Comedy for Koby Comedians
Comedy for Koby ComediansYissachar Ruas

In what has become one of Israel’s most popular entertainment events designed for English-speaking audiences, the Winter 2012 Tour of Comedy for Koby concluded this week after playing to capacity crowds across the country. Coming just days after the end of the violence in Israel’s south, thousands welcomed the chance to get out and laugh for a good cause, while enjoying hilarious humor from some of America’s most accomplished comedians.

Proceeds from Comedy for Koby benefit The Koby Mandell Foundation, an organization founded in memory of Koby Mandell, a young teenager who was killed by terrorists while hiking with his friend, Yosef Ishran, near his home in 2001. Koby’s parents, Seth and Sherri Mandell, started the organization to assist other families coping with the bitter loss of a loved one to terror and since that time, thousands of Israelis have benefited from their services. The premiere program of the organization is Camp Koby, which allows siblings of victims of terror other tragic losses to enjoy the summer camp experience in an environment specifically designed for their social and emotional needs.

Seth Mandell says that they take great pride in the fact that Koby’s name is now linked with something positive and joyous. “Koby loved jokes and loved to laugh and we know that this Tour is a real tribute to his life and his memory.”

The Tour’s talent is organized by Avi Liberman, an Israeli-born comic who has been bringing top-tier comedians to Israel for over ten years.  Acts who have appeared under the Comedy for Koby name are all accomplished professionals who regularly appear on shows like The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Late Night with David Letterman and have lengthy lists of credits from television and film.

With the concept of North American comedy in Israel originally conceived during the second intifada as a way to help Israelis escape the tension, Liberman said that he didn’t for even a moment seriously consider cancelling the tour while the violence in Israel’s south was raging.  

“The basic concept behind this tour is that Israelis need a way to relax and laugh, regardless of what is going on around them,” he says. “With the incredible inspiration offered by the Mandells, our tour has been about stating that terrorism will not defeat us so I certainly wasn’t going to allow the shows to get cancelled.”

The three comedians who participated this time are Butch Bradley, Dwight Slade and Jimmy Shubert. After two of the originally scheduled comedians cancelled due to security concerns, Liberman quickly booked two other top acts, Bradley and Slade, who had been to Israel before and recognized that despite news reports, the country remained a safe place to travel. In fact, Liberman says that when he called Slade, his answer was immediately positive. “He said to me that particularly now when times were tough, that’s exactly when we’re needed most.”

The tour played in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Raanana, Beit Shemesh, Modiin and Gush Etzion. In Israel twice a year, the organizers are already planning for the next group of shows scheduled for the end of May.