For a Comedian, Every Day is Purim: A heart-to-heart with renowned chasidic humorist Mendy Pellin

I’ve interviewed frum comedians in the past, but their interviews were very sad. In fact, when I interviewed the Pester Rebbe, a/k/a Yoely Lebowitz, he made me cry. So I was a little concerned that I’d get a sad story out of you too.
What do you do to these comedians? Torture them? Do you try to find out why they’re funny? No one wants to know why he’s funny.

I think they use humor to overcome their sadness, so when they aren’t doing standup, that’s all you get.
I believe that comedians are born comedians, and it’s just one of the tools they use to overcome whatever comes their way. I was a comedian in kindergarten, long before I had an opportunity for a sad story.

So you were a comedian in the crib. You started laughing around the same time you started crying.
Just about. I remember finding it hilarious that my morah in kindergarten would go to the corner and take money out of the pushka and then give us the same pennies to put back in. I used to tell everyone in my class. I thought it was amazing.

So you always had a way of seeing things in a humorous light.
I did. When I went to puppet shows, I always sat behind the stage, because it was hilarious to watch these grownups sweating behind the scenes and getting all stressed out just to entertain the kids. That was a lot funnier than just watching the puppets from the front.

Because you saw the contrast.
Because I realized that life is full of irony. Do you realize that the best way to get someone to drive carefully is to put a full pot of chicken soup in the car? You can have a baby or an old person as a passenger and he’ll still drive like a maniac. But chicken soup? No one is risking a spill.

I thought you lived in LA, where people drive around in fancy cars. I didn’t know you live in Crown Heights.
I lived in Los Angeles for eight or nine years. I once saw two signs on a street pole. One was for a missing person; they were offering a reward of $100. The other was for a missing car; the reward was $5,000. That’s LA in a nutshell. But I grew up in Crown Heights, and now I’m back.

Did you grow up on Kingston Avenue?
How did you know that? Yes. On Kingston Avenue, near Carroll Street.

Maybe because I grew up on Crown Street. The shul we davened in was on Eastern Parkway, not far from 770. When did you move to California?
Not too long after getting married. I had hoped to break the ice for my family and friends and get them to move out there, but no one wanted to follow us.

ou had a tekufah when you tried dabbling in the larger world and appeared on national television. Then you receded from it.
Yes. I’ve come full circle. I feel like this is my niche, my safe space. I also feel like I have a mission to help us laugh at ourselves.
It’s very hard for a frum comedian to be in the outside world. One of the issues is that a lot of the filming takes place on Shabbos, and there are many other issues as well, like off-color jokes that are inappropriate. I realized that I would rather create my own content. There are so many distributors out there these days that you can do your own thing without being beholden to anyone.

To read more, subscribe to Ami