In a candid conversation with Danielle Brody, Modi Rosenfeld shares his journey from Merrill Lynch to comedy. Discover how his humor bridges gaps and unites Jewish and non-Jewish audiences.
Danielle Brody: How did you start doing comedy? How did you develop your voice and your audience?
Modi Rosenfeld: I worked in investment banking in the international division of Merrill Lynch, where there were a lot of international people, and I used to imitate their accents and voices. A friend of mine said, “You should do it on stage”. And that’s when I began doing comedy.
As I began doing comedy, you know, your voice comes out, and it became a very Jewish voice. Jerry Seinfeld is a comedian who happens to be Jewish, but [Elon Gold and I] are Jewish comedians. It’s not a comedian who happens to be Jewish, it’s a Jewish comedian.
Obviously, you’re working your audience and I was working clean so synagogues would hire me. And corporate events that were kind-of-Jewish would hire me. So the voice became Jewish, and that’s just also what I really am, too. So it was a good fit for me, being a Jewish comedian.
A big part of me is Jewish, so that’s why it’s a big part of my show, my repertoire. And it’s my audience, too. And I make it so people who aren’t Jewish also understand what the joke is, and it kind of gives them a window into the Jewish world, and they love it.
They always come over to me, “Oh I knew that, and I didn’t know what that meant, and my friend was this, we always go to Shabbat dinner, and now I know what that means.”
Brody: The audience at the inaugural Chosen Comedy Festival, that you played a role in creating, included diverse Jews and non-Jews. Is that what you expected?
Rosenfeld: It literally brought a tear to my eye — it was every type of Jew you could imagine. There were Sephardic, there were Ashkenazi, there were Syrian, there were Persians, there were Hasidic people from Borough Park and Hasidic people from Williamsburg and Long Island, old Jewish ladies from Hadassah, and the Chabad (Lubavitch Hasidim) guys were in the back putting on tefillin.
People were sending us stories about their first time putting on tefillin. I was so moved by it, I was so happy. It was such mashiach energy.
I think the goal of everything should be mashiach energy. All those Jews sitting there together for the purpose of laughing, the purpose of enjoying being Jewish, and other people who aren’t Jewish to join them — that’s mashiach energy, and that’s what this festival is to me.
That’s how I try to do everything. And so that was the goal for me and the audience itself was, for me, was the icing on the cake.
Obviously, I love performing, but to look out and see older people, younger people, it was just unbelievable. It was unbelievable.
Brody: What is “mashiach energy” and how do we bring it into our lives?
Rosenfeld: Be nice and respect each other, and have human dignity towards each other and try to bring light. If you have something nasty to say, don’t say it. Just by not saying it, you’re going to bring mashiach energy.
Help somebody when you’re down. If you feel like you need help, just go help somebody else.
It’s hard, it’s a hard thing, but you have to see it. You have to also find it and when you see it say, “Oh, that’s mashiach energy.” And then be thankful for it.
Brody: What else are you working on?
Rosenfeld: The podcast And Here’s Modi is becoming really, really good. Not becoming, it’s been good, it’s getting a lot better. We have some great ones we just did which are now live. We hosted the Burning Bush guy [Simcha Bernstein], that’s the kosher weed guy. We also had Jake Cohen on which was great, we had so much fun.
I’ve been touring a lot and doing shows. I just sold out London, I sold out Toronto, we sold out LA.
It’s great touring and seeing the world and seeing the Jews of every community, I’m so blessed.
Danielle Brody is a Jewish writer, marketer, and artist living in New York City. She creates cartoons about her life and Jewish culture as Danielle in Doodles and Jews in Doodles. Brody self-published “Don’t Fuhaggadahboudit” and "Hanukkah in Your Hands." She creates Jewish products, including a new game called Mitzvah or ...
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