Chutzpah Festival: Iris Bahr offers a welcome respite from the sadness of these times

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      Livestreamed from Los Angeles by the Chutzpah Festival on November 26. No remaining performances.

      The Chutzpah! Festival billed actor and producer's Iris Bahr's performance as "interactive comedy"—and the organizers weren't kidding.

      No, there weren't any hecklers for the Jewish comedian best known for her recurring role on Curb Your Enthusiasm.

      This online audience was uniformly polite and courteous as Bahr engaged in rapid-fire and uninhibited chatter in the guise of some comedic characters she's created.

      She began as Rae Lynn Caspar White, speaking from her home in Los Angeles. Rae Lynn is her blond-mulletted, Southern-accented podcaster and self-described intellectual who claims to have had hundreds of sex partners.

      And what unfolded was like any party held on Zoom, except this time the host, Rae Lynn, had no compunctions about urging people to liquor up and blurting out whatever crossed her mind. 

      Tea is a diuretic, she advised at one point. And she didn't want people running away from their screens to go to the bathroom.

      One couple revealed that they had been married since 1961. Another had been together for 45 years.

      That prompted the following reply from the always colourful Rae Lynn.

      "If I'm in a relationship longer than 45 minutes, I feel like I've accomplished something."

      She told a man that he had a "very non-Jewish forehead". (This was the Chutzpah! Festival, after all.) 

      When one woman said she was from Dayton, Ray Lynn erupted in glee.

      "Ohio is a destination! There's Oaxaca! There's Paris! And there's Dayton!"

      Iris Bahr is familiar to fans of Curb Your Enthusiasm as the woman on the chairlift.

      As time went on, the audience increasingly loosened up.

      Bahr's show wasn't what I expected—and others were probably equally surprised when it dawned upon them that they were central characters.

      After a quick break, Bahr returned as a rough and tough Jewish mother who left Russia many years ago. She claimed that she had previously worked as a political consultant to former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. And the interactive comedy continued.

      When one woman said that she was a music teacher, Bahr's character offered a brusque response—she hoped that the music teacher had a ruler with which to bang the kids on the hands. That elicited more laughter.

      The accents were splendid, including in her third persona as Moti, the crude and colourful Israeli owner of Moti's Limousine.

      As this segment unfolded, people in the audience were sharing stories of their children and their careers. This occurred even as Moti made wisecracks about how antidepressants hurt the libido and how she had never heard of a Presbyterian genius.

      But Moti also had a considerate side, telling a well-dressed 94-year-old woman that she reminded her of Jackie Onassis.

      The whole show evolved into a heartfelt evening of new and old friends, mostly but not all Jewish, sharing details of their lives with the party host.

      Bahr was the quick-witted ringmaster. But underneath the zaniness, she turned out to be remarkably sweet for trying so hard to forge connections at a time like this.

      Nobody left with any bruised feelings—just a whole lot of love for Bahr for delivering a delightful one-night departure from the solitude and sadness of the pandemic.