TeenyFest highlights Jewish jokes and Jewish comedians so everyone can laugh
European-style comedy festival from Steel City AF showcases diversity to build community
Ready for a bit that’s better than your bubbie’s babka? Thanks to Steel City AF, Jewish Pittsburghers have a chance to laugh about all things heimish and not.
Between May 31 and June 2, Steel City AF is hosting TeenyFest, a European-style comedy festival with six shows, including one titled, “Make Bubbie Proud.”
Produced by Jewish comedian and screenwriter Eben Parker, “Make Bubbie Proud” features several Jewish comedians and concludes with a Jewish stand-up dressed like an older “kvetch” who will mock all of the preceding jokes, Parker explained.
Though the format and tone are geared for a Jewish audience, “Make Bubbie Proud” will be “funny for anyone,” Parker said.
So much of what makes something hilarious is “relatability,” the Squirrel Hill resident continued.
“People say there’s truth in comedy but what I think they’re really saying is ‘I relate to that.’”
Steve Hofstetter, Steel City AF’s founder and chairman, said “Make Bubbie Proud,” as well as TeenyFest in general, is a chance to highlight diversity, build community and “laugh in the face of antisemitism.”
“There are cultural commonalities that we can celebrate that aren’t damaging,” he said. “The idea of an overbearing grandmother is something found in many cultures, and that’s actually a way for non-Jewish people to relate because they have gone through the same thing we have.”
What isn’t funny, Hofstetter said, is when comics use “stuff based on old stereotypes.”
Although that type of humor is “cheap and lazy,” it doesn’t mean there can’t be great jokes about Jewish people and Jewish culture, he explained.
“If it comes from a compassionate place, sure, no one is off limits,” he said. The problem is “if someone is going to argue that they can use the same joke they used in 1995, then I want to see them use the same technology they did then.” Society has evolved and therefore comedy must as well, Hofstetter continued. If this isn’t the case “then I would say make those jokes on a VHS or on your fancy new cordless phone.”
Both Hofstetter and Parker are excited about “Make Bubbie Proud,” and the festival in general.
Along with showcasing Jewish comedians, TeenyFest is highlighting LGBTQIA+ comedians, Pittsburgh comedians and women in comedy, as well as comedians who are Black, Indigenous
and people of color.
“All of the shows are being produced by very talented people and represent other communities that are also facing rising hate,” Parker said. “The LGBTQ community is facing that. The Black community is facing that. There is a lot of legislation about restricting women’s bodies. These shows are highlighting those communities.”
Parker is excited to laugh alongside fellow landsmen but said the programming has a greater purpose: “Part of being an engaged community member is being involved not only with what’s going on in our community but with everyone, and the whole festival is about that.”
“We are happy to celebrate Jewish culture in Pittsburgh — it’s not something that is done often enough — and considering what the Jewish community in Pittsburgh has been through it’s nice to get some wins,” he said.
TeenyFest’s goal, though, is to get people of different backgrounds to laugh together.
“I think that goes a long way toward eliminating prejudice,” Hofstetter said. “Prejudice happens when people believe secondhand accounts of what other groups are like. When you see for yourself that people are alike everywhere, it’s hard to stay prejudiced.”
TeenyFest will be held at Hop Farm Brewing Company. Tickets and information are available at TeenyFest.com. PJC
Adam Reinherz can be reached at [email protected].