Modi Rosenfeld is the triple threat: he’s funny, he’s handsome, he’s Jewish. The disappointment amongst his female audience soon follows when they realise: he’s married, he’s gay, he’s not looking. Either way, you’d have to get past his manager, Leo Veiga, who just so happens to be his husband as well.
The Tel Aviv-born, Long Island-raised comedian is all about ‘moshiach energy’ and has a huge connection with his fans, his material often highlighting cultural differences between Sephardi and Ashkenazi Jews, much to the delight of his largely Jewish audiences.
As a fully-fledged Manhattanite, this funnyman davens daily, lays tefillin and is a member of the Modern Orthodox Sixth Street Community Synagogue in Manhattan, where he often sings as a hobby.
His US tour has been a complete sell-out, so it’s no surprise he was voted one of the top ten comedians in New York City by the Hollywood Reporter. However, whilst being popular over the pond is one thing, to sell out in the UK is quite another. Much of Modi’s material was shared over lockdown but it was the review of The Crown as his ‘Yoely’ character that made everything go viral. “Everything just blew up and went nuts. Leo handles all of the Marketing and PR and does an incredible job of running the whole account.”
The travel itinerary is gruelling – in and out of cities often for just one night and Modi had this to say about it: “I hate it, but it’s a necessity. Luckily, I’m a good flier. And I know how to work the system – which seat to book, which airline to fly. It also helps to have a good travel agent. And I pack according to my itinerary. If it’s an ‘in and out show’ for one night, I travel comfortable and light – Lululemon, Nike sneakers. Some Roche Posay, and this amazing eye cream, I forget which brand. Leo knows them all, he’s got me into so many products. There’s always boxes of stuff arriving at the door. Then I’ll pack my show outfit – I can roll a suit to perfection!”
So why the suit? Prior to comedy, fulfilling every Jewish mother’s dream Modi worked in finance, so between 1994 and 1999 he was doing his job and the comedy circuit, heading straight from work to the comedy clubs (ah, in the suit). By 1999 he knew that his heart lay in performing and so made that switch and followed the comedy route, a decision that seems to have worked out pretty well for him so far.
For his pre-show prep he likes to read the vibe from backstage and decide what material will work well on the crowd, that is arguably 99% Jewish. For the corporate events, he gets to play around with the material, gathering information on key staff so he can really have some fun with them.
After all of this exhaustive performing, it’s a pretty simple wind-down for Modi, who has no desire to watch anything violent like Fauda; surprisingly he’s not interested in watching comedy either. Instead, he and Leo opt for something light, like Ru Paul’s Drag Race or Schitt’s Creek. And of course The Crown. “Before the new season came out, we re-watched from the beginning just to refresh our memories!”
Modi admits to having “never listened to a podcast before in my life”, so it’s ironic that he co-hosts a podcast called And Here’s Modi with Periel Aschenbrand (a Jewish comedian). “Leo and I were just talking and liked the whole stripped back conversation idea, so we decided to record a podcast. We’re not experts on anything highbrow or political and we’re not looking to solve the world’s problems either. It’s just a more unfiltered and relaxed version of the person you see on stage, conversing with friends. We’ve had some amazing people on, from Rabbis to friends, and most recently musician Eli Levin (@elilevinmusic) – I love celebrating Jewish music and new artists. Singing is a big thing for me, so it’s my indulgence to have these kinds of guests on.”
With a stream of shows and regular slots on the comedy circuit in New York clubs things are busy for Modi, constantly working on new material. He never just sits and writes, preferring to test things out with friends or on the podcast and see if it gets a laugh. If it lands well, then it’s maybe workable for a show.
Whilst things might be insanely busy on the tour, Modi is currently in talks with production companies about working on some TV and film ideas. “It’s about working to bring light into the world – bringing that moshiach energy to more people. For me, that’s the most important thing.”
That, and the eye cream. Chanel, if you needed to know.
Modi is playing Leicester Square theatre 28 February – 2 March. For more information visit: www.modilive.com and follow @modi_live
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