The glatt kosher comic who observes the observant
DON’T FRET too much if you missed Ashley Blaker’s new show at Salford’s Lowry Theatre this week. There are plenty of other chances to catch it, as this is just the start of his national tour. And a stroll around the streets of Jewish north Manchester (or certain parts of London) will reveal exactly where the UK’s “only Orthodox stand up” sources his material
For the “meshuga frum” that he gently lambasts in his eponymous tour are well and truly out there, heaving their Previas around the streets of Broughton Park and blocking a driveway or bus lane near you.
But that’s what makes Ashley Blaker so funny. In his own slightly skewered way (he works in television but doesn’t own a telly…) the fatherof-six holds up a mirror to the madly hypocritical, contradictory and often frankly bonkers world of the Jewish people.
And not just the frummers. We’re all fair game. After all, he notes, frum is a relative term. If keeping two days Rosh Hashanah is your only nod towards religious observation, you’ll still dismiss as goyish the people who just keep the one day.
There’s no doubting that Blaker, who was responsible for first unleashing the comedy on to an unsuspecting nation, brings something totally unprecedented to stand up.
Not only does he look meshuga frum, but his slightly awkward, selfeffacing, delivery smacks a little of the real life behind the façade, too
Certainly there’s the sparest of staging — just Blaker, a screen for a few visuals and a lap-top inexpertly smuggled behind a podium. Still, this unvarnished setting suits Blaker, who jokes with the — I would hazard — 99 per cent Jewish audience about how early we had all arrived, even though the seats were numbered. To give structure to his show, Blaker takes us through the 10 commandments of what you have to do to be considered meshuga frum — from thou shalt not use the internet to thou shalt look Jewish. Along the way he shows how little eludes his keen eye. From the fact that every shul has a strange man with a bow tie to the naughty observation that even post-Savile synagogues still have a bloke who hands out sweeties to the children . Particularly hilarious are Blaker’s attempts to find parity between the Jewish and non-Jewish world. Take our respective new year traditions. While non-Jews party late and dance to Jools Holland, ours starts at 8am, involves hours of davening and is “designed to suck all the joy out of the new year” as we consider who will die at his pre-destined time .
Not that any of the, ahem, frummers, in the audience had a problem with such unapologetic ribbing. Even when he knocks those who showcase their by boasting how little their phones do (“mine doesn’t even have internet”).
Without recourse to swearing or smut, Blaker’s relentlessly funny show makes us co-conspirators in his comedy. Though he missed a trick in the interval where I spotted some theatre goers with a stash of their own
chocolates because they were still when they came out.
Bendicks, Jewish, popcorn goyish. Ashley, we’re with you all the way.
Frum and funny