From its TV jingles, we all know that Rice-A-Roni is “The San Francisco Treat”. As a native, I’ve also enjoyed Dungeness Crab, Sourdough French Bread, It’s It Ice Cream Sandwiches, Anchor Steam Beer, Ghirardelli Chocolate, and Irish Coffee from the Buena Vista Café.
However, there’s one “Only in San Francisco” thing that you may not know, but definitely should. Now celebrating its 30th Anniversary, Kung Pao Kosher Comedy –– AKA “Jewish Comedy on Christmas in a Chinese Restaurant –– is as much a part of The City by The Bay as any of the above.
A Long-Running Comedy Dinner Show Created by Accident.
KPKC was created by accident by local comedian Lisa Geduldig after she performed at what she thought was going to be a comedy club in South Hadley, Massachusetts. But it was actually a Chinese restaurant.
The morning after she told Jewish jokes in that venue, and she chatted with a summer camp friend, Kung Pao Kosher Comedy was born. After all, everyone who’s Jewish knows that we celebrate Hanukkah, but our Christmas Day entails going to a movie and following it up our favorite Chinese cuisine.
“Kung Pao Kosher Comedy started out as a community service for all Jews who have ever been stuck on Christmas Day with nothing to do but hide under the covers, contemplate Midnight Mass, or visit a Chinese restaurant,” says Lisa. “The audience began as 99% Jewish and has expanded to include Chinese-Jewish couples, interfaith ones, singles, families, gays, straights, undecideds, those who are far from home, and just generally people who like smart comedy mixed with Chinese food. We held the event for 23 years at the New Asia Restaurant in Chinatown with a six-course feast.”
Dozens of Famous Comedians.
What famous comedians have appeared at Kung Pao Kosher Comedy over the last three decades? “Henny Youngman performed his last show, at 91, on the Kung Pao stage in 1997,” adds Lisa. “Shelley Berman has headlined, as have David Brenner, Elayne Boosler, Carol Leifer, Marc Maron, and dozens more, plus Margaret Cho as a surprise guest.”
COVID Begat “Lockdown Comedy”.
Lisa was visiting her Mom, Arline, in Florida for two weeks in March 2020 when COVID began and was stuck there for 17 months. She’s been commuting back and forth for the past year. Because KPKC couldn’t meet in person for two years, Lisa and Arline launched “Lockdown Comedy” –– a weekly virtual comedy show that’s been streaming live on the 3rd Thursday of the month ever since.
Kung Pao Kosher Comedy Is Now Live Again in an Asian Market.
But now that vaccinations and booster shots have been received by the great majority of her audience, tickets for the three 2022 shows on December 23rd, 24th and 25th are available online now. The twist is that the New Asia Restaurant closed during the pandemic, so this event will be taking place an Asian Pop-Up Market in San Francisco with food catered by Green Chow Down. Comedy and Asian food fans now have a choice of Virtual (YouTube Live) at 6pm PST or in-person for a 5pm dinner followed by the comedy show at 6pm on either of the three nights.
This year’s comedians include Mark Schiff (tours with Seinfeld; was a writer and actor on Mad About You), Cathy Ladman (The Tonight Show guest a gazillion times; Curb Your Enthusiasm; Modern Family; Mad Me), Orion Levine (recent Berkeley to LA transplant; just featured as a New Face at Montreal’s Just for Laughs Comedy Festival), Lisa Geduldig (Kung Pao host), and Arline Geduldig (Lisa’s 91-year young mom by video from Florida).
Whether you’re a native San Franciscan like me, a long-time resident, or just want to do something different and definitely entertaining for the holidays, the S.F. Examiner called Kung Pao Kosher Comedy “A San Francisco institution.” #KosherComedy