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This Mother-Daughter Duo Is Making Comedy During Lockdown

Courtesy of Kung Pao Kosher Comedy
Courtesy of Kung Pao Kosher Comedy

Stop us if you've heard this one before...

A stand-up comic from San Francisco gets on a plane bound for South Florida to spend some time with her mother in Boynton Beach.

Then, a global pandemic strikes. Now, what began as a two-week vacation gets stretched out into a year-long lockdown with Mom. What to do? How about create a monthly comedy hour online, via Zoom? And make mom the warm-up act.

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WLRN’s Christine DiMattei spoke with Lisa Geduldig and her mother, Arlene. They’re living through this reality and created the Lockdown Comedy show.

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

WLRN: Lisa, this is how you describe the home studio set up for your show: recorded from the guest room in a retirement community with an iPad you bought with your stimulus check propped up on an underwear drawer. Now, here's my first burning question. Why the underwear drawer?

LISA: Actually, it was originally going to be in the underwear drawer. Now it's on top of the dresser. So it's comic license to stretch or exaggerate the truth. It's not lying. Lying and stretching the truth are completely different things.

When did it occur to you that your mom would be a good warm-up act for Lockdown Comedy?

We had been living together for a few months and getting to know each other a lot more than we had known in the past because we hadn't lived together in 40 years. And she's very funny. And I thought, "Well I'm producing the show out of your house. Do you want to perform?" I thought it was going to be a one-time thing. And she's fearless. And she said, sure. So she performed and then she enjoyed it. And she got a lot of laughs. And friends of mine were emailing me or putting on Facebook "Your mom’s so funny, I can't wait to see her again." So she continued performing and then it became a thing. Mom has reinvented herself as a comedian at the ripe old age of 89.

It's an entirely different experience doing comedy over Zoom versus an in-person performance. So what have you done with Lockdown Comedy to make the experience feel more like a live audience?

Well, we have people unmuted so they can laugh and we've kept the chat going, even though I'm not a big proponent of chat because I feel like people aren't paying attention when they're chatting in the chat box. And then at the end of the show, we have a little schmooze. I say if anyone wants to stick around afterward, we're going to be here. We have maybe 30 or 40 of the couple of hundred people stick around, because where is everyone going to go? No one has anywhere to go. So some of the performers stay.

We have sort of this core group of people who stays and then other folks. It seems like it would be hard to get the audience going during a Zoom show because you don't have the real face to face, but now if you're looking at everyone on the gallery view, you see everyone upfront — everyone gets a front-row seat and parking is validated, of course. So as long as people are not banging their pots or yelling at their dog, you know, you can hear what's going on.

It's going on 30 years ago, you created something in San Francisco that's become a staple in the San Francisco comedy scene. It's called Kung Pao Kosher Comedy. How did that come about?

There I was telling Jewish jokes at a Chinese restaurant. The next morning I called an old friend from summer camp and said I was just having the most ironic experience. And out of that conversation came the joke of an idea of doing the Jewish comedy night on Christmas in a Chinese restaurant. I went back to San Francisco in October of 1993 and couldn't get the idea out of my head. I started calling Chinese restaurants. I thought it was going to be a one-off. But then there was a line around the corner and the event made Critic's Choice. And then I thought, I'll do this again. And the next year. It's sold out again. The show just kept growing exponentially.

Initially, in March of last year, when I realized that the pandemic was here to stay, I thought "there goes everything I've built in the almost last 30 years, there goes my entire career." And then we did it online and we had two to three thousand people over the course of the three days, largely in the U.S., a little bit in Europe and a couple of people in Israel. We realized that we have an audience all over the country, smatterings of people in other countries, friends and family who wanted to come to the show. And now we have people who want to keep attending. So it would be foolish to not continue the online component.

Years ago, after racking her brains trying to find a fun, engaging, creative night gig to subsidize her acting habit, Chris decided to ride her commercial voiceover experience into the fast-paced world of radio broadcasting. She started out with traffic reporting, moved on to news -- and never looked back. Since then, Chris has worked in newsrooms throughout South Florida, producing stories for radio broadcasts and the web.
Leslie Ovalle produces WLRN's daily magazine program, Sundial. She previously produced Morning Edition newscasts at WLRN and anchored the midday news. As a multimedia producer, she also works on visual and digital storytelling.