Clayton comic having too much pun in NYC

Jo Firestone and her father, Fred Firestone, during a performance of ‘Punderdome.’ 

By Louisa Goldman Sophomore, MICDS

Probably the most celebrated Jewish stereotype is the idea that all Jews are funny. Names like Jerry Seinfeld and Sarah Silverman are tossed around as if they all came up with at least one joke for “Blazing Saddles.” But beyond the increasingly funny story of how Zayde started to break dance at Aunt Sara’s bat mitzvah that somehow comes up at every family gathering, do Jews really live up to the stereotype? 

Jo Firestone, a native St. Louisan “making it big” in New York, is definitely helping their case.

As an alumnus of Clayton High School and former member of Congregation Shaare Emeth, Firestone, 27, has had an interest in comedy since a young age. However, she began to pursue this passion in earnest while attending college at Wesleyan University in Connecticut.

“I got started doing comedy in college with a sketch comedy group called Lunchbox,” said Firestone, who later in her college career wrote a comic play with friend and fellow comedian  Dylan Marron.

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The play, “Ridgefield Middle School Talent Nite,” highlighted those cringeworthy and hilarious moments of middle school with which most everyone could relate. The show’s immediate success prompted Firestone and Marron to take it across America. The tour brought them to prestigious theaters such as the Kennedy Center in Washington, in addition to smaller venues including Wydown Middle School in Clayton.

Following the U.S. tour, Firestone decided to move to New York, where she started to do comedy professionally, performing almost nightly at popular bars and clubs. It wasn’t until May 2011, however, that she debuted her most popular show, “Punderdome 3000.”

This New York Times-acclaimed monthly showcase is run in a game-show format, with 18 contestants who must use their best “puntastic” jokes to win the most audience applause, determined, of course, by a “Human Clap-O-Meter.” 

And who is Firestone’s co-host for this hilarious show? 

None other than her father, Clayton native Fred Firestone, a speaker for corporate events who often uses this game-show format to make  meetings more interesting.

“[Jo] called me up one night [in 2011] and told me that she had rented a room at a bar and wanted to do a show that somehow involved puns,” Fred recalled. “She asked me if I could help her create the format for it and then invited me to New York to help her out.” 

The results of the show were tremendous. Within a few months, “Punderdome 3000” went from a 30-seat bar basement to a nearly 350-seat club that is almost always sold out. The show now boasts a panel of celebrity judges, among them comedians Michael Showalter, Jon Glaser and Ophira Eisenberg, Fred said.

While doing the show is fun, the family agrees that possibly the most fulfilling aspect of the  production is that Jo and her father are able to work together.

“It is such a wonderful experience to creatively collaborate with my daughter,” Fred said. “I just love having this opportunity to bond and connect with her.”

Jo Firestone is living in New York and doing about six stand-up shows a week, along with the monthly performances of “Punderdome” with her father. Her other acts include a dating show called “Friends of Single People,” an “Inner-Beauty Pageant” and a “Game Showcase.” However, she said, she still is able to keep in touch with her Judaism and stay connected to St. Louis while living in New York.

“Each year, I teach improv to CRC (Central Reform Congregation) confirmation students on their class trips to New York,” Jo said.

Working in New York as a successful comedian, she lives a life of which many would be jealous. 

 “While comedy is a tough art form and requires thick skin, I couldn’t see myself doing anything else,” Jo said.

For more information about Jo Firestone and her shows, visit her Facebook page (facebook.com/jokesfirestone).