Stand-up comedy began to gain momentum in Israel in the 1980s but really took off in the 1990s with the opening of many stand-up comedy clubs throughout Israel. The most famous of those clubs is the Camel Comedy Club in Tel Aviv where most of the talented people who today star on Israeli television and in entertainment shows were first discovered. The list of Israeli stand-up comics is a long one and depends on the compiler’s personal taste: low-brow humor alongside sophisticated humor, political satire versus jokes on day-to-day life and the style of communicating with the audience. Some of the stand-up comedians appearing in this list can be seen in private shows throughout the country and all of them star in programs on Israeli TV channels.
Assi Cohen, Israeli comedian, actor and stand-up comic, is one of the stars of the Israeli comedy scene and one of its most talented comics. Cohen appeared in the comedy duo, Assi and Guri, which he and Guri Alfi created and which appeared in entertainment shows throughout Israel. Over the years, Cohen has appeared on the TV screen in various entertainment shows: in “Only in Israel,” alongside Guri Alfi, Orna Banai and Erez Tal; in “The Revolution Broadcasts”; and currently in the most famous of the television programs he has ever appeared in, “A Wonderful Country.”
Guri Alfi, mentioned above, is one of the stars of the Israeli comedy scene. Alfi is an actor, comedian, stand-up comic and moderator. Ever since the 1990s, he has been involved in every major development in Israel’s comedy scene – the Flatfoot group, the Domino group, the Assi and Guri team, “Only in Israel,” etc. Up until recently, he was one of the stars in the TV satire program, “Back of the Nation,” one of the country’s most popular satirical programs.
Tal Friedman is the wildest of Israel’s comedians. Apparently, the stage is the place where he can discard all his inhibitions and express himself in a manner that sometimes shocks viewers with its frankness. In addition to being a comic, Friedman is an actor, a musician and an amateur soccer player. His big break came when he participated together with Eyal Kitzes in the TV show, “Halomot b’Hakitzes,” which means “daydreaming” and is also a play on words on Kitzes’ name. He subsequently starred in the radio program, “Flawed Night Birds.” In 2003 he joined the “A Wonderful Country” team, becoming its undisputed star. During his stint on this program, he created classic characters and coined a number of phrases that have become part of the Israeli discourse.
Yuval Semo is one of the funniest and wildest people on Israeli television. His persistent determination over the years, and his talent, precision, intelligence, versatility and professionalism have turned Semo into one of Israel’s most successful comics. Although he has appeared in various plays and shows, his joining the “A Wonderful Country” troupe has catapulted him into the top ranks of local comics, after a slow, measured journey to the summit. He has created characters and impersonations that have become part of the country’s cult culture and which include impersonations of Israeli singer Eran Tzur, Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah and Israel TV Channel 2 Arab Affairs analyst Ehud Ya’ari. In recent years, he has created characters that have become a stunning success, such as Asher Ben Horin, the taxi driver who represents the “good Israeli.”
Rotem Abuhav is an Israeli actress, comedienne, and TV hostess. Abuhav seems to be at a key crossroads in the Israeli comedy scene; she was given significant exposure as a member of the Domino group, appearing with people who were at the time unknown comics, such as Adir Miller, Roi Ben-Natan and Guri Alfi. Over the years, she has acted in many TV series and movies; however, as a comedienne, she has shown her unique mettle in programs such as “The Revolution Broadcasts” and “The Central Show.” Today, she is a team member on the satirical TV program, “Back of the Nation.”
Orna Banai is one of the funniest women in Israel and one gets the impression that she has always been part of the local TV industry. Banai has been in every major junction in the Israeli humor scene. She began her career at the Camel Comedy Club and earned considerable fame when she created the character of Limor on the local entertainment program, “Only in Israel.” She subsequently joined the core group of “A Wonderful Country”; after leaving that program, she became a regular team member on the satirical show, “Back of the Nation.”
There are many Israeli comics who deserve to be included in this list; however, because of shortage of space, we were forced to be selective. Nonetheless, you should not pass up the opportunity to become more familiar with the work of comics such as Adir Miller, Roi Bar-Natan, Shalom Asayag, Adi Ashkenazi, Maor Cohen, Eyal Kitzes and many others!