I’m Joel Chasnoff, stand-up comic, author, and host of the forthcoming Podcast, “Interesting Jews.”
My mission is simple: to bring people together through laughter.
How do I do it? Well…
Stand-up Comedy. When we laugh together, we are together — when we can’t be in the same room, shared laughter is the antidote to our shared struggles. Live comedy is awesome, and I’ve found that comedy on Zoom is a lot of fun, too!
Books. I write almost exclusively in the first-person; I like to explore the stories that shape our lives — those absurd experiences we all go through but don’t necessarily want to talk about. It’s such a relief to find out that other people have experienced the same thing you have — it helps you feel part of something bigger and less alone in the world.
Lectures. I speak on a variety of topics, including the history and future of Jewish humor, my family’s year-long backpacking trip around the world, and my service as a Lone Soldier in the IDF.
Podcast. My Podcast, “Interesting Jews,” is an interview show in which I talk with…the name says it all, right? But not all of my guests are Jewish. I speak with rabbis and Jewish educators, but also Palestinian comics and Christian journalists. What they have in common is that their area of expertise is somehow connected to the fate of the Jewish people.
Stand-up comedy has been my full-time job since 2001. But my mother thinks I’m still in med school, so if you happen to run into her, don’t tell.
When I was just starting out, I performed comedy everywhere — clubs, colleges, open mic dive bars on the Lower East Side, laundromats (for real). The idea was to get stage time and cut my teeth.
These days, I perform almost exclusively in the Jewish world. I’ve appeared at more than 1,000 Jewish events in 10 countries, including the Melbourne Comedy Festival, Montreal’s Just-for-Laughs, Limmud US and UK, Chabad centers in South America and Europe, Israeli late-night TV, and fundraisers and social events at JCCs, synagogues, Jewish Federations, Hillels, and day schools across North America.
The 188th Crybaby Brigade
In 2010, Simon and Schuster published The 188th Crybaby Brigade, my comedic memoir about my year as a tank soldier in the Israeli army. The book is in its sixth printing. You can purchase it on Amazon.
In 2012, Artisan/Workman published Balboosta, a cookbook I co-wrote with Israeli chef and two-time Chopped! Champion Einat Admony. The book was praised by the New York Times and received a starred review from Publishers Weekly. You can purchase Balaboosta on Amazon.
There Is No Ball
My forthcoming book, There Is No Ball (St. Martin’s Press 2022), is a roadmap for how to get better at tennis. The book covers all aspects of the game, from groundstrokes, volleys, and serves, to strategy and mental toughness. Illustrations supplement the text for an engaging handbook every tennis player will consider essential reading. I’m co-writing the book with coach Ian Westermann of EssentialTennis.com.
My writing has also appeared in the Times of Israel, The Forward, and the Washington Post, as well as the 25th Anniversary Edition of The Big Book of Jewish Humor and The Idiot’s Guide to Jokes. You can learn more about my writing on the Books page.
Ever since my Bubbe and Zayde gave me a comic book-style Old Testament for my fifth birthday, I’ve been fascinated with Jewish texts.
I hope to one day study Jewish text seriously at Pardes, in Jerusalem. For now, I’ve created a YouTube series called “On One Foot” — a weekly two-minute commentary, or d’var, on the week’s Torah portion. Sometimes I deliver the commentary myself, but usually, it’s by a rabbi or educator friend.
Writing There Is No Ball with Ian Westermann inspired me to revitalize my own tennis game and compete at the Open level.
I currently train six days a week, on all aspects of the sport — from swing technique to footwork, and macro elements like shot selection to micro aspects like the exact release point of my toss on an ad-side-wide kick-serve.
I was born in Chicago and raised in Evanston, IL — home of the Northwestern Wildcats and birthplace of Prohibition.
I attended Solomon Schechter Jewish Day School in Skokie through eighth grade. I then went to Evanston Township High School — in my opinion, the greatest public high school in America. It was at ETHS that I first got into acting and comedic writing, thanks to an incredible English teacher named Mr. Crotty and a top-notch Theater Arts Department.
After high school, I attended the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. At Penn, I was the Head Writer and Director of Mask and Wig, America’s oldest all-male comedy troupe.
It was also during college that I landed my first paid acting gig: I was hired as an on-field and in-the-stands performer with the Philadelphia Phillies baseball team, in a fruitless attempt to entertain 40,000 of the world’s heaviest drinking sports fans.
After college, I moved to Israel and served as a combat soldier in the 188th Armored Brigade of the Israel Defense Forces. Ever since visiting Israel as a teenager with Camp Ramah, I dreamed that I would one day be a soldier in the IDF and do my part for Israel. Army life was more difficult than I ever could have imagined. But the friendships I formed are intact to this day, and I look back on the experience as one of the most meaningful of my life.
After my release, I moved back to Chicago, and then New York, to pursue my comedy and writing careers. I studied improv at I.O. (formerly Improv Olympic) with legendary director Charna Halpern, and then at Upright Citizens Brigade in New York. Eventually, I chose to make a career in stand-up.
In the summer of 2015, my Israeli wife Dorit and I sold almost everything we owned, put the rest in storage, and embarked on a one-year backpacking trip around the world with our four kids. We visited South America, southern Africa, Southeast Asia, the Far East, and Australia — 14 countries in all.
We now live in Ra’anana, Israel, just outside Tel Aviv. Before the pandemic hit, I flew to the US once a month to perform comedy and lecture. Since April 2020, I’ve been performing on Zoom.
I’ve done more than a hundred online comedy events to date. Zoom magically narrows the distance between my audience and me, and online comedy shows can be intimate, engaging, and bring a community together for much-needed laughter.