My name is Eli Lebowicz and I do standup comedy, usually for Jewish audiences.

Making strangers laugh isn’t easy to begin with, and it's even harder when those strangers are Jewish. Now if you just got mad about that sentence, realize that by getting upset at that joke, you’re proving me right. Don’t get me wrong, I love being able to entertain Jewish audiences, but it’s always tricky.

First off, Jews seem to be the only people who come to a comedy show not to laugh. We (*when I write “we” I’m referring to Jews and I realize that there are a thousand different types of Jews, so forgive me for grouping together Jews as a whole.) will purposefully go to a show knowing that there will be a comedian at an event we paid good money to attend, but our natural reaction at the beginning is to still sit there with our arms crossed, thinking, I’ve made better jokes at my Shabbos table.

I think part of the reason we do this is because Jewish life forces us to be serious so much of the time that it’s hard to turn on the “laugh” switch. Also, there’s so much craziness going on in the world and so many stresses in life that we just simply have too many things on our mind. I mean, how can you expect me to laugh about your stupid observations when I’m paying tens of thousands of dollars in Jewish school tuition?”

A performer almost has to give permission to a Jewish crowd that it's okay to loosen up a bit. And then once the crowd determines that something is indeed funny, they need to make sure that they’re allowed to laugh at it. So they’ll instinctively check around the room to see who else is laughing and analyze if it’s okay to laugh. It goes without saying that if it's a shul event and the rabbi's not laughing, it's automatically assur (forbidden in Jewish law). And that’s twice as true if it’s your wife who’s not laughing.

It’s a natural thing to turn to the people we’re with and confirm that they’re laughing too. I think we do it because we don’t want to seem crazy for laughing at something that’s not funny.

Don’t believe me? Next time you watch a funny movie or TV show (for those of you who are okay with admitting to watching those things), note how many times you turn to the people you’re watching with to check if they’re laughing.

Another reason comedy is a challenge is because there’s this inherent expectation that comes with it. Offstage, I dislike being introduced with the line of “He’s a comedian.” Pressure’s on.

“You're a comedian? Prove it.” That doesn't happen with other jobs. Nobody ever goes, “Oh you're a mohel? Prove it."

I’d rather have a conversation with someone, make that person laugh, and then after a little while, I’ll mention that I do comedy.

Jews are also just really tough to impress in general, even when you’re not trying to make them laugh. I once performed on a Pesach program and one of the other acts was this Beatles cover band. I heard someone say after the show, "They were good. But it's a shame they couldn't have gotten the real Beatles.” Really? 2 of them have died. And half of them that aren’t dead are Ringo, and nobody wants that.

Since I started performing standup about 6 years ago, I’ve done shows at various comedy clubs in New York City, but over the last few years, I found that my niche has been doing shows for Jewish events.

It's a lot easier for me to relate to Jews, because being Jewish is what I know. Like I don't even know if non-Jews even play Monopoly and Risk. I mean, when would that even happen? Family Game Night? Which I’m pretty sure only exists in commercials for board games.

My material can get really deep into Jewish humor. It’s not deep as in profound, but insider knowledge. While other comedians discuss airplane travel and the differences between Los Angeles and New York, I delve into very specific waters, wondering about potentially awkward moments in Tanach (like when an angel changes Jacob’s name to Israel, do you think Jacob said, “Okay, but I’m still gonna have to go by Jacob at the bank and doctor’s office”?) and how annoying the shul’s YaaleH V’Yavo reminder guy is (that guy that reminds you that it’s Rosh Chodesh or some other holiday).

My material may resonate more with a crowd that questions which pleasure is greater: taking that first bite after fasting all day Yom Kippur or remembering that a 250-page Yom Kippur Mussaf is really only 125 pages when you realize half of it is English.

Some will say that my material is too Jewish, but with a name like “Eli Lebowicz,” I can’t really hide that.