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Nik Rabinowitz gets Rambunctious



Stand-up comedian Nik Rabinowitz is at it again, this time with Rambunctious in Sandton, and he’s hoping ISIS won’t notice this time. The SA Jewish Report chatted to him before the show.

How would you describe Rambunctious?

A stand-up comedy show starring male comedian slash Maccabi gold-medal award winning leg-spinner slash goat aficionado, Nik Rabinowitz.

What made you choose that name?

After my experience last year with ISIS, I was tempted to call this show “Terror Virgin”, but then an elderly woman saw our daughter running around after shul and said, “She’s such a tomboy,” and I said, “We don’t say that anymore, she’s rambunctious.” And then I thought, “That’s a good name for a show!”

It hasn’t been long since Unmuted was on stage. What inspired you to return so soon with something new?

That’s the nature of showbusiness, I’m afraid. As is said in Genesis 1:3 (director’s cut): “After you do one show, you must make another show. And so on, and so forth, and lo, let there be sound, as well as light.”

Your shows are personal. What’s it like speaking (or laughing) about your own experiences publicly?

I prefer to talk about other people’s experiences publicly, but they aren’t as fond of that. I learned this recently when I had to attend couples therapy with my mother, but you’ll hear all about that in the show.

The last show you did at the Theatre on the Square experienced an ISIS terror threat. How did you deal with that at the time? What impact has it had on you in the long term?

Come to this show to find out. I discuss it in great detail – unless ISIS is reading this, in which case, I don’t mention it at all.

In the promo to your show, it speaks about the chaos around your son’s Barmitzvah. What happened?

I wrote that press release before the Barmitzvah, which actually went very smoothly, for which I’d like to thank Rabbi Feldman, Raphi Ress, and the lady that catered the salmon – not that I got to eat any, but that’s Jewish functions for you.

You’ve been touring the world with the King David Foundation. What are the moments you’ll never forget?

It’s been fantastic. Highlights include the organisers telling me that one of the New York alumni had a heated driveway but that if I mentioned it publicly, he might spend his money repairing the driveway instead of on a new Muay Thai gym for the Grade 1 Victory Parkers.

For more information on the King David Tour, you can come watch Rambunctious in Sandton, or book for Tel Aviv, London, or Sydney.

What are your fondest and worst recollections of King David?

I didn’t attend King David until quite recently, when I attended a Pesach seder at Victory Park, led by myself, in front of a panel of stern rabbis, and then to recover, I had sushi from the tuckshop, which really is as good as they say. Afterwards, I sat on a lion statue while a 12-year-old Jewish businessman tried to sell me an NFT.

What impact does being Jewish have on your work?

Aside from suffering from epigenetically inherited self-doubt and pogrom-related anxiety, there are other fears one has to deal with, like the threat of terrorist attacks, and/or religious organisations losing five donors at their annual fundraising dinner because of my interpretation of that week’s parshah. On the plus side, the Capital Hotel Empire has been incredibly generous, for which I’m most grateful. #SwingsAndRoundabouts

What does it mean to you and your life?

You’d think being descended from 12 generations of rabbonim would mean I wouldn’t have a problem telling Rabbi Kievman I can’t come for dinner on Friday because I’m working, but I still do.

When you’re not on stage making people laugh, what do you enjoy doing?

Being from Cape Town, I enjoy mountain walks, octopus courting, and surfing Muizenberg with comedians who are much worse at surfing than me. Occasionally, I also enjoy waking up early to drive our child through rush-hour traffic to the opposite side of Cape Town, right behind the Herzlia school bus, because she won’t get on the bus. I like to take the exact same route as the bus in order to remind myself that as a people, we haven’t yet suffered enough.

What is Nik Rabinowitz like offstage? Are you always making people laugh, are you serious, or what?

Offstage, I’m a meek, mild-mannered Herbalife salesman, and I truly come alive only once I walk under those bright lights and grab a microphone. If you see me on the street, I’ll be shy and unassuming, unlike my bold, rambunctious stage persona. Think of me as a puppet, and the audience as the hand that is all the way up me, moving my mouth.

What’s Friday night (when you aren’t performing) like in the Rabinowitz household?

During term-time, we kick off with my eldest visiting juffrou Nerwich for Friday afternoon Afrikaans cheder, then we drive (don’t tell the rabbi) to Gardens for the service, then back home to light candles (if it’s loadshedding). Then it’s brochas and Bud Rosenthorns – which refers to the week’s roses (highlights), thorns (challenges) and buds (things to look forward to) – and not the fictional 1950s Jewish baseball-hall-of-famer Bud Rosenthorn, who doesn’t exist. After main course, Ben sometimes tickles the ivories, and then if he’s around, Debbie’s Uncle Morty will admonish him for playing music on Shabbat, before checking his WhatsApps.

What’s next for you?

Another week of shows in Joburg, then home to work on a movie with my table-tennis partner, then the King David Tuckshop Tour resumes with Tel Aviv and London in September, and Australia in October, and then it’s not clear what happens after that because a psychic recently told me that I’m clairaudient, which means I can’t see the future, but sometimes I can hear it, but in this case from November on, it sounds a bit muffled.

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