Alumni Spotlight

Jonathan Evan Goldberg '95: “Angels Do Good”

By, Brad Dwin

When Jonathan Evan Goldberg ’95, a partner at Seyfarth Shaw, LLP, in New York, took his first improv comedy class approximately six years ago, he had no idea that it would lead to a second life as a bona fide performer. And he certainly didn’t have an inkling that it would lead to the founding of Cherub Improv (www.cherubimprov.org), a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing the art of improv comedy to segments of the community that had never before been exposed to it.

What initially began as a brainstorming session with friends, and an inaugural performance in April 2007, has led to a full schedule in which Cherub Improv’s 70 plus volunteer performers have performed more than 300 shows and workshops.

Cherub Improv performs for a multitude of community groups, senior centers, hospices, homeless shelters, children’s centers and other places not usually privy to its brand of entertainment. The group’s performances are free of charge and it has partnered with more than 40 organizations in its efforts to reach out to the community.

Among Cherub’s many partners are Kittay House, a senior living facility in New York City, and Gilda’s Club, a cancer support center named after the late comedian Gilda Radner.

For Goldberg, Cherub Improv is about giving, supporting, and connecting with the community.

“The name Cherub Improv is derived from ‘cherubim’— the angels—and it is grounded in the concept that angels do good. Cherub not only creates an additional community for those of us in the group, but also allows us to interact and form relationships with different communities that have unique issues,” explains Goldberg.

Goldberg takes extra care to make sure that Cherub is mindful of the diversity reflected in the audiences for which it performs and he feels that the performers benefit as much as the people watching them.

“We are not trying to be therapists, but there is something therapeutic about participating in improv comedy. We are committed to ‘clean comedy’ and we perform in communities where empathy is extremely important,” Goldberg notes.

The group also does improv workshops for employees and their families at the Seyfarth Shaw offices. For the past two years, Cherub Improv has led a children’s improv workshop in the New York office for “Take Your Child to Work Day.” At the firm’s Partnership Retreat, Goldberg performed a stand-up comedy routine and led a brief round of improv games.

Further, during the holidays, Cherub Improv led a children’s improv workshop/performance as part of the New York Office’s Holiday Party for underprivileged children. And Goldberg has led improv workshops for the lawyers and staff in Seyfarth Shaw’s Boston, New York, and Los Angeles offices, with additional workshops planned for the firm’s other offices.

According to Goldberg, the firm has been incredibly supportive of Cherub and, in fact, Seyfarth Shaw serves as its pro bono legal counsel. Goldberg is a member of Seyfarth’s Labor and Employment Department and the Commercial Litigation Practice Group. In addition, he is a leader of the firm’s interdisciplinary “Madoff Team,” created to assist clients in understanding and addressing the various legal issues raised in connection with the misconduct of Bernard Madoff.

Goldberg attributes some of his passion for pro bono work to his experience at WCL. As a law student, he participated in the Public Interest Law Clinic and was senior articles editor of The American University Law Review.

“WCL didn’t just prepare me for my legal career. There is an incredible amount of diversity in the students and faculty and there is an emphasis on community and service-oriented work. My work with Cherub Improv, and to a significant extent my work with Seyfarth Shaw, is essentially an extension of that experience,” he says.