BEVERLY HILLS — They came in tuxedos, red ballroom gowns, and velvet ties to help raise money for one of Israel’s most important causes.
Over sea bass and short ribs, guests at the American Friends of Magen David Adom’s annual Red Star Ball at The Beverly Hilton on Monday night heard tales from Israel’s first responders, and the danger they witness –– and put themselves in –– on a daily basis.
Founded in 1930, Magen David Adom is Israel’s go-to national ambulance, blood service, and disaster-relief organization. Among the evening’s honorees were longtime benefactors Sheldon and Dr. Miriam Adelson for the Humanitarian of the Year Award, Renee and Meyer Luskin for the Lifetime Achievement Award, and Nikita Kahn for the Leadership-Next Generation Award.
In addition to the funding of a new $130 million blood center, which will be built underground to protect it from future rocket attacks, the highlight of the night was a wide-ranging 40-minute set from legendary comic and fellow member of the tribe, Jerry Seinfeld, who touched on everything from cellphones to marriage to food.
“All we want to do is live and eat. This is the third purpose of Judaism,” he said, to laughs. “Food and sex occupy 99 percent of the human brain. The other one percent of your brain accomplishes everything you achieve in life, which hopefully leads to nicer restaurants where sexier people are eating better food.”
It was the second time in three years Seinfeld performed at the Ball (last year’s entertainment was provided by singer Diana Ross). Prior to his set –– after he made it through a throng of photographers and well-wishers on the red carpet –– Seinfeld spoke briefly with The Times of Israel in his hotel suite about performing at benefits, his connection to Israel, and getting heckled.
You made it through the red carpet, congratulations.
There’s nothing like that.
Are they nerve wracking? They look nerve wracking.
Not at all. I am a complete professional. Nothing rattles me. But there is nothing like that particular gathering of Jewish people — when you get them in a group they are very different from most of the groups of people that I am in.
Obviously I have a stronger connection to them. And I have this connection to Israel. So it’s just very intimate. It’s powerful. I love it. I love that they think I’m their son.
You performed at this benefit two years ago. Is that easier for you going in, knowing the crowd, the terrain?
In comedy you never know what you’re going to get. Every night is different. Every show is different.
Last year Diana Ross performed here, which means you’re following a Supreme…
Actually she wasn’t a Supreme, the Supremes backed her up…
[Laughs.] You’re right.
I hate to be technical, you seem like a bright kid.
Well thank you. You mentioned the Israel connection. You volunteered on a kibbutz, right?
When I was younger. I was 16.
How did that come about?
It was a program. It was probably through my temple. I do remember it was $866 that my parents paid. It was eight weeks in Israel, plus roundtrip airfare. Of course I had to work, which I didn’t.
What kind of work were you supposed to be doing?
I was supposed to be chopping dead banana leaves. I couldn’t do it.
You just sloughed off?
I couldn’t do it — it was exhausting.
Are memories of Israel in your mind when you do an event like this?
No but I like to visit — when I go to Israel I of course go back to that time. I just feel very close to Israel.
Have you been back to the kibbutz?
I have. We actually just drove by, which was exciting. That was about 10 years ago.
I assume you get a lot of offers to do benefits. Do you have a checklist on what you say yes to, what you say no to?
What are they?
Well you do the things you can do if you have time in your schedule and it’s a cause that you feel for. This is obviously one that I support. It’s a pleasure to do this.
There was a “Louie” episode you were in from Season 4, where Louis C.K. opened for you at a benefit, and bombed. Have you had any mortifying benefit experiences yourself?
Sure oh yeah. It’s very common at benefits, and these private situations comedians often schedule.
Do people tune you out, or are they actually booing you?
Yeah they boo, they throw things.
They throw things?
Whatever they can grab — glasses, furniture. I’m just kidding. Nothing I say means anything.
On your recent Netflix special there’s a really great scene of you sitting down in the street with all your notes. Do you write jokes for everything? Do you have a “benefits” file?
It’s for everything. In my head I have different material that goes into different categories. Things that will work in this situation or that situation.
Are there particular things you look to avoid at a benefit?
I don’t do my interracial sex stuff.
Ah, that’s what you’re known for.
I don’t do my heroin stuff.
Before I let you go, your buddy Larry David is back on TV again. Have you been watching Curb Your Enthusiasm at all?
I don’t watch TV.