When Ayelet takes the stage, her set resembles most stand-up comedy. She tells jokes. The audience laughs. But there are always a few things missing. No clinking beer bottles. No dirty humor.
And no men.
Ayelet calls herself a Kosher Komic. She is a fervently religious woman who keeps her comedy clean and her audience female.
“Nowhere does it say in Torah, ‘Thou shalt not tell jokes in front of men,” says Ayelet. “I’m a very outgoing person and can use a measure of modesty. I’ve taken on extra measures.”
Limiting her audience to one gender hasn’t cramped Ayelet’s style. The Long Island-born Jerusalem-based comedian is currently on a “world tour” that includes a performance at the home of Rebbetzin Miriam Ferris in Berkeley Tuesday, Feb. 22.
She also has a CD, a Web site and a global fan base, things most shomer Shabbat women do not claim. But Ayelet is not new to show business. She’s a former actress who once played a serial killer on an HBO series. She also launched a stand-up comedy career that initially included the kind of foul-mouthed routines heard every day on Comedy Central.
Those days are over.
About two years ago, Ayelet (she does not use her last name) became more observant, shedding the secular ways of the past. She moved to Jerusalem from New York to study Torah, initially believing her new lifestyle incompatible with an entertainment career.
“When I became Orthodox I put my career aside,” she says. “I thought there was no hope [of performing again], but I realized I had some great Jewish jokes that were totally funny but not disgusting or demeaning. I started doing them at Shabbos and I realized there was a great need. Jewish women need to be entertained.”
Ayelet says her humor springs from an unexpected source. “My comedy comes from Torah. Abraham and Sarah tried to have kids their whole lives, then, when they’re very old, she gets pregnant. That’s the first joke in history. My humor is God humor. There’s no need to be offensive, mean or obnoxious in any way.”
Her routines are drawn from everyday life but with a uniquely Jewish twist. “I start with something normal and take it to an extreme,” she says. Her signature bit: Glatt Kosher Airlines, where every civil aviation rule is filtered through an Orthodox lens. She also jokes about dating (she’s single and looking for a match), dieting, mothers … just about anything women can relate to.
As it turns out, Ayelet is not the only Orthodox woman doing stand-up. Japanese American comedian/actress Rachel Factor, a Jew-by-choice, has her own one-woman show and was recently profiled in The New York Times.
“We are pioneers,” says Ayelet of herself and Factor, “by creating a forum, by being modest, by providing entertainment for women and by expressing our talent.”
Nowadays, she performs at fund-raisers, synagogues, private homes and other safe settings. And if she’s learned one thing from her pre-selected audience, it’s that Orthodox women love to laugh.
“When I performed for men, they didn’t have the appreciation,” she says. “Women are much more supportive. They come up and tell me, ‘I haven’t laughed like that in years. We appreciate what you’ve done.’ I never used to get that kind of reaction.”
So she travels the Jewish world getting those laughs. And it doesn’t hurt to be mixing it up with people who just might introduce Ayelet to her beshert.
Even if she marries, Ayelet intends to continue cracking wise professionally. “I’ll keep doing this,” she says. “Marriage will offer me new routines: the wedding, being married, kids, so much funny material.”
Ayelet will perform 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 22, at the home of Rebbetzin Miriam Ferris, 2942 Claremont Blvd., Berkeley. Tickets: $15. Information: (510) 848-3436.
Ayelet’s CD, “Kosher Komedy Vol. 1,” is available for $15 through her Web site, www.kosherkomedy.com.