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US-Israeli comedian Avi Liberman brings back Comedy for Koby

CM 05/08/2021

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For American-Israeli comedian Avi Liberman, founder and host of the long-running, immensely popular “Comedy for Koby” tours, it was no laughing matter.

On May 23, Liberman was badly injured in a car accident in Florida. Initially in serious condition, Liberman spent nine days in the hospital and currently has partial paralysis on the left side of his face, trouble closing his left eye, numbness and tightness as a result of the skull fractures. 
“The mental part has actually been the hardest. I get a bit tired at points during the day but energy is also returning,” he said in a phone conversation with The Jerusalem Post last week.
“What surprised me is how you fall back into it,” said Liberman about returning to the stage, after a two-month layoff during recuperation and rehab. “You’re a little bit rusty, but how easily we fall back into it was the nice thing.”

“The instinct takes over again. You’ve been doing this for 25 years. I was concerned thinking about it, but right before I was brought up on stage for a guest spot at the Houston Improv, the rational part of my head took over and was like ‘You’ve done this a ton. What’s the concern?’”
Rabbi Seth and Sherri Mandell established the Koby Mandell Foundation in 2001, the same year their 13-year-old son Koby and his friend Yosef Ishran were brutally murdered by terrorists near their Gush Etzion home of Tekoa. And since 2008, Liberman has been bringing over top US stand-up comedians to raise funds for the organization’s summer camp and other programs it runs.
Asking if he is planning on making jokes about the accident, he laughingly explains, “The joke I say is, I gotta be honest, I was a little concerned about performing, like this, but I realized this is the look most people have on their face after gambling in Vegas after a couple of days.”
He adds, “I do one more joke where I said, just a heads up if you have two Jews in a car, “Jesus, Take the Wheel” is not the song you want on the radio.”
He states, “90% of the act is what I would normally do anyway. I just address the paralysis of my face. You just have to address it, because it’s obvious and then you move on. ”
The Comedy for Koby tour kicks off in Beit Shemesh on August 12 and continues throughout the country. The August 14 show is in Gush Etzion, August 15 in Jerusalem, August 16 in Ra’anana, August 17 in Tel Aviv, finishing in Modi’in on August 18. 
The festival will feature American comedians Willie Barcena, Hugh Fink, and Don Gavin, in addition to the event being hosted by Liberman. 
Barcena, a stand-up veteran, has appeared in television shows including Moesha and The Wayans Brothers. His stand-up special on Comedy Central, Willie Barcena: The Truth Hurts received rave reviews and is now available to stream on Netflix. 
Hugh Fink, an accomplished comedy writer, wrote for Saturday Night Live from 1995-2002. He’s also written for The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson and The Showbiz Show with David Spade. During his time at SNL writing alongside Tina Fey, Will Ferrell, Tracey Morgan, Maya Rudolph, and Norm MacDonald, he received an Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Program.
He’s appeared on Conan O’Brien, Late Show with David Letterman, and his own Comedy Central half-hour special. Additionally, he’s executive produced and written the Writer’s Guild Awards, where he’s worked alongside Steve Carell, Sarah Silverman, Keegan Michael Key, Bill Burr, Wanda Sykes and Oliver Stones. 
Don Gavin, a comedian and actor, is best known for his appearances in the film Shallow Hal and the TV show Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist. Well-known in the Boston stand-up scene, he is often referred to as “The Godfather of Boston Comedy.”
Following his accident, in a Times of Israel blog post titled “What I’m Learning About Almost Dying,” Liberman wrote that two close friends suggested to him, “You only become a victim on stage if you present yourself that way, so… don’t.”
Looking ahead to getting back on the stage in Israel, post-accident, Liberman said he hoped his experience might prove to be helpful for others.
“I would say that anytime you can express yourself and hope that it reaches somebody, it’s always positive. If someone else was also going through a difficult time and could gain some inspiration and you realize you’re gonna have your downtime, that’s okay. But, you know, just try to keep plowing forward.”

Source: Jerusalem Post

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