As It Happens

The Human Dreidel of New York City just wants to 'cheer people up'

For the last two years, budding street performer Jason Izen has confused and dazzled passersby by grooving on streets and subway cars in a variety of costumes — but he really hit his stride this Hanukkah.

Jason Izen has been spotted and filmed all over Manhattan, spinning in his blue dreidel costume

Jason Izen is the Human Dreidel, spinning and spreading holiday joy in New York City. (@ryanbe_newyork/Instagram )

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Jason Izen likes to keep moving.

"Dancing is the love of my life. I love to run. I love to dance. I love to jump,"  Izen, 41, told As It Happens host Carol Off. 

He used to scratch that itch at music shows — but when that got too expensive, he took his moves to the streets of New York City.

For the last two years, the budding street performer has confused and dazzled passersby by grooving on streets and subway cars in a variety of costumes, including backwards lingerie and a full tie-die ensemble — but he really hit his stride this Hanukkah as the Human Dreidel.

"People really reacted well with this dreidel costume. You know, when I go out without the costume and I have this beard and I look creepy, I guess people would say, people don't react as well," Izen, 41, said.

"But with the costume, people really enjoyed it and people would yell, 'Dreidel! Dreidel!' and especially, you know, younger people would really get into it and some people would spin with me."

Dressed up in a "flimsy" blue dreidel costume, Izen has been popping up all over Manhattan to do what a dreidel does — spin, spin, spin.

"I just want to cheer people up, and I've finally gotten the courage after a long time to perform to make people laugh," Izen said.

"I feel it's my job at least to do my best to cheer people up — especially in New York."

While many people have stopped to film, photograph or interact with the Human Dreidel, spreading holiday cheer is no easy feat in a city as jaded New York.

One video shows Izen spinning around on a moving subway train while commuters mostly ignore him by reading books, carrying on with their conversations or just staring down at their phones.

"I know, I need to better," Izen said with a chuckle. "I can do better." 

His mission of spreading holiday cheer by making people laugh is not yet complete.

Now that Hanukkah is over, he's planning a Christmas-themed character next. 

"Someone gave me the idea to be an elf," he said. "I'm very small so I would be a good elf."

Written by Sheena Goodyear. Produced by Kate Swoger. 


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