funny, because my comedy doesn’t come from being miserable. My comedy is all about seeing the world from a modern Jewish lens. I still see our people as a persecuted people. I know the world sees us as all doing well, but first of all, I’m not doing that well. If we run the banks and the media, how come I’m broke and not on a sitcom right now? How come I grew up in the Bronx in a little apartment and my parents are broke?

You’re known for your impressions. Who is your favourite celebrity to impersonate and why?

Definitely Jeff Goldblum. I’ve done it for him, with him… we now hang out. It’s fun– I like doing impressions that no one is doing. I was the first one doing the Goldblum impression. Howard Stern is another one of my favourites. I was doing Howard Stern when he was just on the radio in New York and LA, and now he’s nationwide and internationally known.

I love doing obscure impressions– at one point Christopher Walken was an obscure impression, and my old friend Jay Mohr was the first to do it way back when. At the time, I remember nobody was doing a Walken and now it’s such a hack impression. I just did a Ving Rhames impression the other day, which is a lot of fun to do.

Although it didn’t last long, I thought The Next Best Thing was an interesting premise for a competition show, with comedians showing off their impressions. What was that like?

The Next Best Thing was a stupid show I was on that tanked. It was silly, like American Idol for impressions. The thing about American Idol and all these shows is that you get attached to the contestant. The reason that show didn’t work is because you’re not getting attached to the contestant, it’s the contestant doing an impression of someone else.

What’s your take on the competition show genre? As someone who has worked their way into the entertainment business from the age of 17, do you think it’s a viable alternative?

I think they are ruining television. There’s two sides to TV now– this unbelievable movement in television shows that are so brilliant, like Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Homeland, and Modern Family or Curb Your Enthusiasm on the sitcom side. On the other side of the spectrum, there’s The Voice and So You Think You Can Dance and I don’t care if you think you can dance, I don’t want to see you dance, whether you think you can or not! Give me a Homeland episode any day! Give me something that’s going to make me laugh. TV is split in two completely opposite ends– one is brilliant and powerful, and then there’s just this popcorn competition stuff… we get it, people can sing! I don’t care!

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What was the experience like working on Stacked?

Stacked was fun, with Canada’s own Pam Anderson!

Was it hard to maintain eye contact with her?

Let’s just say she’s an intelligent, beautiful woman, so I did appreciate her for her other beauties. Of course it was distracting– I remember Pam was very sweet to me on my birthday while we were filming. She got me a stripper who came to the set and started stripping for me. Pam turned to me and said, “Guess what?! She’s Jewish!” And I was like, “Great, Pam hired a Jewish stripper for me, and I’m thinking I have it at home, get me a shiksa.”

What’s your favourite thing to do in Montreal? Any favourite restaurant or a strip club you particularly prefer?

There’s obviously Beauty’s that I love. There’s also this amazing kosher steakhouse that’s probably a year or two old, but I’m blanking on the name, but it’s the top kosher steakhouse. (Editor’s note: Elon was probably referring to Chops Steakhouse on Queen Mary.) I love a good kosher steak.

What about Moishe’s?

Moishe’s, actually, isn’t kosher! That to me, is a sham, that the place is called Moishe’s. I feel bad for all the Orthodox jews who come to Montreal and then they say, “Here’s your bacon and eggs”. Fresser’s is another one that isn’t kosher, but then you have a Japanese restaurant like Beni Hana, and that’s kosher!

I love Montreal, I love going there, I love the people. The Jews are like New York Jews without the attitude. I love Montrealers, they always make a great audience and the festival is an amazing time for the comedians and an amazing time for the audience. Especially for the audience, it’s a non-stop 24/7 festival of laughs where every show is one you can’t miss. I’ve never seen someone leave Just For Laughs and say they saw a bad show.

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You can catch The Bar Mitzvah Show July 25th at 7pm at Théâtre Maisonneuve. Click here to buy tickets.

Half Jewish, Half Very Jewish from Say Em on Vimeo.