The first time I met Yitty, over a decade ago, I was convalescing at the Aim B’Yisroel kimpeturin home, a place where new mothers can sleep, indulge in extravagent meals, coo over their babies and eat some more. It was 9:30 p.m., visiting hours were over, and we’d loaded our plates with oozing slices of chocolate babka and fresh pineapple chunks, washed down with herbal tea.
Yitty, the comedian who would be providing the evening’s entertainment, walked over to our cozy group and gushed, “Wow, what nachas to see how nicely everyone is eating! If you were newborn babies your mothers would be overjoyed. ‘Poo-poo-poo!’ they’d say. ‘Look how much she gained after the last feeding!’”
We all cracked up. For the next hour plus, Yitty had us laughing so hard we were gasping for breath. I still remember her pithy observations about bedtime routines—or lack thereof.
“I never put my kids to sleep. I just go to sleep whenever I’m tired, and when I wake up in the morning the children are sleeping!”
Her repertoire includes the horrors of unannounced shvigger visits, kimpeturin aches and pains, shidduchim and neighborly squabbles.
All of her jokes are squeaky-clean, without offending anyone or veering into lashon hara, delivered with a straight face and deadpan humor.
Towards the end of her presentation, Yitty introduced her famous alef monologue, a fascinating tale consisting of over 1,000 Yiddish words, all of which begin with the letter alef and fit into its theme seamlessly.
She has since produced a similar monologue with the letters mem and fei, decrying rampant peer pressure and especially the “can you top that” mishloach manos trend, all of which have gone viral. (We’ve come a long way from the paper-plate-hamentashen and chocolate-wafer-houses days.)
Yitty sings, mimics accents perfectly and pokes fun at herself. Everything is game as long as it’s refined, won’t offend anyone, and enables her to connect with her crowd.
She famously doesn’t prepare beforehand, as she feels it detracts from her spontaneity. “One time I had to prepare for a Bonei Olam video presentation. It was very challenging, as I’m not good at rehearsing lines. I kept making comments off the cuff, and the other actress kept getting confused. Most of the time, though, I just ad lib and speak from the heart.”
Has she ever forgotten her jokes or had a presentation fall flat?
“Not really,” she says. “Sometimes the audience isn’t so tuned in or they’re a bit distracted, so I just go with the flow. If I’m stuck, I’ll look for one person in the crowd I think I recognize or I’m related to or I went to school with her mother, and I’ll start schmoozing with her. Before I know it, I have the audience in the palm of my hand.
“Sometimes people who are in Aishes Chayil [another kimpeturin home] for their fourth or fifth time will roll their eyes, as if to say, ‘Oy, it’s her again! I heard this already!’ So I’ll turn it into a joke, saying that whoever laughs—even if she already heard the joke—gets a special discount for her next stay at Aishes Chayil!”
When all else fails, Yitty has a collection of games that enable the women to get to know each other better through a series of funny questions and challenges, or songs that soon have them tapping their toes and harmonizing.
Where does she get her ideas? Mostly from real life. “A lot of funny things happen to me or to people I know. Or maybe I’m just listening more carefully, finding the humor in everyday life.” Wherever she goes, she talks about how important it is to spend quality time with your children. As she quips, “I say this again and again, whether I’m in Eretz Yisrael, Belgium or London: The most important part of chinuch is being home with your children 24/7!”