Review: The 9 o’clock shmooze
We're impresssed by Mark Maier’s affectionate and funny take on Jewish behavioural quirks.
Maier: insights into our idiosyncrasies
New End Theatre, London NW3
There is a sense of quiet anxiety involved in going to Jewish-themed live comedy acts. You cannot help but worry: "Will the material ring true, or be excruciatingly wide of the mark? Will the Jewish audience-members be offended? Will the non-Jewish members be confused? Will the performer feel let down if the Jews do not laugh? Will there be time to eat?"
These fears seem to be more acute in the UK where audiences are not quite as comfortable with Jewishness compared with those in the US.
When Jackie Mason came to Wembley to perform at the Israel 60 Gala Show last spring, there was outrage among the community. His jokes were dated and not really relevant any more.
So thank goodness comedian Mark Maier was not struck by the dreaded Jewish stand-up curse when he performed his new show, The 9 O'Clock Shmooze, at the New End Theatre in North London last week.
In fact, his Jewish-related material - which made up the majority of the act - got the best response and proved that you can do Jewish gags in this country and hit the right note. The idea that Jews should want to park very close to the entrance of the David Lloyd Centre in North Finchley so they will not have to walk too far in order to get to where they exercise was funny on many levels.
That Maier's stag weekend involved a huge meal and a schluf rather than sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll was amusing, as was the observation that Jews cannot do DIY because the word spelled backwards is YID.
Non-Jews in the audience may not have got the references to "barmitzvahs" (and why so much money is lavished on them when the boys normally sound terrible), "shkoyachs" and "good Yomtovs", but they would have certainly understood Maier was giving them insights into an idiosyncratic, slightly bonkers group of people.
The comic also proved that he had a great ear for accents - his impressions of Israelis, Yorkshiremen, Scots and Cockneys - adding to the humour.
But the most compelling thing about him was (as Simon Cowell would put it) his likeability factor. It did not matter if all the jokes were funny or not, the audience was on his side and he did not appear overly concerned if a gag failed to get a laugh. He has a comfortable stage presence which puts the audience at ease.
There was only one problem - two evenings of Mair's six-night run were out of bounds to Jewish audiences, being Yomtovim. So we did have something to kvetch about after all.
The 9 O'Clock Shmooze continues on October 26 and 27. Tickets on 0870 033 273