Satirist Charlie Varon has a vision of the Messianic age, and it's, well, crowded: "If everyone who ever lived ends up in Jerusalem, where're you going to put 12 billion people?"
The acclaimed San Francisco solo performer, who regularly studies Torah, explores some of his Jewish questions in "Soup of the Day," which comes to the Beverly Hills Public Library March 21. Mixed into "Soup's" eight monologues are riffs on what Torah says you can't eat (vultures and bats are out), and the fate of the woman who grabs an enemy's privates (her hand gets cut off). "It's hysterically funny that they even thought to put this stuff in," said Varon, 43, who wrote the piece with collaborator David Ford during a feverish 10-day rehearsal period. "It's like, what's this doing in our holiest book? You've gotta struggle with it or laugh."
Varon, previously a lapsed Reform Jew, wasn't laughing the day he first walked into a Jewish Renewal movement Torah study group two years ago. He'd been losing weight and battling anxiety and insomnia since performing "The People's Violin," his 20-character monologue about a man struggling to find his Jewish identity. Torah, he discovered, was "much better than psychotherapy. There's power in something that has thousands of years of resonance."
But Varon, whose previous shows have skewered Rush Limbaugh and Ralph Nader, couldn't resist a little irreverence. In a "Soup" bit titled "Moses and Buddha," he made sure to kvetch about the slaughter of the Caananites and Jebusites. While Conservative Jews may raise eyebrows, Varon's unfazed. "The Jewish [radical] Emma Goldman once said, 'If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution,'" he noted. "I'd update that to say, 'If I can't make jokes, I don't want to be part of your religion.'"
For information about Varon's upcoming show, call (310) 471-3979.