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David Kilimnick p3

David Kilimnick talks about stand-up comedy and mentions a favourite humour book...

READERSVOICE.COM: Do many rabbis you’ve listened to incorporate a lot of humor in their teaching, and is stand up like giving a rabbinic sermon in some ways?

DAVID KILIMNICK: In many ways, my stand up is a sermon. I am up there preaching the truth, or what I feel is right. If I am up there, making no points, then I feel like my time is wasted. I did work as a rabbi for a bit, so I do feel like I have a moral obligation to not waste my time or other peoples’ time while we are connecting. There are aspects of those stories of life and emotional bouts I might have been through. It is all what preachers talk about. Comedy is about seeing the truth and I believe most rabbis are in search of that. Many rabbis do use humor in their speeches and classes. Some rabbis are happy with that. Some rabbis feel that it must be religiously justified to laugh, as every action has a reason and Jewish law goes into reasons for everything we do. For this reason, religious Jews will tell the story of Elijah who was walking in the market and sees two guys making people laugh. And Elijah says they are going to heaven. He did not know if they were good people or not, but the merit of making people laugh was the reason. You can quote that and if it is not Elijah, then be it. I should know that story for the Talmud. There is another teaching in the Talmud that every class should start with a joke. Personally, I like humor to make its way into life. And that means classes being humorous too.

RV: How long does it take to write your weekly column for The Times of Israel?

DK: I have been writing that Aliyah Manifesto for a few years now. I am still not finished getting my first edits down. But I realized that page number 10 of my first draft, turned into page 90 of my edit. Then I thought, I might as well start putting it out weekly, or it will never get done or out there.The Aliyah Manifesto is now my third or fourth draft, even though I have not finished my second draft. To answer the question, it takes anywhere from two to five hours. I realize that when I write it, I am taking from the second or third draft and then I am writing more and more. Each time I come back to it, I double the size of it. It gets the creative juices flowing. The first volume of the Aliyah Manifesto will hopefully be ready to move by the summer time. I have an Aliyah Dictionary and other Israeli fun stuff to put into that book.

RV: Your blog has lots of gags and it shows how important a sense of humor is in writing. I was wondering what some of your favorite books were, and whether you read a lot of humor.

DK: I love biographies. There is something about hearing about somebody’s life and getting involved in their thoughts for a while (why I prefer autobiographies). I also feel like I am getting some real history and true thoughts when I read biographies. If it flows, then all the better. I love reading humorous books. Confessions of a Late Night Talk Show Host, Larry Sanders’ autobiography was a fun book (a fictional autobiography about Gary Shandling’s character). I have enjoyed many comedic works. But I do find that I don’t care for witty fictional stories, as much as non-fiction real life thoughts and facts. I would rather read The Bathroom Reader’s Digest than The Reader’s Digest joke section, when I have those few moments. But I am very fickle with what I am reading. Usually I take a suggestion from a roommate and the next thing I know, that makes into my pile of the books I am reading for the next year or so.

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– copyright Simon Sandall.