Talk about self-deprecating humor.
Mike Blech, a skinny, bespectacled comedian, has previously poked fun at his surname and how people botch it. At the Comedy Cellar last year, he riffed: “A woman once said, ‘Bleach, what’s the family history of that name?’ I said, ‘I come from a long line of detergents.’”
Though Blech (with a guttural “ch”) took a different angle last Sunday at the 20th Annual New York’s Funniest Jewish Comedian Contest at the Broadway Comedy Club, he stuck with his self-critical tone.
“When I went to give blood,” Blech joked, “they asked me if I’d had sexual contact with anyone who used needles to inject themselves with drugs. So I called my ex, and I said, ‘Look, I know this is awkward, but I have to ask: Did we have sexual contact?’”
His affected insecurity won Blech the top spot in the finals as he beat out nine other comics in an evening that was laden with dating and relationship humor, in addition to clichéd Jewish jokes (gefilte fish and circumcision were the subject of several punch lines that garnered mixed audience response).
The event is sponsored by The Jewish Week.
In contrast with Blech’s self-disparaging style, Fay Susskind, who turned 82 in April, was the picture of confidence. Petite, in a white dress decorated with pink and red flowers, Susskind joked about the experience of dating at her age: “If anyone has a stray grandfather lying around, and he can drive or has an Uber account, come see me after the show.”
The finals were hosted by Tyler Gildin, a writer and comedian, and headlined by Rabbi Dr. Bob Alper, a comedian who works the synagogue and event circuit and is a previous winner of the contest. The judges were event producer and comedian Geoff Kole and TV producer David Goldman.
Gildin opened by joking about a version of the television show “The Bachelor” in which Jewish mothers selected brides for their sons, and about his struggles with irritable bowel syndrome.
The show’s audience skewed older; the room was filled mostly by retirees, with a smattering of kippot and, in the back, a few teenage girls who seemed to be there to support a parent.
The contestants skewed male; only three performers of the 10 were women. One man, Eli Lebowicz, who performed wearing a kipa, cracked that he knows that he looks like “either I’ve just entered rabbinical school, or just dropped out.”
Gildin closed the show by quoting the celebrated writer Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Despite some of the dud jokes, there were moments of feeling. The runner-up, David Weiss, a news anchor at 1010 WINS, put on his “radio voice,” to the delight of many audience members who recognized it.
And when Fay Susskind stumbled over a punch line, the audience’s encouragement bucked her up and she tried the joke again. “Why do married women gain more weight than single women? A single woman comes home, looks in the fridge, and goes to bed. A married woman comes home, looks in the bed, and goes to the fridge.” Susskind received the biggest applause of the night.