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Angels Among Us

He said ‘halo’ to compassionate comedy

About 14 years ago, attorney Jonathan Evan Goldberg ’92 needed a change.

“I’d dabbled in comedy, written jokes growing up, but basically, my life was ruled by work,” Goldberg says. “I was overloaded and in need of positive outlets.”

Taking his father’s advice to combine his passions for comedy and community service, Goldberg co-founded a volunteer improvisation group with friends. Performing around New York City, the troupe strengthened their friendship with a shared mission: to perform and teach improv comedy in places where a smile can make a difference, like hospitals, senior homes, veterans’ centers, hospices, and children’s runaway and homeless shelters.

“We drew a large audience who really liked us and asked us to deliver more performances,” Goldberg says. “By our third month, we were so busy that we had to double the size of the group.”

Dubbing themselves Cherub Improv—“improv comedy and community service are a match made in heaven,” he jokes—the troupe performs wearing sky-blue T-shirts.

Since the group’s 2007 debut, more than 300 volunteer performers have entertained in more than 1,500 comedy events. Each family-friendly program is free of charge and based on audience suggestions, making performances more meaningful and fun for attendees who might not otherwise see their experiences or perspectives depicted.

Although he’s kept his day job as an attorney, it’s his divinely compassionate side job as Cherub Improv president, co-founder, and improviser that means the most to him.

“This is my legacy,” Goldberg says, and he is excited to be sharing it with his family: wife Tara, son Travis, 6, and his own “little cherub,” infant daughter Amelia Rose. He’s proud, too, that he can draw so deeply on his Swarthmore experience for every facet of his life.

“Swarthmore fosters diversity, intellectualism, multiculturalism, and community service,” Goldberg says. “It was a great place for me to learn.”

In addition to its performances, Cherub Improv also provides leadership and team-building workshops for companies and individuals of all ages, with the key takeaway being—when it comes to helping others on the stage, or in life—always say, “Yes!”

Goldberg’s happy he took the plunge as he sees what he and his friends created: a well-established force for good, now in its 11th year, that has been featured in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

“We’ve come so far—we have systems in place, a fixed schedule, a board of directors,” he says. “Lots of brilliant people are involved, every one dedicated to bringing healing and happiness through laughter.”