She can't tell dirty jokes, curse, talk about sex or make fun of the audience, but Ayelet the Kosher Komic can still make crowds of women burst out laughing.
A self described "pioneer" in religious entertainment, she is developing a new brand of "glatt kosher" comedy routines for religious women who wouldn't dare try anything else.
Ayelet - "like Cher or Madonna," she says of her stage name - performs for all-female audiences across Israel and abroad. Next month the kosher komic leaves for a 10-week tour of England, Canada and the U.S., where she's hoping to expand her unique brand of comedy even further.
As a member of the community that she pokes fun at, Ayelet regales crowds with real life stories about her quest to find a soul mate through Jewish matchmakers ("rule number three: if he repulses you, don't go out with him again"). In one skit, she fantasizes about an all-chocolate diet ("warning: the chances of losing weight on this diet are very slim - slimmer than you'll ever be"), and in her trademark opening act, she jokes about a "glatt kosher" airline which is equipped with collapsible black hats for emergency prayer purposes ("should there be, God forbid, a rapid change in cabin pressure, a book of psalms will fall from the panel above your head").
But Ayelet wasn't always the "ultra-Orthodox girl with bulletproof stockings" that she is today. In fact, she used to perform in "treif" comedy clubs across New York and Los Angeles, before becoming newly religious two-and-a-half years ago. She only picked up her career in its new and more conservative form last year while performing in front of seminary girls in Jerusalem. She has since entertained Haredi women, as well as more modern crowds, and in cooperation with the Anglo comedy troupe Off the Wall Comedy, she appeared this week at a cafe in Jerusalem's Baka neighborhood, followed by a private performance the following night, in a private living room in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Har Nof.
Ayelet, who lives in the Old City, thinks of her performances as something of a mitzvah. She believes that God gave her a talent for the sole purpose of bringing happiness, laughter and a bit of frivolity to a group of women who wouldn't have it otherwise. "Many of these women have large families and a lot of responsibility, and getting out and having fun is sometimes neglected. They have a desperate need for entertainment because they don't have a television, they don't go to movies and they would never go to a regular comedy club. Women come up to me all the time to thank me and say they don't usually get out of the house," she explains.
She also insists that she doesn't miss performing in front of mixed audiences because women laugh more than their male counterparts and aren't as likely to heckle. More importantly, though, she says performing for men is simply "not modest."
"It's not a woman's role to be performing in front of men," she says, echoing the teachings of her rabbis. "Women are supposed to be the modest ones and the center of the family. Their role is more in the home."
Indeed, it's been quite a change from the fast paced world of acting and comedy that she left behind in New York and Los Angeles. She "found Judaism" while exploring the Jewish singles scene, or in her own words: "I wanted a Jewish boy and got a rebbetzin instead."
Ayelet insists that her repertoire is amusing to "anybody remotely affiliated with Judaism." Her matchmaking stories, however tortured, are all based on real life experiences and in a single, nearly breathless sentence, she ticks off her credentials: "I've contacted 165 shadchanim [matchmakers] in nine different states, four different countries and personally seen over 75 of them, all in nine months."
Her dating - which seems to be a career in and of itself - is also the reason for her reluctance to disclose her age or family name. "You don't talk about ages in the shidduch world," she explains in a rare moment of seriousness. She also says that her last name, Beh Har, sounds Sephardi and "I don't want people setting me up with Sephardim - not that I have anything against them - but I am Ashkenazi."
The Kosher Komedy CD, which is available at shows, as well as her Web site (www.kosherkomic.com) comes with a request to refrain from using it on the Sabbath and holidays, and along with the copyright comes a warning that "any form of duplication or reproduction is strictly forbidden by law and halakha."
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