The producers of the Fox television comedy "Stacked" made a smart choice when they cast actor/comedian Elon Gold opposite the curvaceous Pamela Anderson in this sitcom about the collision of breasts and books (hence the title). In the show, Anderson plays a former party girl trying to improve her life by working in a bookstore co-owned by Gold's character, an aspiring novelist.
If Anderson is the show's body, Gold is its soul. Off camera, he has a commitment to tradition that is not normally associated with Hollywood personalities. Gold is not above the salty one-liners -- too salty for this publication -- but behind the performer is a man who derives comfort from religious observance.
"I don't need observance to keep me grounded," he recently told HCR. "I'm a pretty grounded guy. I find that observance -- keeping Shabbat and kashrut, for example -- is an oasis of morality in a world that can be morally bankrupt." He calls himself "a ridiculously proud Jew."
Gold, 35, loves his work on Fox. "I have the best job in the universe," he said. "I work all day with a beautiful blonde and then I get to go home to my own beautiful blonde wife -- who happens to be Jewish." Despite his sitcom success, Gold regards his two children -- Brandon, 5, and Audrey, 18 months -- as his proudest "productions."
Gold's sensibilities were honed in New York City where a yeshiva education provided him with a rich vein from which to mine comedy and faith. While he was learning to do impressions of his teachers and classmates, he was also taking his studies seriously. When asked about his "most meaningful Jewish experience," he responded, "Certainly going to Israel as a teenager was important, but I had a damn good upbringing and some good, inspiring rabbis who taught me that nothing could be more important than one's heritage and faith in God."
As a student at Boston University, Gold studied economics and moonlighted in the city's comedy clubs. At 18, Gold's impression-infused routine led to his first television appearance on MTV's "Half-Hour Comedy Hour" where he appeared alongside Chris Rock, Ray Romano and Drew Carey. The Boston Herald hailed him as "a comedy star on the rise."
"I was doing pretty well making money in comedy at an early age, but I stuck with my studies to keep my Jewish parents happy -- and quiet," he says. He graduated cum laude.
Gold spent his afternoons at BU Hillel, where he studied and ate his meals.
"I think I contributed money to the construction of the new Hillel building there," he says. "Tell [BU Hillel Executive Director] Rabbi Polak that my show is doing well and he can expect a big donation."
Gold's success continued upon graduation and opportunities kept coming his way. Comedy Central selected him and three others (including Dave Chappelle) to be profiled in their "Pipeline" series of future comedy stars. He has written for and appeared in a remarkable number of television shows and movies. His credits include a cameo in the Steve Martin movie, "Cheaper By The Dozen," playing Mary Richards' boss ("the new Lou Grant") on the "Mary & Rhoda" movie on ABC, and a regular performer and writer on Dana Carvey's ABC sketch comedy series. In 2000, Gold combined his stand-up, writing and acting skills to develop and star in the pilot "Good as Gold." Along with his co-creator and co-writer Ira Ungerleider ("Friends"), Gold assembled an all-star cast, including Mary Tyler Moore as his mom, Elliot Gould as his father and Jonathan Silverman as his brother. The pilot did not become a network series, but it led to the creation of "In-Laws," an NBC sitcom based loosely on his own experience. The show aired for one season. When we spoke with Gold he was preparing for his fourth appearance on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno."
Would he advise college students to follow in his footsteps? Decidedly not.
"First of all, they're probably funnier than me and I don't need the competition. Secondly, entertainment is full of painful rejection and frustration. Showbiz can really knock you on your ass," he says.
He credits his success to perseverance, hard work and "not letting the rejections get to me. I love the fact that I can have a bad meeting and then a few hours later I can go on stage at a comedy club and kill. They can always take jobs away from me, but they can't take away my talent."
Gold also advises students to get all the facts before they get involved with causes on campus.
"I see so many students who get involved with anti-Israel activities but who don't know what they are talking about, whose positions are not based in truth," he says.
While he co-stars in "Stacked," Gold continues to write, audition for roles, and pitch new ideas.
"Just because you are on a show, doesn't mean that you can stop looking for new projects," he says. "I have spent the last 15 years getting good. Now I am working on being great."