The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BY JOSH JACK­MAN

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

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