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Jewish Journal

How the West was funny

by Tom Tugend

February 14, 2008 | 5:00 pm

(From left ) Bret Ernst, John Caparulo, Vince Vaughn, Sebastian Maniscalco and Ahmed Ahmed in "Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show." Photo © 2007 Picturehouse

(From left ) Bret Ernst, John Caparulo, Vince Vaughn, Sebastian Maniscalco and Ahmed Ahmed in "Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show." Photo © 2007 Picturehouse

We haven't kept up with Ari Sandel since the nice Jewish boy from Calabasas came out of nowhere last year to win an Oscar for his hilarious short film "West Bank Story."

Sandel, now a mature 33, shot the film about rival Israeli and Palestinian falafel stand owners while a student at USC. His takeoff on "West Side Story," with its love-conquers-all theme, conquered the hearts of Academy judges and of Jewish and Arab audiences throughout the world.

"West Bank Story" was shot on a $74,000 budget, but with fame, if not fortune, Sandel is now backed by three agents, a lawyer, manager, publicist and part-time assistant.

His second venture, "Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show: 30 Days and 30 Nights -- Hollywood to the Heartland," has opened to excellent reviews and is now playing in general release.

The documentary follows actor Vince Vaughn ("Wedding Crashers") as he takes his live show with four young comedians to mainly small and middle-sized towns from the West Coast to Georgia and through the Midwest.

The Oscar win has also opened up a new speaking career for Sandel, mainly before Jewish audiences. When not discussing peace prospects for the Middle East, elderly moms try to buttonhole Sandel to "set me up with their daughters," the filmmaker reports.

He has also become somewhat of a folk hero in Israel, where a newspaper rated his Academy Award as 18th among 50 of "Israel's Proudest Moments in 2007." Another paper reported his triumph under the headline "Israel Wins an Oscar (Almost)."

Coming up next, Sandel will direct the comedy "Brad Cutter Ruined My Life ... Again." It's about a successful businessman who is forced to relive his miserable teens when the cool kid from his high school days starts working at his company.


Ari Sandel and comic Bret Ernst visit DJ Bob Rivers


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