It’s a family affair when it comes to doing standup comedy in the Applebaum household. Jeff and his son, Josh, 14, hit the stage at “Paws for Laughter” on Jan. 15 at Fort Mason Center’s Southside Theater to raise money for San Francisco’s Rocket Dog Rescue.
Jeff Applebaum is a New York native who has finally figured out how to speak English after living in California for 19 years, he says. His 100 percent clean comedy act revolves around his unique life experiences, including being the only white kid on his Little League team in Queens, having a Chinese wife who orders from takeout menus in fluent Mandarin, and raising Josh, a teenage son who calls himself “Jewnese,” because he says it sounds better than “Chine-ish.”
Jeff recently made his national TV debut on CBS as a comedian on the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson
and was cast to play classic comic Joey Bishop in the long-running musical tribute The Rat Pack is Back
in San Francisco, Chicago and Las Vegas. He is also credited and appears in the blockbuster film The Pursuit of Happyness
starring Will Smith.
Josh Applebaum has been doing standup for six years now and has worked with names like Robin Williams, Johnny Steele, and his famous father, to name a few.
Northside San Francisco: Is there a comedy gene? Did you each get your unique sense of humor from your parents?
Jeff: My parents, Robert and Roz, are both very funny people. My mother will claim that all of the humor comes from her, and that she is responsible for half of my jokes, which is true.
Josh: I’m from a funny, happy family, and we like to laugh. My dad is pretty funny, I guess, and he really encourages my standup comedy. I share my jokes with him, and he helps me with them, so I would definitely credit him for my sense of humor.
NSF: What motivates you to do this crazy standup thing?
Jeff: For me, it’s all about public validation. There’s nothing like a bunch of people at a club to see comedy because they’re not connected – they’re coming from all their very different worlds – some drunk, some sleeping, others hunched over. And within minutes (or less if you’re good), a headliner can hopefully find common ground and pull the crowd together to focus and enjoy and laugh at something. They’re saying, “Hey, you made me laugh, and you made me feel good. Thanks!” The appreciation is the key, and it’s the reason why I do it.
Josh: I enjoy talking to people and telling stories, so that’s why I’m doing it. It’s a great way for me to express myself, and I enjoy meeting people.
NSF: If Josh ever swore on stage, would you ground him?
Jeff: I don’t swear on stage, and up until recently Josh never heard me swear at all, but I do slip once in a while. I’ve had a clean act since day one, and I know it’s gotten me more work because of it. I don’t curse much, so Josh doesn’t get that type of input. Of course, now he probably gets it from some of his classmates, so what can you do? Profanity is sometimes the best way to communicate something, but I work clean, and Josh has chosen to do the same.
NSF: What does a teenager today find funny, and how would you describe your act?
Josh: I don’t do jokes for teenagers because they can’t get into the clubs where I perform. So I write jokes for adults, not for people my age.
NSF: This is a benefit for Rocket Dog Rescue. Do you own a dog or can you tell us a dog story?
Jeff: When I was a kid, we had a cat, and then we adopted a stray dog. But the cat was so territorial that it attacked the dog on a regular basis, so we had to find a new home for the dog. But we liked that dog.
Josh: I really like dogs, and they like me for some reason. We’re so busy that we can’t have a dog right now, but hopefully in the future I want to have one.
NSF: Jeff, you’re co-headlining with the legendary Steven Pearl. Can you two possibly riff together at “Paws for Laughter”? You could call it “Dueling Hebrews!”
Jeff: Two New York Jews from the same area – that could be dangerous. I don’t think I can keep up with Pearl. He’s a machine and an animal on stage, which is fitting for a dog rescue fundraiser. Is there a rescue organization for old comics? There should be!
– E. Attanasio