The viral Israeli-Canadian comedian you should be following
Toronto native Renny Grinshpan has made a home — and a name for herself — in Tel Aviv
It took Renny Grinshpan six years and a planned move back to Canada to realize that she was truly, fully Israeli.
The actress, comedian, singer and model was gearing up to head back to Toronto earlier this year when it dawned on her that Tel Aviv was the place she really wanted to put down roots.
“All of a sudden I’m reflecting on my life and I’m like, oh, I am Israeli,” Grinshpan, 29, told Jewish Insider in a recent phone interview. “I feel truly Israeli now.”
It’s fitting, therefore, that Grinshpan became a well-known face in Israel due to her starring role in “HaYisraeliot” — “The Israeli Girls” — an all-female comedy troupe whose short digital videos frequently went viral. The funny clips, discussing everything from dating to sex, current events, Jewish holidays and politics, were so popular that Grinshpan was constantly stopped on the street by fans during the show’s heyday.
“I’m very flattered. I’m very honored,” she said of the attention. “Local notoriety in Tel Aviv has been a godsend to me, because it got me so many work opportunities and opportunities to grow professionally and personally and mentally.”
Grinshpan grew up in Toronto with an Israeli father, a Canadian mother and two sisters. From a young age, she said, she was constantly performing and seeking attention, so her parents were not particularly surprised by her career path.
“Every single dinner, every night, my entire childhood, would not be complete until me and my sister got up and did a dance,” Grinshpan said. “We never finished a meal without getting up and dancing or singing — we were so crazy.”
She studied art history at NYU and then got a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia. But she followed her heart to Israel, making aliya to be with her now-husband, Hadar Amar.
Her older sister, Eden Grinshpan Nivron, is also in the public eye, as the host of “Top Chef Canada,” the former host of her own Cooking Channel show, “Eden Eats,” and author of an upcoming cookbook. Eden lives in Brooklyn while their third sister, Arielle, has also settled in Israel.
And when you get the two famous sisters in front of one camera, even more hilarity ensues. Eden and Renny have recorded a series of goofy, comedic, food-oriented videos — back when intercontinental travel was a lot easier.
“We were always really close, she always really supported me, she was always my biggest cheerleader and me hers,” Grinshpan said. “It was kind of a gift when we came together to do content… it really benefited both of us to work together and do stuff together. And it opened up some opportunities for us that I think we wouldn’t have had on our own.”
Since moving to Israel in 2014, Grinshpan has made a name for herself in the digital sphere. She picked up the gig with “HaYisraeliot” a year or so after moving to Israel, when the director spotted her in an ad for a startup and called her in for an audition.
“It was just this amazing opportunity,” she said, noting that she had just decided to throw herself more into content creation and comedy. “The timing was incredible… it was just wild how that worked out.”
One of the most popular videos she made with “HaYisraeliot” was a guide to Hebrew slang — including words like tachles, sababa and baasa — which got “the biggest reaction by far,” she said.
Dozens of Hebrew teachers reached out to her after the video aired to let her know that they showed it to their students. “I think maybe it didn’t even occur to a lot of these Hebrew teachers to teach slang,” she said, “which is so useful and the most fun. I love Hebrew slang.”
After working for Microsoft for several years, Grinshpan recently started a new job as the marketing director of the gaming startup Candivore. And while “HaYisraeliot” is on an indefinite hiatus, her creative energy gets an outlet in the humorous videos she posts on social media to her tens of thousands of fans.
“I’m obsessed with Tik Tok, I have to say,” she said. “Tik Tok for me during quarantine was a big way that I passed the time… it’s a lot of fun.”
She’s also produced branded content for companies including OKCupid, El Al and Adidas. That is to say, if you’ve spent any time in Israel over the past few years, there’s a good chance you’ve seen her face.
And if that weren’t enough, Grinshpan writes comedic songs with her husband — like this tribute of sorts to Gal Gadot — who is also a member of the couple’s Tenacious D tribute band. They even played a packed show at the Barby Club in Tel Aviv earlier this year for fellow fans of the comedy rock duo made up of Jack Black and Kyle Gass.
“That’s really a passion project,” she said. “It’s just fun because I’m stupidly obsessed with Jack Black. There are no words for how much I love that man… He’s like my comedy idol.”
Grinshpan has dreams of doing more stand-up in Israel — whenever clubs and theaters reopen — and perhaps even pursuing a theatrical role. After all, the stage seems like the right fit for her big and bubbly personality.
“I am a very animated person, just naturally,” she said. “I go to auditions and the person’s like, ‘okay, great, do it smaller, smaller, do it smaller’… every time I think I’m doing it smaller and it’s not.”
And while she’s picked up a few acting roles, including playing an American model on the hit Keshet show “She Has It,” Grinshpan is still working on polishing her Hebrew and landing auditions.
“To be in comedy in Israel as an English speaker is a challenge,” she said. “You want to be in the know, you want to know what other people are saying, you want to watch different comedians and be able to understand them or riff off them.”
And while adjusting to a new life in Israel was a challenge, she said the language and culture were not the hardest things to overcome in her career.
“I was used to this culture my whole life because I had visited here so much and my dad is Israeli,” she said. “The most difficult part was something I would have faced anywhere, which was doing something that you’re passionate about with confidence, and not second guessing yourself and not doubting yourself.”
Of course, however Israeli she has become, Grinshpan hasn’t fully abandoned her Canadian roots, peppering our conversation with “sorry,” “excuse me,” and “pardon.”
And she’s also aware that her popular videos and social media presence shine a positive light on the country she now calls home.
“I always felt like the best way to make anything look good is to make people laugh,” she said. “I never felt the need to spell out anything amazing about Israel because I felt like the simple fact that my videos were coming out of Israel speaks for itself.”