Canter’s Deli is the quintessential, Los Angeles comedian’s hang out spot. At 1:00 AM on any given night, you’ll find a group of comics sitting in a booth, shoving pastrami in their mouths, workout out bits and complaining about some mysterious rash that might be cancer.
“It’s a classic stomping ground,” says Jackie Tohn, musical comedian and star of GLOW on Netflix. “The authenticity is what attracts comics to Canter’s. Comics are magnets for things that feel authentic.”
Since it’s open twenty-four hours, Canter’s, which has been family run since 1931 and includes a restaurant, bakery, and side-bar, sees the full spectrum of customers from all walks of life — celebrities looking for a throwback to old-school New York City dining, partiers who need to soak up some of the alcohol left after last call, Jewish grandmothers on the hunt for a taste of the old country, and comedians shoveling in comfort food to fill the void left by bombing.
“You can tell the truth there,” explains Jake Weisman, executive producer and star of Comedy Central’s Corporate. “The wait staff is not particularly nice to you, but they are very real and honest.” He jokes that it seems like everyone who either eats or works at Canter’s has done so for about 200 years. “Like you were born there and eventually you’ll die there, and that’s fine.”
“I feel like I’m hanging out with a bunch of Bubbies I never knew I needed or wanted,” adds Mike Glazer, host of GLAZED at the Hollywood Improv. “We’re so taken care of while my comedian friends and I make dumb jokes and try to cope with the fact that we’re god damn nervous wrecks all the time.” He loves that the old, crotchety wait staff know exactly who they are, even seating them in the same booth every time. “And then, without even asking, bagel chips and pickles and ranch just hit the table. We barely have to say anything and they’re like ‘we got you, baby. You want the usual?’”
With Hanukkah (the holiday Adam Sandler and literally nobody else made cool) starting on December 2nd, I asked the Canter’s regulars to share their favorite Jewish culinary traditions. I managed to get the corned beef and self-loathing out of their mouths for five minutes, just long enough for them to tell me their favorite Hanukkah-related foods. L’chaim!
LATKES, According to Jake Weisman
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Fa la la la latkes! How was your night 1?! We ate traditional buffalo wings 🍗(hey, they are fried and ranch is practically sour cream), exchanged presents 🎁, and lit the menorah 🕎 even after we realized we own no lighters or matches. Oops! Also played @tooshort The Hanukkah Song on repeat. Peep 👀 at my stories for #bts!
“Being Jewish is all about being funny and annoying and constantly talking over your family,” says Weisman. “It’s just inhabiting a certain culture and way of being that sometimes involves scoliosis and mostly involves a lot of warmth and annoying nasal voices.”
For his go-to Hanukkah meal, Weisman always comes back to latkes, or “potato pancakes,” which are grated potatoes fried up in a pan mixed with eggs, flour, salt, baking powder, and pepper. Weisman adds, “I like to have sour cream and applesauce with latkes. However I just found out I’m lactose intolerant so no more sour cream, which is a huge thing to have to deal with, and I’m a victim.”