MONTREAL — Despite having performed his one-man musical comedy Too Jewish? for 15 years, American actor Avi Hoffman never tires of this show.
Hoffman will present Too Jewish? June 18 at 9 p.m. during the second Montreal International Yiddish Festival held at the Segal Centre for Performing Arts.
“Too Jewish? stands out as my claim to fame, with the show continually shown in the United States on many Public Television fundraisers. “Performing it in Montreal before the elite Yiddish performers from around the world is amazing.
"The show always attracts young Jews who laugh and enjoy the culture that they may have only learned from their parents and grandparents. I have had kids, their parents and grandparents tell me how often they saw the show and how important it is to them", said the 52-year-old Hoffman in a phone interview from his home in Coral Springs, Fla.
Hoffman said his older audiences relive their youth, and the younger ones, who he calls "Yiddish impaired," begin understanding the significance of Yiddish in Jewish history.
Too Jewish? combines singing in Yiddish with comedy skits recreating the golden era of the Yiddish theatre, as audiences at the turn of the 20th century may have enjoyed it.
The journey goes from Hoffman telling tales by quizzing his audience ‘What’s your Jewish name?’ and morphes eventually into impressions of Jackie Mason and famed Yiddish comedian Menashe Skulnick.
Hoffman does Yiddish interpretations of Broadway musicals like Oklahoma (Oy Glaucoma), Cats (with a Yiddish translation of the song Memory as a tribute to a delicatessen owner named Katz), and then recalls stories told by Jewish comedians such as Myron Cohen and Sam Levenson.
Besides Too Jewish?, Hoffman also performed in Yiddish, Reflections of a Lost Poet: The Life And Works of Itzik Manger by Miriam Hoffman, at the festival.
"This is my mother’s play and I haven’t performed it for years, so it will be delightful to do it again."
Born to parents who were Holocaust survivors, Hoffman was raised in New York in a Yiddish speaking household. His mother embraced Yiddish to the point of studying the language and becoming a professor of Jewish studies at Columbia University.
Hoffman became adept at combining Yiddishkeit with humour and music, performing in other musicals such as Songs Of Paradise and Meshuggah-Nuns, but Too Jewish? will remain his claim to fame.
For tickets, call 739-2301, ext. 8324 or go to www.segalcentre.org.