Let’s Meet Our Jewish Person Of The Week – Naomi Spungen
UPDATE: Naomi is hosting the upcoming ORT and ChiTribe Comedy Show this February 13th!
First off, Naomi, where did you grow up?
Highland Park, about 30 minutes north of the city.
So, what do you do for work?
I work at SketchPad, a very cool coworking space for Jewish nonprofit organizations in Ravenswood. I also teach yoga and give walking tours of River North when the weather is good.
Do you consider yourself a Jewish Comedian or a Comedian that is Jewish?
A comedian that is Jewish.
I have Jewish material but it’s not what I focus on, just like being Jewish is a part of my identity but not a central part. Judaism to me is mostly about maintaining a connection to my family, especially my Jewish grandparents who are no longer alive. Performing Jewish rituals like having Shabbat dinner or going to services every so often also feels nice to me because it’s just so familiar. I would say that some people do consider me a Jewish comedian because I “sound Jewish” (which I think means I complain a lot), have that Highland Park background, carry a yad everywhere I go, etc…
Have you ever experienced anti-semitism as comic?
Sometimes I see people doing that ironic-antisemitic-joke-thing, and even though I don’t think they’re expressing how they actually feel about Jews, that kind of stuff isn’t particularly funny or helpful in my opinion. Conversely, I feel like I’ve experienced some reverse antisemitism by way of people expecting me to be funny because I’m Jewish (also not great but I’ll take it).
What do you do to unwind?
I read, I go on walks, I do yoga (just kidding I spend all my free time looking at my phone).
And, what do you do Jewish now?
My parents still live in Highland Park and I like to have Shabbat dinner there when I can. That’s probably the most Jewish thing I do – see my parents more or less weekly and try to be a loyal daughter to them (I can feel them reading that and going “news to us!”). Oh yeah also work at a Jewish coworking space, which I guess is pretty Jewish.
What do you do for fun?
Comedy is fun when it’s not terrible!
Tell us more about the show you host?
I host a monthly comedy show called Just Us Gals or JUG with my good friends Clare Austen-Smith and Rima Parikh. The title’s a bit of a misnomer; it’s not just gals, but we try to book lineups with more female-identifying and diverse performers. It’s a really fun show with lots of great alternative stand-up, videos, sketches, PowerPoints, gags – kind of whatever we want and we think will make people laugh. Check it out the third Wednesday or Thursday of the month at Sleeping Village in Avondale.
Tell us about what you coming up
When the tribe gathers…Say the things starts 30 minutes earlier than it usually does