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Serving Up a Night of Sino-Kosher Shtick : Comedy: 'An Evening of Kung Pao Kosher Comedy' in a Chinese restaurant--a 'natural combination' to Lisa Geduldig--takes place Saturday.

December 21, 1995|JAN BRESLAUER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

In the 1982 film "My Favorite Year," a young Jewish TV writer played by Mark Linn-Baker triumphantly presents his shiksa date with a vast array of take-out Chinese food.

Two things Jews know, he tells the bemused woman by way of explanation: guilt and where to get great Chinese food.

It's a connection that's as old as, well, your bubbe's brisket--this thing Jews have with Chinese food. So, nu, it shouldn't be such a surprise that somebody has finally found a way to cash in on it.

That somebody is comedian Lisa Geduldig, the force behind "An Evening of Kung Pao Kosher Comedy." The event--which takes place Saturday at the Empress Pavilion restaurant in Chinatown--features performances by Jewish comedians Cathy Ladman, Carrie Snow, Scott Silverman, Ed Crasnick and Geduldig.

Geduldig, 33, has been producing a similar event in San Francisco for the past three years. To her, the idea of presenting Jewish comedy in a Chinese restaurant on (or rather, near) Christmas seemed like a "natural combination."

"It's an unwritten law that Jews go to a Chinese restaurant and a movie [on Christmas Eve or Christmas] anyway, so I thought I would create an event," says Geduldig, speaking by phone from her home in San Francisco.

"I don't know if there's some parallel between won tons and kreplach, or if it's just that Chinese restaurants are open on Christmas," she says. "It's also been my experience that Jews aren't supposed to eat pork, but there's an unknown clause in the Torah that says if it's wrapped up in a won ton, it's OK."

Geduldig acquired her knowledge of these cultural nuances in the usual way, while growing up in Plainview, Long Island. "Every Sunday night, we went to Sun Ming Chinese restaurant on the Jericho Turnpike in Huntington," she recalls. She "fled" to San Francisco 13 years ago. Then, after a series of survival jobs, she began performing comedy about five years ago.

In 1993, while working in Northampton, Mass., Geduldig found herself in an ironic circumstance. "The person who had booked me had booked me at a venue that I didn't even realize was a Chinese restaurant until I got there," she says. "I get there and it's moo shu chicken and everything else and here I am telling Jewish jokes."

That experience, however, became the impetus for Geduldig's evening of Sino-Kosher shtick. The show features Jewish comics, if not exclusively Jewish humor. "The material touches on their lives as Jews, but it also crosses over," she says. "Not every joke will have Jewish content."

In the past few years, the show has become popular far beyond Geduldig's initial expectations.

"I've been getting calls from people around the country saying, 'I wish we had an event like that here.' I get messages and letters just saying, 'Thank you, I always feel like a stranger in a strange land [at Christmastime]. Now I can ignore the "Jingle Bells" in the store.' "

Most of all, though, Geduldig is happy to be doing a mitzvah, providing Jews and others with an alternative to the annual Christmas mishagosh. "As much work as it is, it's providing a social service for people," she says.

"It's so nice to see Jewish people happy on Christmas," Geduldig says. "I have always hated the month and now I don't even notice it."

Go figure.

* "An Evening of Kung Pao Kosher Comedy," Empress Pavilion, 988 N. Hill St. Saturday, 7 p.m.; $50 (includes dinner, tax, tip and show). (213) 480-3232 or (213) 891-6146.

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