RABBI SET FOR COMEDY GIG
HEARD THE one about the rabbi who . . . ?
It sounds like the opening to a joke, but for Rabbi Alex Chapper, 42, it is about to become a reality.
Rabbis occasionally hear their congregants sniggering at the, often tedious, jokes in their sermons, but he hopes to take things to the next level by embarking on a comedy course.
As minister for Ilford Federation Synagogue, Essex, for 12 years, Rabbi Chapper has plenty of experience performing in front of expectant audiences.
But next month he will appear on stage as part of a trio of religious leaders turned stand-up comedians.
Together with a Christian minister and a Muslim leader, he will be trained by stand-up teacher Cynthia Levin to deliver jokes at a special comedy night at the JW3 community centre in northwest London.
“I think I’ll be quite nervous,” he admitted. “The pressure to be funny for a full set, rather than moving on to some other material as I usually would, will be quite a big challenge.”
He said that, although he was not on the same level as a professional comedian, he did have some idea of humour as he often joked with congregants to break down barriers.
“I use it on a regular basis when I’m speaking in my community. It’s a good way of relaxing people and addressing the mis-conception that rabbis are oldfashioned, overly serious and don’t have a sense of humour,” he said.
“It’s important that people see our human side as well. It shows we don’t take ourselves too seriously.”
He and his counterparts will receive two training sessions to hone their skills. “With the three faiths coming together, it will be nice to see where we share perspectives and where comedy can break down boundaries,” he said.
Rabbi Chapper said he hoped the JW3 audience would “see that a rabbi can have a laugh, can make a joke and has a human side”. He added: “That might make people think they could connect more with rabbis. Maybe this is my big break.”
Among his repertoire will be jokes about Jewish life, what those not of the faith think about Judaism, and humour as a valuable part of religion.
“God’s got a sense of humour,” he said. “He expects us to form communities when we’re an argumentative and fractious people.”
But there may be some way to go for the minister — asked to tell us his favourite joke, Rabbi Chapper admitted he could not think of one.
“A Rabbi, a Vicar and an Imam Walk into a Comedy Club” is at JW3 on Nov 29
Old hands: ( clockwise from top left): Rivers, Seinfeld, Silverman, Crystal
New face: Rabbi Chapper