ALAMEDA -- Berkeley-based comedian Josh Kornbluth is pleased to return to Temple Israel of Alameda for a benefit show March 22.

His routine, "Citizen Josh," highlights his foibles in the field of community organizing and state politics and promises to entertain audience members across the political spectrum.

Kornbluth, who was raised in New York, attended Princeton University but never completed his senior thesis on political theory. Watching his son Guthrie begin school, the comedian began to wonder, "Who would finish college first?"

He said: "I really did want to graduate before my son did."

The motivated performer then reached out to his former adviser, Sheldon Wolin (who also taught at UC Berkeley) and got going on his long-stalled senior thesis.

"I shared with him that my quest was to do a senior thesis on democracy and that I'd become involved in a movement that was incredibly local," Kornbluth said.

The "movement" concerned a struggle to rebuild a playground in Berkeley's Ohlone Park.

"It was just a 'conceptual playground' at the time," Kornbluth explained. "The equipment was all broken."

What he thought would be a neighborhood "love fest" for urban renewal and family fun quickly turned into a heated controversy.

"Many people were against new equipment. They live nearby and liked the peace and quiet," Kornbluth said.

Thus began Kornbluth's foray into the world of politics. The playground issue, he said, awakened him to other political causes, such as fighting for public education and school funding in Sacramento.


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"Usually, things didn't work out if I was involved," he said. "My experience is not that of successful activism."

Kornbluth has been active as a performer, writer and film maker. Since his college days, the comedian has made three movies: "Haiku Tunnel," about his experience as an inept legal assistant; "Red Diaper Baby," an account of growing up communist in America; and "Strange Culture," a documentary on performer Steve Kurtz and his legal woes.

Over the years, Kornbluth's monologues have focused on a wide range of topics from mathematics, Ben Franklin and taxes to Andy Warhol, the oboe and the comedian's preparations for his bar mitzvah at age 52.

Now 54, the comedian said he enjoys sharing material that "is really serious and really silly" -- and that he feels really passionate about.

"I love performing at synagogues (like Temple Israel)," he said, where his March 22 performance will be his second.

IF YOU GO
What: Comedian Josh Kornbluth
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 22
Where: Temple Israel, 3183 Mecartney Road
Cost: $25 to $30
Information: 510-522-9355, www.brownpapertickets.com