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Arts & Culture: Comedy

Jewish comedian big in China

Sometimes the humor translates — sometimes it doesn’t

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How do you tell a joke in China about Jews, when the only things most Chinese think they know about the Chosen People is that they’re smart and good with money?

That was Jesse Appell’s quandary when he moved to China three years ago from Massachusetts. He had plans to become a comedian — and, like many stand-ups, he planned to mine his own upbringing for material.

“All the bad stereotypes about Jews in the West are considered good in China,” Appell said. “Chinese say: ‘The Jews control the media and the banks — amazing!’ When people find out I’m Jewish, they say that’s why I speak Chinese so well, because Jews are super-smart. I’m like, that’s not how it works.”

Appell, 24, is one of only a handful of stand-up comedians in China, a country of 1.35 billion people that until very recently didn’t have much of a stand-up circuit. The country’s first stand-up show premiered on Dragon TV in 2012, the same year that Appell graduated from Brandeis University and moved to Beijing.


PBS plans documentary on Norman Lear

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Norman Lear Courtesy PBS

The first documentary about television legend Norman Lear, co-produced by Loki Films and THIRTEEN’s American Masters, is coming to PBS during the fall of 2016. It will feature interviews with Lear, George Clooney, Carl and Rob Reiner, Russell Simmons, and others. Lear’s name is synonymous with the sitcom. Approximately 120 million viewers tuned into his weekly shows at the peak of his career.


JCC performance camp with bergenPAC

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From a bergenPAC-JCC production of “Willy Wonka” Courtesy JCCOTP

Registration is open for the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades bergenPAC-JCC Summer Performance Intensive, a musical theater/cabaret experience for intermediate and advanced students, from 9 to 17 years old. The program will run Monday to Friday, July 8 to 24, from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The program offers the opportunity to develop professional skills in singing, acting, comedy, and movement. The cabaret-style three-week performance-intensive program will feature favorite numbers from Broadway musicals, comedy skits, short scenes, popular rock songs, and new pieces. It culminates with a performance in a Manhattan venue on July 23, followed by another performance in bergenPAC’s cabaret space on July 24.

Joseph A. Baker, a successful Broadway music director/accompanist, who has performed in shows including “Wicked,” “Shrek,” “The Lion King,” and “Little Shop of Horrors,” will teach the program. Well-known Broadway guest instructors will assist him, and three young stars will share their talents, insights, and enthusiasm for the Broadway stage. They include Henry Hodges, an actor/voice actor/singer, who starred as Chip in “Beauty and the Beast”; Jeremy Potts, who was in the original Broadway cast of “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” and played Michael Banks in the original Broadway cast of “Mary Poppins”; Rozi Baker, who made her Broadway debut at 10 in “Shrek, the Musical,” played Jane Banks in “Mary Poppins” at the New Amsterdam Theatre, and was the understudy for the role of young Bonnie in “Bonnie and Clyde,;” and Emily Rosenfeld, who made her Broadway debut as Molly in the revival of “Annie.”

An interview and audition are required. The price includes two tickets to the New York performance. The workshop will be held at bergenPAC. Students can be bused to the JCC at 3:20 p.m. to swim; an extended day is available at an additional cost. The program costs $995 for JCC members; $1,195 for nonmembers. Call Deb Roberts at (201) 408-1492 or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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