ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 231

Stand-up comedian Daniel-Ryan Spaulding (Maximilian Koenig)
Stand-up comedian Daniel-Ryan Spaulding (Maximilian Koenig)
Interview'If the Jews go down, the gays follow'

Comedian-turned-unlikely advocate for Israel is heading back to the Jewish state

Daniel-Ryan Spaulding, a non-Jewish gay stand-up comic, will be performing shows in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem following months of using his platform to speak out against antisemitism

Amy Spiro is a reporter and writer with The Times of Israel

Stand-up comedian Daniel-Ryan Spaulding (Maximilian Koenig)

It’s been almost six months since Daniel-Ryan Spaulding last visited Israel.

A lot has changed in the interim – for both Spaulding and the Jewish state. Just a week after the Canadian-born comedian last performed in Tel Aviv, the country experienced the worst terror attack in its history. And the veteran stand-up comic and gay icon became an unlikely face of pro-Israel advocacy and the battle against antisemitism.

“I didn’t really understand that there was such a global brainwashing against Israel, I just actually couldn’t believe how dumb people were, that they didn’t understand that Hamas was a terrorist organization,” he told The Times of Israel in a recent Zoom interview from Berlin.

It was that disbelief that led the non-Jewish Spaulding to post a now-viral video on Instagram just a few days after October 7, expressing dismay at those so-called Western liberals openly cheering the massacre.

“It’s a little ironic that the people who seem to be defending Hamas online are also the ones they’d be most likely to kill,” says Spaulding in the clip posted to social media on October 11. “Oh no, no, no, I’m sure the Islamic terrorists would love you, queer intellectual feminist.”

The video hit a nerve among Israelis and Jews still reeling from the Hamas massacre and shocked by those around the world justifying the onslaught. It has since racked up more than 9 million views and gained Spaulding, 39, a whole new fan base.

@danielryanspaulding

Free Palestine FROM HAMAS! #istandwithisrael @henmazzig @amyschumer @telavivinstitute @noatishby #comedian #telaviv #gay #israel @perielaschenbrand @modi_live @bravoandy @eretznehederet @madonna

♬ original sound – Daniel-Ryan Spaulding

“I just remember thinking, well, if I’m going down, I’m going down with the Jews,” he said about posting that first video. “Because that is how it works anyway. If the Jews go down, the gays follow.”

In the months that followed, Spaulding became more and more outspoken in defense of Israel, criticism of Hamas and advocacy to bring home the hostages being held in Gaza. Rarely spotted without his hostage dog-tag necklace, he has partnered with the Israeli embassy, attended events at the UN and even launched an online alter ego, “Purple Hair Girl,” to mock liberal Hamas supporters.

“It just happened really naturally and really quickly. But I felt like I had to step up to the plate,” he said, noting the lack of public figures he saw speaking out in support of the hostages. “I just really felt the hand of God, in a way, just being like, ‘you have to do this, this is the right thing to do.’”

Spaulding said he still struggles to understand the justification he has seen in many circles, including his own gay community, for supporting Hamas and demonizing Israel.

“Someone gay has to be talking about this, and someone who is liberal, because being supportive of Israel and saying that Israel should exist, that is a bipartisan position,” he said. “I am as liberal as anyone could be, and I have the same view on this as [conservative firebrand] Ben Shapiro. We have nothing in common whatsoever. I would never even want to have a conversation with him. But we agree on this.”

Now, Spaulding is heading back to Israel with plenty on the agenda during his upcoming trip, including three stand-up shows in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem on March 28-29. He plans to combine advocacy and content creation with spending time in Tel Aviv’s vibrant gay scene as well as events with the Tel Aviv Institute and the TLV LGBTQ Center.

Spaulding, who moved to New York last year, said amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, he doesn’t “feel comfortable going out to certain gay bars anymore,” and is hoping to spend much of his trip “enveloped in gay Israeli love.”

“I just want to be around hot Israeli guys as much as possible, and I want to connect with my friends there because I haven’t seen them for this whole time,” he said. “I want to just really enjoy myself, be in a world without antisemitism for a while.”

@danielryanspaulding

♬ original sound – Daniel-Ryan Spaulding

Moving to the US from Berlin not long after the October 7 attack, Spaulding said it was good timing to sever ties with friends who he realized were prejudiced and antisemitic. These days, he said, “my social circle is primarily very Jewish, or at the very least gay men who don’t support Iranian-backed terrorist regimes. There are still a lot of gay men that understand it and get it,” he said, pointing to a generational divide.

He still faces backlash, he said, from those who have accused him of using his activism to “social climb in the elite circles of New York. Because that’s the thing with antisemitism – it’s always this conspiracy theory, it’s always ‘oh, he’s on the Zionist payroll, he’s just doing this for attention’… people do all sorts of mental gymnastics in their minds to try to justify things that don’t make sense.”

The stand-up comic’s first visit to Israel came in 2019, after years of making Israeli friends while living in Berlin for five years. Since then, he said, he has visited seven times and built strong connections with many Israelis.

The clips he posted online during his last visit to Israel point to a keen understanding of the country, including jokes about wild boars roaming the streets in Haifa and demanding a pre-Yom Kippur apology from Amir Ohana, the openly gay speaker of the Knesset from the right-wing Likud party.

“I had a fan who invited me to come in 2019, and I went just for a really short trip, just for two or three days,” he said, admitting that he didn’t “really know that much about Israel… and I had a lot of misconceptions about the country.” He kept going back, he said, and “started to build friendships and I started to ask people more questions” and gain a better understanding of the conflict and the country.

Asked if he has any security fears about his upcoming trip, Spaulding says he is not concerned.

“I’m not worried,” he said. “I figure, whatever happens, happens. And if all of a sudden we get bombed by Lebanon, at least we go out in a blaze of glory.”

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