Life & Culture

Radio review: 6.5 Children

Ashley Blaker lifts the lid on his home life in his latest radio series.


Frummer comedian Ashley Blaker has offered his family up to the nation in a new series that lifts the lid on home life with six children. The point five in the title is not intended to imply that a seventh Blaker is on the way but to reflect the average number of children in an Orthodox Jewish community.

This brings to mind (okay, my mind) the rude quip Groucho Marx told to someone with ten children. I’m sorry, but it just does.

The elevator pitch for Blaker’s series might conjure a Jewish audio version of the Kardashians, sans bling and big bottoms. In reality it is a candid, often moving, account of parenthood, told mainly from the point of view of the father.

The twist — and all elevator pitches should have a twist — is that Blaker’s voice is occasionally augmented by those from his actual family: wife Gemma and children Ami (17), Ophie (15) Simi (13), Soroh (12), Sruly (11) and Bina (7).

Episode two is all about how in 2010 Soroh came to be the fourth oldest child in the Blaker family yet the fifth to arrive. She was adopted. Eventually, that is. In the 27 minute episode Blaker fast forwards and pauses through the long process that started with him and his wife independently coming across an advertisement placed by Hackney Council and each wondering if it would be a good idea to add a Down syndrome two year old to a loving but unruly family of four children, including two challenging boys, one of whom had been diagnosed with autism and one who would be.

Blaker is mild mannered but good company as he reveals truths about his family that are just about candid enough to wonder if they might sometimes have preferred him to keep his mouth shut.

The material is nowhere near as revealing as the stuff David Baddiel brings to his stand up show My Family: Not the Sitcom (whose title also alluded to a BBC series) but then the virtue of Blaker’s show is its warmth rather than its comedy.

He may think this is a jibe given that comedians generally like to be known for laughs. There are some. There’s a mythical rabbi here to whom Blaker turns to for advice but whose answer is only ever the beginning of a gnomic parable, the kind which may be allegorical in the minds of rabbis but as answers to a question — here “Should I adopt?” — are complete non sequiturs to everyone else.

The political correctness of social workers also come in for some gentle stick (or schtick). One asked if the Blakers have LGBTQ friends. “I work in television” is the comedian’s reply, which he points out is not a place to work if you have a problem with gays. Or Jews, he adds. Or gay Jews, he continues, even though the social worker did not bung a J onto the end of LGBTQ.

Some of the lines are followed by what might be called tumble weed moments, such as the one illustrating the irrationality of adding to the problems of a big family by increasing its size. Here it is: “It’s like standing in front of the fire at Notre-Dame and thinking ‘Let’s se if it helps to lob in a petrol bomb.’” See?

But this joke is compensated for by a much funnier gag that argues all parents love their children. “I’m sure even Mr and Mrs Hopkins look at Katie and think ‘Ahh, we did well there.’”

In the end the sheer improbability of his family being judged suitable to adopt is proof of God’s existence says Blaker. Though not in an evangelical ‘Thought For The Day” kind of way, but to convey the copious amounts of love that Soroh has added to the Blaker family’s unfathomably busy life.


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