Oct. 20, 2020
By JANICE ARNOLD
MONTREAL – Jewish community institutions are hoping a little comedy will lift pandemic-weary spirits and bring the socially distanced together, at least virtually.
The Segal Centre for Performing Arts is presenting A Call to Montreal, an original video show created by and starring the irreverent YidLife Crisis duo of Jamie Elman and Eli Batalion this Thursday (Oct. 22) at 7:30 p.m.
They promise to “lightly roast and toast” the city and its Jewish community with their trademark smart and sassy humour.
The 45-minute “one-time only” presentation was largely shot this summer on the Jewish Community Campus, with the enthusiastic participation of its key institutions: the Segal, the Sylvan Adams YM-YWHA, the Jewish Public Library, and the Cummings Jewish Centre for Seniors, which all ceased normal operations in March.
Elman and Batalion have been together since they launched YidLife Crisis as a web series in 2014 casting themselves as the youngish Yiddish-speaking odd couple, Chaimie (Elman) and Leizer (Batalion), who literally chew over the big questions of modern Jewish identity in the mama loshen they learned at Bialik High School.
A Call to Montreal follows on their first film love letter to their hometown, the 2018 documentary Chewdaism: A Taste of Jewish Montreal, which was nominated for four Canadian Screen Awards and played Jewish film festivals throughout the United States and elsewhere.
A Call to Montreal is in English with only a smattering of Yiddish, and eating is not on the menu, say the two boychiks, who have already packed on the “quarantine 15” over the past months.
The show is a mix of skits, musical performances, and surprise guests, shot respecting all health protocols on site, as well as remotely.
The Segal and its partner institutions see the event as a way of reaching out to the community and reminding it of “its vitality in the face of adversity.”
The show, which will be live-streamed, will be followed by a real live question-and-answer session between the audience, Batalion and Elman, who lives in Los Angeles but thinks of himself as an honorary Montrealer. He hopes the great Montreal diaspora – Jewish and not – will also be watching.
Tickets are $18 per person or $36 per household, with part of the proceeds going to the institutions involved.
A recording of the show will be available on-demand for up to 48 hours afterward for ticket holders.
The duo will be up against another comedy act scheduled for that night – the second U.S. presidential debate – but that starts at 9 p.m. and will have less Yiddish, they point out.
The idea is to make A Call to Montreal as inclusive as possible, so anyone who cannot afford a ticket should enter their plea at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For those who want an authentic experience, YidLife Crisis has arranged with the Snowdon Deli a special menu of traditional fare that can be picked up before the show.
“After ‘exporting’ Jewish Montreal to the U.S. and beyond, it gives us great pleasure to ‘return’ to our resilient community and remind them of what they already know: that while we may be down, we’re still alive and – gently – kicking,” says the duo.
As Batalion exhorts in the promotional trailer: “Don’t be a shmendrick, buy your ticket now.” To which Elman adds tongue in cheek: “May you all be inscribed in the Book of Life for 5781 – in a Sharpie.”