Kosher Jokes for the Halaladays comes to Ottawa

CHRISTMAS IS A time for celebration and merriment, but while most people are stuffing their faces with pastries and drinking copious amounts of eggnog, others are grieving because this is one holiday they don’t celebrate. To keep people entertained who aren’t busy over the holidays, Canadian comedian Eman El-Husseini came up with Kosher Jokes for the Halaladay’s—a comedy show that started in Montreal and is coming to the University of Ottawa on Dec. 17.

“My best friend is Jewish and I’m Palestinian, and we grew up together,” says El-Husseini. “We always got so much attention for being best friends—we were really close. I just wanted to celebrate the fact Montreal Jews and Muslims get along.”

Jeff Schouela, long-time comedian and co-producer, believes the show brings people together who have nothing better to do over the holidays but who still want to go out.

“It’s an excuse mainly to get people, Jews and Muslims, [from] different groups together,” says Schouela.

“We’re using comedy as a forum to not only bring them together, but in a very lonely time for us—Christmas, because we don’t celebrate [it].”

The show started in 2010, and its success so far has been overwhelming. The duo is already planning shows in Chicago and Long Island, and there has been talk of doing a show in Jerusalem.

“We did [a show] in Montreal and we sold out almost a 500-seat [theatre] called le Gesu, which is ironically a church theatre. It was just Muslims and Jews telling jokes in a church theatre the day before Christmas,” says Schouela.

“Next year, if all goes well, we’d like to do [the show] in Jerusalem on Christmas day … The feedback was so overwhelmingly [positive], we’re trying this out.”

Religion, for some, can be a touchy subject, but both Schouela and El-Husseini stress religion isn’t the main focus of their jokes—they just want to bring a group of people together and have a laugh.

“We definitely poke fun at ourselves and each other a little bit. [It’s] nothing offensive,” says El-Husseini. “It’s definitely not just about religion. We are Montrealers after all, so everybody can really relate to the jokes we have to tell.”

According to Schouela, their religious jokes are done with taste.

“I would say, in estimation, that one-third of the jokes on the show will be ethnic and religion based. I’d say the other two-thirds are about North American situations and life in general … I think if done properly, then [the jokes] will be really funny,” he says.

The show’s title may insinuate it’s meant for only people of Islam and Judaism, but the producers stress that everyone is welcome on Dec. 17.

“Christmas is like a whole hype up for a month and it’s dark and quiet. Nothing’s open, so it’s also an excuse for people to do something. No matter [what] or [how] deep your religion is, I encourage anyone to come to this show,” says Schouela.

Besides featuring a lineup of well-established comics, as well as Ottawa’s very own Dan Ciggy, people can expect to have a hilarious time at the show.

“A lot of laughing: That’s the whole point, that’s the number one goal. Also, just a celebration of two cultures that don’t usually get along,” says El-Husseini.

Check out Kosher Jokes for the Halaladays on Dec. 17 at Alumni Auditorium in the University Centre. Admission for the show costs $15. For tickets, call (613) 276-4884.

—Sofia Hashi