At last year’s Chutzpah! Festival, comedian and producer Iris Bahr delivered a zany pandemic treat over Zoom.
Adopting the personas of some of her most famous characters—brash and obnoxious southern American podcaster Rae Lynn Caspar White, the crude and colourful limousine-company owner Moti, and the unforgettable Soviet-era mail-order bride Svetlana Maximovskaya—Bahr charmed her audience with uninhibited and riotously funny chatter.
This year, Bahr will deliver a very different show when she takes the stage of the Norman & Annette Rothstein Theatre on November 23 for her solo show.
In a Zoom call from Tel Aviv, where she’s been living since March, the New York–born performer says she’s going to present something “somewhat experimental”.
“I am going to come out with some of my characters and do some crowd work akin to what I did last year,” Bahr revealed, “but I am also going to be presenting a very personal story that I am developing into my new one-person show.”
She described it as the most personal thing she’s ever done: “very raw”, “kind of the world premiere of it”, and a “work in progress”.
Without giving away too many details, Bahr said that it will revolve around some dramatic personal and family events that led her to move from Los Angeles to Tel Aviv at the height of the pandemic.
“As usual, I find the humour in all the tragedy, because that’s the only way I know how to cope,” she said. “So I’ll be kind of telling that story.”
Later in the interview, Bahr disclosed that her mother “underwent, um, a brain event, which I will talk about”.
“I came here to take care of her and that has brought up a lot of stuff, some very emotional, some very challenging, all very challenging,” she added. “It’s about resilience and pushing through and…trying to make it into art that can resonate with people.
“I was not sure I was going to do it at first,” Bahr continued. “As the months went by, I went, ‘This feels right.’ ”
She described her mother as a “loving, anxious human”, noting that the upcoming show in Vancouver deals with codependency, humour, guilt, and enmeshment—“everything Jewish mothers and daughters and sons can relate to”.
“It will be different from my previous works,” Bahr promised. “I’m incorporating movement and dance.”
Bahr is familiar to viewers of the hit series Curb Your Enthusiasm as the Orthodox Jewish girl stuck on a ski lift with Larry David.
In addition to her three solo shows, Bahr has written two memoirs and The Book of Leon: Philosophy of a Fool with comedian J. B. Smoove, who played Leon Black on Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Prior to her mother’s health issue, Bahr already had tremendous insights into the structure and functioning of the human brain as a result of studying neuroscience as an undergraduate.
She retains a fascination for the subject, occasionally interviewing neuroscientists on her podcast.
“It’s kind of amazing how we really are just our brains, you know,” Bahr quipped. “That’s it. I mean, obviously, I consider myself a spiritual person. And, yes, we all have souls and auras and things. But at the end of the day, we’re grey matter.”