Life & Culture

Radio review: Alex Edelman’s Peer Group

American comic Alex Edelman's latest series for Radio 4 attempts to make antisemitism funny


American comedian Alex Edelman’s latest half-hour radio show, which kicked off on Radio 4 on Tuesday, explores the nature of modern antisemitism. It sounds awfully similar to the nature of ancient antisemitism. As ever Jewish conspiracy is central and he quickly demonstrates this by invoking the name Marjorie Taylor Greene. “She’s a new member of Congress and she sucks,” he helpfully informs us.

Before telling us why, he puts this coolly argued analysis in context. Similarly-minded Republicans include Madison Cawthorn who, according to Edelman, visited Hitler’s summer retreat, describing it as a “bucket list” destination.

But Greene is the democratically elected representative whose beliefs include that Obama is a Muslim and that Ruth Bader Ginsberg was replaced by a body double. Yet there is one belief that not even the most sci-fi obsessed Elder of Zion on a city break to an Amsterdam cannabis café could have come up with. We are of course talking about the now well documented Jewish space lasers that caused the 2018 Californian wild fires.

“How did she know?” asks Edelman, ‘confessing’ to the conspiracy. Not only is he one of a new generation of Jews working for the aforementioned Elders (the 32-year-old is too young to actually be one with looks less grizzled than a barmitzvah boy’s) but the laser is but one of several cunning plans hatched by his co-conspirators who include Stephen Fry, Mel Brooks and “half of Harrison Ford.” (The list also includes Jane Seymour who, a quick Wiki check confirms, was Jewish on her father’s side, so why she gets to be whole and Harrison is halved is unclear.)

Still, Edelman authoritatively continues about how it feels to be Jewish during the pandemic (not great), an era which he says has heightened anti-Jewish conspiracy theory to levels not seen for generations. Or is it weeks? Anyway, he ably demonstrates that a conspiracy isn’t a conspiracy until you blame the Jews. Take the Jewish connection out of Q-Anon’s Hillary-pizza-paedo-gate theory for instance and people are like “get outta here!”. Put it in and their faces light up with enlightenment.

Edelman is not the first Jewish comic to ‘confess’ to gentile and particularly Christian conspiracy theories. Lenny Bruce did it over 50 years ago when he put his hand up on behalf of all Jews to killing Jesus. “We did it, I did… and not only did we kill him, we’re going to kill him again when he comes back.” Edelman is funny, but he is not that funny. Granted, this is a bit like saying he’s fast, but not as fast as Usain Bolt.

Edelman mixes in his own personal history, including the anxiety of being raised as a yarmulke-wearing boy conscious that the first thing people see when he enters a room is the kippah on his head. And although his conspicuous expressions of Jewishness subsided, in the wake of the Pittsburgh synagogue shootings the anxieties have returned.

At the suggestion of his mother he went to the city to hang out with his cousins, which leads to a cracking story about the Billy Graham Emergency Response Team he met outside the synagogue. One of them suggests to Edelman that they pray together to ask God why the atrocity happened. It’s a good question acknowledges the comedian, who then answers by revealing the direct lineage of lying about Jews that links the shooter to Billy Graham himself. Thinking Edelman has recited a prayer, the Emergency Response Team answers “Amen”.


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